1630: Close UK stocks finished sharply lower, dragged by supermarkets, woes about Chinese growth, and reports Russia was moving its troops closer to Ukraine. The NYT said today that "in Moscow, the military acknowledged significant operations involving armoured and airborne troops in the Belgorod, Kursk and Rostov regions abutting eastern Ukraine". Meanwhile, nerves about a sharper than expected slowdown in China exports in February intensified after data published overnight showed further weakness in the world's second-largest economy. Company wise, Morrison's share price dropped today after it issued a disappointing set of full-year results, with like-for-like sales falling 2.8 per cent. The FTSE 100 closed down 67.12 points at 6,553.78.
1543: Stocks are set for a weak finish after US markets quickly dropped into the red despite a strong start. The FTSE 100 is down 41.41 points at 6,579.49. If it were to finish the day at its current level, the London index would register its worst closing level since February 7th. There are various reports from Interfax on various Russian troop movements near Ukraine's borders.
1415: Markets are now trading moderately lower as supermarket stocks extend losses after Morrison's results. G4S is continuing to trade lower after disappointing yesterday with 2013 profits and a higher-than-expected settlement over issues with government contracts. Mining stocks are holding up well despite the poor data from China overnight as retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment growth all slowed. BHP Billiton, Fresnillo and Rio Tinto are all performing well. The FTSE 100 is down 19.18 at 6,601.72.
1300: "As the rise in [US] retail sales in February didn't get anywhere close to reversing all of the drop in the previous two months, the unusually bad weather is still hurting retailers. But since households are spending more on heating and healthcare, annualised real consumption growth in the first quarter may still be between 2.0 per cent and 2.5 per cent," Capital Economics is telling clients.
1246: ONO shareholders approve flotation plans but still mulling Vodafone
bid, Reuters reports.
1231: US retail sales expanded at a 0.3 per cent month-on-month clip in February (consensus: 0.2 per cent). The previous month's variation has been revised to show a drop of 0.6 per cent, instead of a fall of 0.3 per cent over the month.
1230: US weekly unemployment claims dropped again unexpectedly, by 9,000 to hit 315,000, versus a consensus estimate of 330,000.
1156: Following the spate of weaker than forecast Chinese macroeconomic data out overnight Nikolaus Keis at Unicredit Research wrote to clients saying that while authorities will likely wait for another month before reacting a reduction in banks' reserve requirement ratio (RRR) is now clearly on the cards. "[...] we also expect some selective fiscal measures to prevent a severe growth slowdown. Whether this will succeed in preventing a severe growth slowdown remains to be seen," Keis added. Not everybody shares
that view apparently, but there are other reports to be seen suggesting much the same. Euro/dollar at 1.3960 now.
1036: The FTSE 100 is down 5.02 points at 6,615.88. While Morrison is weighing on the share prices
of food retail groups Tesco, Sainsbury and (to a lesser extent) M&S, Kingfisher is performing well this morning after a positive update from smaller DIY retail counterpart Home Retail. The owner of UK retail chains Argos and Homebase has guided to annual profits slightly ahead of the top end of market expectations after good trading in the last couple of months. FTSE 250-listed Home Retail is up 5.1 per cent at 215.64p.
1016: After falling as much as 10 per cent early on, Morrison has trimmed losses slightly but is still down 7.8 per cent. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has cut its target price from 270p to 245p after cutting its profit forecasts for this year, but maintained a 'buy' rating on the back of its long-term prospects. 'While the [profit] downgrade will certainly weigh on the shares, we think management's investment in the long-term positioning of the business and focus on cash generation is the right move strategically,' Bank of America said.
0842: UK stocks have begun the session slightly lower despite overnight gains in Asia. Shares of supermarket operator Morrison are getting thrashed after delivering much weaker than expected guidance over the coming year. Underlying pre-tax profits are now called to come in at between 325-375m pounds, some 30-40 per cent below what the market was expecting. Centrica stock has been upgraded to 'overweight' by analysts at HSBC. FTSE 100 down 9 to 6,612.