FTSE indices were down today as a surprise spike in US unemployment, worries over the strength of China's economy and the Ukraine-Russia standoff cast a pall.
Near the close, the FTSE 100 was down 73.96 points, or 1.09%, to 6714.53, just off session lows of 6706.38 and considerably down on its midday levels. The FTSE 250 fell 102.98 points, or 0.62%, to 16,568.8, also not far off its lows.
A tepid start to Wall St didn't help matters as the market reacted to worse than expected US jobless numbers, but took better than expected US non-farm payroll data in its stride.
US non-farm payrolls rose to a seasonally adjusted 175K in February, from 129K in January. It trumped expectations for a rise of 151K. The US unemployment rate rose to 6.7%, from a five-year low of 6.6%.
On Wall St, the Dow was up 20 points, or 0.12%, to 16,442, while the Nasdaq fell 22 points, or 0.49%, to 4331. The S&P500 fell 2 points, or 0.11%, to 1875. In Asia, the Nikkei closed up 139 points at 15,274. The Hang Seng was down 42 points to 22,660.
China has set an economic growth target of 7.5% for the year. This follows slowdowns in its domestic and key markets, and years of break-neck growth.
Against this backcloth, Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, defended his country's actions in Crimea following US and European Union sanctions. The heavily jawboned crisis has cast a pall over the market this week, causing jitters among investors.
Miners unsurprisingly bore the brunt of investor jitters, the sector beaten lower by market concerns over the strength of China’s economy. The far-east nation is the world's biggest consumer of metals.
Anglo American (AAL), Glencore Xstrata (GLEN), Antofagasta (ANTO), Randgold (RSSR), Vedanta (VED), Rio Tinto (RIO), Lonmin (LMI), Kazakhmys (KAZ), Fresnillo (FRES) and BHP Billiton (BLT) took a beating, all down 2.09%-4.44%.
Retail and High-Street sector stocks were also down. Burberry (BRBY), Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury (SBRY), and Next (NXT) were down 1.69%-2.02%. M&S was out of favour as reports said employee-owned John Lewis had replaced it as the darling of the High Street.
Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) fell 0.91% to 4826.5p, while Tesco floundered 0.45% to 322.75p. Tesco's fall came as it seeks to outdo rivals on the price of milk.
Pharmaceutical stocks also weighed. Smith & Nephew (SN.), Shire (SHP), Glaxosmithkline (GSK) and Astrazeneca (AZN) were all down 0.65%-2.01%.
Respiratory disease drug specialist Verona Pharma (VRP:AIM) plummeted 11.59% to 3.05p on last night’s announcement of a £14 million placing and open offer on a 36.4% discount. The proceeds would fund product development and pre-clinical trials.
UK consumer inflation expectations for the next 12 months eased to 2.8% in the fourth quarter, from 3.6% in the preceding quarter, data showed.
Germany' Wholesale Price Index fell 0.1% in January, from a rise of 0.3% in December, data from Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland showed. Expectations were for a rise of 0.6%.
In France, the French Government Budget Balance was -12.7bn euros, from -74.9bn euros previously. Also, the French trade balance for January was -5.7bn euros, from -5.2bn euros. Expectations were for a -5.3bn balance.
Premium branded cookers specialist AGA Rangemaster (AGA) rose 8.96% to 188.5p on well-received FY figures and an upbeat outlook statement. Operating profits surged 26.2% to £8.2m at the operationally-geared group as the housing market revival boosted H2 sales.
Troubled engineer Redhall (RHL:AIM) is raising £7.5 million in a discounted share placing to help strengthen its balance sheet amid turnaround efforts. Despite expanding its share capital by 39%, investors greeted the news with a smile, sending its shares up 7.14% to 45p as the cash injection helped to reduce the company’s previously-high financial risks.
European floorcoverings distributor Headlam (HEAD) hopped 2.92% higher to 475.75p as investors looked past a 5.1% taxable profits fall to £26.4m for 2013. They focussed on recent sales improvement signs and the fact the Birmingham-based group grew UK like-for-like sales by 1.5% last year, signalling market share gains against a tough industry backdrop.
News that mobile commerce specialist MoPowered (MPOW:AIM) has won 20 new clients in the first two months of the year sent its share price up 6.64% to 112.5p. The customers included multi-chain books retailer The Works and online fashion seller Atterley Road.
Mining exploration group Stratex International (STI:AIM) rose 3.23% to 4p after updating the market on its work in Turkey, West Africa and East Africa.
A heavily-discounted share placing to raise £2.1m sent Sierra Leone-based miner Sula Iron & Gold (SULA:AIM) down 7.69% to 2.7p. It reckoned the iron ore mineralisation in African Minerals’ (AMI:AIM), down 2.58% to 141.75p, vast Tonkolili deposit runs into its own licence area.
Insurance broker Brightside (BRT:AIM) added 2.56% to 20p after extending its white label vehicle insurance deal with Asda for another three years. The new agreement could see Brightside generate 400,000 quotes through the supermarket chain’s website each year.
North Sea oil firm Independent Oil & Gas (IOG:AIM) gained 22.54% to 43.5p after announcing a $50 million debt facility with an unnamed lender to help develop its assets in the North Sea, including the Blythe field. It followed Wednesday’s (5 Mar) £468,000 acquisition of a gas licence located in close proximity to Blythe.
Industrial castings maker Goodwin (GDWN) advanced 10.96% to 4050p as it announces a near 20% bump in year-on-year profits for the first nine months of its fiscal year to just over £18m. The company, whose year-end is 30 April, said trading ‘remains buoyant’.
Kazakhstan-based oil and gas producer Tethys Petroleum (TPL) fell 2.81% to 30.25, likely on profit taking, after saying the first shallow gas well in its 2014 drilling programme was successful. The AKK17 well was expected to flow at a similar rate to AKK15, which tested at 7 million cubic feet per day. The company is expected to spud the follow-up AKK18 well next week.