London open: Markets down as traders await economic data

Stocks sank sharply on Friday morning, continuing the volatile pattern seen over the past week, as traders cautiously awaited more economic figures from the States.

Stocks gained slightly yesterday as a worse-than-expected second reading of US gross domestic product growth and a rise in jobless claims lifted hopes that the Federal Reserve could delay its ‘exit strategy’ from stimulus measures.

The US economy grew by 2.4% in the first quarter, under the initial 2.5% estimate, while jobless claims rose 10,000 last week, disappointing those who were expecting no change.

Increased speculation that the Fed could soon scale back its quantitative easing programme has weighed heavily on global markets over the past week, so these figures reassured investors that the recovery isn’t strong enough for the Fed to pull the plug.


However, traders are unlikely to turn too optimistic just yet ahead of the Chicago purchasing managers’ index and the University of Michigan confidence data due out later on, for further hints at how the economy is performing in the second quarter. Unemployment figures from the Eurozone will also be closely watched this morning.

FTSE 100: Smiths Group gains on M&A speculation

Engineering firm Smiths Group edged higher early on after confirming rumours that it has received a preliminary approach for its medical division. Market reports suggested the the unit could fetch at least £2.0bn.

UK banking group Lloyds rose after selling a portfolio of US residential mortgage backed securities for £3.3bn as it continues to dispose of non-core assets to boost capital. The portfolio has a book value of £2.7bn so the bank will pocket a gain of £540m before tax on the sale which will be used for “general corporate purposes”. Sector peer RBS was also in demand.

Utilities stocks were on the up, rebounding after their recent falls. Severn Trent, National Grid and Centrica were in demand.

Tour operator TUI Travel fell after committing to spend $6.1bn on 60 new aircraft with the option to acquire the same amount again at the same price.

Also providing a drag in London this morning were consumer staples stocks, with beverage firms Diageo and SABMiller out of favour, along with household products group Reckitt Benckiser. Financial peersResolution and Old Mutual also saw share prices fall early on.

B&Q owner Kingfisher was also in the red, pulling back after its strong rise yesterday following its first-quarter trading update. The recent wet weather in the UK led to profits coming in below estimates but Credit Suisse said yesterday that it doesn’t see material risk to full-year forecasts.

FTSE 100 – Risers

Severn Trent (SVT) 2,068.00p +0.93%

National Grid (NG.) 791.50p +0.38%

Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 332.50p +0.30%

Centrica (CNA) 377.00p +0.27%

Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 61.90p +0.16%

Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 252.20p +0.12%

Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,230.00p +0.10%

Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,391.00p +0.07%

FTSE 100 – Fallers

Old Mutual (OML) 203.90p -3.04%

Evraz (EVR) 139.10p -2.25%

SABMiller (SAB) 3,303.00p -2.19%

Kingfisher (KGF) 342.10p -2.17%

Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,193.00p -2.13%

Prudential (PRU) 1,128.00p -2.08%

IMI (IMI) 1,300.00p -2.03%

Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 288.60p -1.94%

Compass Group (CPG) 858.00p -1.89%

Diageo (DGE) 1,941.00p -1.82%

FTSE 250 – Risers

Lonmin (LMI) 298.10p +3.87%

New World Resources A Shares (NWR) 102.20p +2.92%

Halfords Group (HFD) 318.50p +2.74%

Micro Focus International (MCRO) 700.00p +2.64%

Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) 248.10p +2.52%

KCOM Group (KCOM) 85.95p +2.38%

Rathbone Brothers (RAT) 1,549.00p +1.71%

Kenmare Resources (KMR) 31.01p +1.67%

Synthomer (SYNT) 201.60p +1.61%

African Barrick Gold (ABG) 142.60p +1.42%

FTSE 250 – Fallers

Investec (INVP) 451.60p -4.06%

Man Group (EMG) 118.80p -2.70%

Perform Group (PER) 566.50p -2.66%

Persimmon (PSN) 1,193.00p -2.61%

Mondi (MNDI) 881.50p -2.27%

Cobham (COB) 286.90p -2.22%

Ashtead Group (AHT) 630.50p -2.17%

Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 360.50p -2.04%

Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 372.10p -2.03%

Savills (SVS) 578.00p -2.03%

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