FTSE LIVE – Footsie weak at end of glum first quarter but off lows as commodity stocks rally with firmer oil price

12.45: The Footsie remained lower at lunchtime on the final session of the first quarter, reversing some of yesterday s strong gains although it came off lows as commodity stocks recovered after a rally by oil prices, and the pound was higher after a tick up in Britain s economic growth.

By mid session, the FTSE 100 index was down 29.3 points, or 0.5 per cent at 6,174.0, albeit off the session low of 6,149.82, but having closed 97.27 points higher yesterday. The UK benchmark is on track for a glum end to a volatile first quarter, with overall losses of around 70 points or 1.1 per cent, having added only around 25 points in March. European markets were lower, with Germany s Dax 30 index losing 0.6 per cent, and France s CAC 40 index off 0.9 per cent after eurozone data showed continuing deflation in the region, with the flash March CPI at -0.1 per cent, albeit up from -0.2 per cent in February.

FTSE LIVE - Footsie Weak At End Of Glum First Quarter But Off Lows As Commodity Stocks Rally With Firmer Oil Price

Footsie falls: The UK benchmark is on track for a glum end to a volatile first quarter, with overall losses of around 70 points or 1.1 per cent, having added only around 25 points in March. Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst at Oanda said: It s also worth remembering that this is the final trading day of the quarter which can affect trading and may be partially behind the broad-based declines in equity markets.

Not to mention that indices in Europe are trading near the highest levels this year which may be prompting some profit taking.

The FTSE and DAX, for example, are both trading around levels that have provided repeated resistance throughout March, which could be contributing to today s losses. US stock futures also pointed to a weak close to the quarter after strong gains in the past two session following dovish comment on US interest rates from Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen.

Investors were nervous ahead of tomorrow s key US March non-farm payrolls data, with the latest weekly jobless claims and Challenger job cuts data due to be released today. Oanda s Erlan said: The jobs report can often prompt some risk aversion in the lead up to the release because of the significance of the data, although it will be interesting to see how markets respond tomorrow given that Janet Yellen s quite dovish comments on Tuesday, which cast doubt on whether we ll see another rate hike before the latter part of the year. On currency markets, the pound pushed higher against the dollar, adding 0.2 per cent at $1.4410, and had pared its losses against the euro to 0.1 per cent at ‘ 1.2662after the final reading for UK fourth quarter 2015 growth was revised up slightly to 0.6 per cent

That was more than the previous estimate of 0.5 per cent, thanks mostly to stronger growth in the country’s dominant services sector, the Office for National Statistics said, and was better than expectations for it to remain steady at that level.

However, at the same time, ONS data also revealed that Britain’s current account deficit widened much more than expected to hit a record high of 32.7billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, the equivalent to 7.0 per cent of gross domestic product. Among equities, commodity stocks rallied from earlier falls as oil prices recovered from earlier falls made following US government data yesterday which showed crude inventories were again at all-time peaks despite strong refinery runs. At lunchtime, Brent crude was up 1.1 per cent at $39.71 a barrel, helped by a weaker dollar in which it is priced.

Copper prices also eased off earlier lows but remained cautious ahead of the latest China official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index release tomorrow. Chilean copper miner Antofagasta was the top blue chip gainer, adding 2.8 per cent or 13.1p at 482.2p, while Anglo American rebounded 1.9 per cent higher, up 10.4p at 546.9p, and precious metals miner Fresnillo was ahead 15.5p at 954.0p. TUI Group was the biggest FTSE 100 gainer, rising 5.3 per cent or 54.0p to 1,082.0p, as the Thomson and First Choice holidays firm said it expects to report growth in full year underlying earnings, as it makes progress with its summer 2016 programme.

TUI said winter 2015/16 is closing as expected, with 95 per cent of the its holidays sold and increased revenues of 3 per cent driven by higher average selling prices, while Summer 2016 trading is also doing well, with both revenue and bookings ahead of last year. Cruise operator Carnival also remained in demand, up 0.6 per cent or 22p to 3,714p, adding to the 4 per cent gains made yesterday when it said its bookings for 2016 were well ahead year-on-year as its first quarter net income and revenue rose. On the second line, AO World was a top FTSE 250 performer, jumping 5 per cent, or 8.7p higher to 181.5p after the online domestic appliances retailer said its UK business performed ahead of expectations in the fourth quarter of its financial year, while the European segment also performed well.

10.15: The Footsie stayed weak as the morning session progressed on the final session of the month and the first quarter, reversing some of yesterday s strong gains as miners retreated amid a dip in commodity prices, with little relief from news of a tick up in Britain s economic growth.

By mid morning, the FTSE 100 index was 32.2 points, or 0.5 per cent lower at 6,170.9, having closed 97.27 points higher yesterday, on track for a glum end to a volatile first quarter, set for losses of around 62 points or 1 per cent. The mood was also dull in Europe, with Germany s Dax 30 index down 0.5 per cent, while France s CAC 40 index lost 0.9 per cent as eurozone data showed continuing deflation in the region.

FTSE LIVE - Footsie Weak At End Of Glum First Quarter But Off Lows As Commodity Stocks Rally With Firmer Oil Price

Dull: The Footsie stayed weak as the morning session progressed on the final session of the month and the first quarter, reversing some of yesterday s strong gains as miners retreated amid a dip in commodity prices

The flash reading for the eurozone consumer price index was -0.1 per cent in March, albeit as forecast and a slight improvement on the previous month s -0.2 per cent reading

Dennis de Jong, managing director at UFX.com, said: After a year of stimulus and tinkering, ECB president Mario Draghi will hardly be jumping for joy at continued deflation, even if it s only by the smallest of margins. He added: Draghi will be hopeful that his latest package promotes growth, but he ll need some help from Germany, not to mention the struggling economies in the south of the European region.

Meanwhile today s UK data saw the final reading for fourth quarter 2015 growth was revised up slightly to 0.6 per cent thanks mostly to stronger growth in the country’s dominant services sector. That was more than the previous estimate of 0.5 per cent and better than expectations for it to remain steady at that level. The Office for National Statistics said UK GDP was 2.1 per cent higher than in the fourth quarter of 2014, better than the previous estimate of 1.9 per cent.

But at the same time, ONS data also revealed that Britain’s current account deficit widened much more than expected to hit a record high of 32.7billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, the equivalent to 7.0 per cent of gross domestic product. The deficit had stood at 4.3 per cent of GDP in the third quarter. Economists had expected the current account shortfall to widen to 21.1billion in the October-December period. For 2015 as a whole, the UK current account deficit was 96.2billion, or 5.2 per cent of GDP, also the biggest since records began in 1948.

Meanwhile, Bank of England lending data, also released today, showed UK home loan approvals eased slightly in February after a strong climb at the start of the year, dropping to 73,871 from 74,085 in January. Economists had expected 73,500 approvals. And growth in net consumer credit fell to 1.3 billion, down from a 1.6billion increase in January, in line with economists’ expectations. On currency markets, the pound rallied modestly against the dollar after the UK data, up around 0.1 per cent to $1.4391, and pared its losses against the euro to 0.1 per cent at ‘ 1.2694.

Dennis de Jong of UFX.com, said: While today s GDP figures are nothing to write home about, they are at least steady at a time when a possible Brexit has become a very real concern.

George Osborne used his recent Budget speech to revise down growth forecasts, but the long-term challenge for the Chancellor remains finding a way to kick-start the economy. Commodity stocks led the blue chips lower London as oil prices dipped back after recent gains following US government data which showed crude inventories were again at all-time peaks despite strong refinery runs. Brent crude was down 0.5 per cent at $39.05 a barrel.

Copper prices also fell as concerns over slowing Chinese demand mounted ahead of the China official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index release tomorrow. After being a top FTSE 100 gainer yesterday, miner Anglo American was near the bottom of the index today, dropping 2.9 per cent or 15.3p to 520.4p, while Glencore shed 3.6p at 148.9p, and BHP Billiton lost 27.6p at 766.0p. Meanwhile life insurer and wealth manager Old Mutual, InterContinental Hotels Group and plumbing supplies firm Wolseley all fell between 1.2 to 3.4 per cent after going ex-dividend, taking around 2.3 points off the FTSE 100 index.

But on the upside, TUI Group was the biggest FTSE 100 gainers, adding 4.3 per cent or 44.0p to 1,072.0p, as the travel operator said it expects to report growth in full year underlying earnings, as it makes progress with its summer 2016 programme. TUI said winter 2015/16 is closing as expected, with 95 per cent of the its holidays sold and increased revenues of 3 per cent driven by higher average selling prices, while Summer 2016 trading is also doing well, with both revenue and bookings ahead of last year. Cruise operator Carnival was also in demand, up 1.4 per cent or 52p to 3,744p, adding to the 4 per cent gains made yesterday when it said its bookings for 2016 were well ahead year-on-year as its first quarter net income and revenue rose.

Meanwhile, recent FTSE 100 debutant Mediclininc International gained 6p at 909p as the private healthcare group said it has seen strong patient growth across its operating businesses. The South African company joined the London market through the reverse takeover of Abu Dhabi-based hospitals operator Al Noor Hospitals last year. It also owns a 29.9 per cent stake in UK healthcare company Spire Healthcare. Shares in mid cap Spire were up 0.5 per cent. AO World was the best FTSE 250 performer, jumping 8 per cent, or 14.2p to 187.0p after the online domestic appliances retailer said its UK business performed ahead of expectations in the fourth quarter of its financial year, while the European segment also performed well.

And outsourcer Serco Group was another mid cap gainer, adding 1.8 per cent, or 1.8p at 101.1p after it said it had won a new contract from the Ministry of Defence to manage the UK s nuclear warheads via the Atomic Weapons Establishment through to 2025.

08.15: The Footsie fell back in early trading, reversing some of yesterday s strong gains despite overnight strength on US and Asian markets amid a dip in commodity prices and caution ahead of a big batch of UK and eurozone economic data today and with the latest US jobs report tomorrow. In opening deals, the FTSE 100 index was down 24.8 points, or 0.4 per cent at 6,178.4, having closed 97.27 points higher yesterday when investors had welcomed signs that the Federal Reserve plans to put the brakes on further interest rate hikes in the near future. US stocks ended higher overnight, and Asian shares edged up to a four-month high today still supported by Wednesday s dovish comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on monetary tightening.

However, oil prices dipped back after US government data showed crude inventories were again at all-time peaks despite strong refinery runs. Brent crude was down 0.7 per cent at $39 a barrel.

FTSE LIVE - Footsie Weak At End Of Glum First Quarter But Off Lows As Commodity Stocks Rally With Firmer Oil Price

Still up: US stocks ended higher overnight, and Asian shares edged up to a four-month high today still supported by Wednesday s dovish comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on monetary policy

And copper prices fell as concerns over slowing Chinese demand mounted ahead of Friday’s China official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index release. Naeem Aslam, Chief Market Analyst at AvaTrade, said: Traders are cautious over in Europe, despite the fact that US markets reached another record high for this year last night.

He added: Today marks the end of the first quarter and without any surprise, the bounce in the oil prices along with solid gains in commodities has lifted the mining sector. This rebound in commodity prices has provided a breath of fresh air for inflation, which is constantly getting battered.

On the back of this, traders are expecting a strong reading for the eurozone’s CPI number and the forecast is for -0.1 per cent in contrast to the previous number of -0.2 per cent.

If we do see this number showing encouraging signs, then the ECB president, Mr Draghi, will not be able to stop himself from claiming some of the credit after another big bonanza landing under his watch.

The U.K. GDP revision data, consumer confidence and mortgage approval readings are pending this morning, but one element which will triumph over any other affair is the speech by Mr Carney, the governor of the Bank of England. If he reveals any concern and expresses his apprehensiveness about the Brexit, we could see the sterling tumbling. UK data released overnight showed consumer confidence has been knocked by fears of a British exit from the European Union.

The GfK Consumer Confidence Index tumbled to minus 12 in March, down from a positive reading of 6 for the same month last year. However, consumers felt upbeat about their personal finances for the next 12 months, with a positive reading of 9 for March, up from a positive reading of 7 for the same month in 2015. That meant the overall index score for consumer confidence remained at zero for a second month running.

Stocks in focus in London include:

TUI GROUP The tour operator said Discount Holidays © holiday bookings for this summer were higher than last year as Europeans chose to Discount Holidays © holiday in Spain and further afield instead of destinations like Turkey, putting it on track to meet its annual target. AO WORLD The online domestic appliances retailer said its UK business performed ahead of expectations in the fourth quarter of its financial year, while the European segment also performed well. CMC MARKETS The spread betting firm said trading has been in line with its expectations, with recent volatility in markets helping drive growth for the business.

MEDICLINIC INTERNATIONAL The South African and Middle East-focused private healthcare group which recently joined the FTSE 100 index – said it has seen strong patient growth across its operating platforms. CHESNARA The insurance-focused takeover specialist has reported a 48.6 per cent rise in full year pretax profits, helped by its acquisition last year of Dutch company Waard Group. BOOKER GROUP The food wholesaler and convenience store operator reported growth in total sales in the fourth quarter of its financial year and in the year as a whole, and said profit remains in line with expectations, although like-for-like sales were hit by price deflation and weak consumer demand.

UK company news scheduled today includes:

Trading update: TUI Group, AO World, Speedy Hire, Wincanton, CMC Markets, Electrocomponents, Booker Group

Finals: Chesnara, Hilton Food Group, Panmure Gordon, Scisys, Publishing Technology, Wireless Group, Sierra Rutile, GlobalTrans Investments, Royal London

Interims: James Halstead

Ex-dividends to clip 2.17 points off FTSE 100 index (British Land, InterContinental Hotels, Old Mutual, Wolseley)

Economic news scheduled today includes:

GfK UK consumer confidence released overnight

UK final Q4 GDP at 9.30am

UK Q4 current account deficit at 9.30am

BoE lending at 9.30am

eurozone flash CPI at 9am

US Challenger job cuts at 12.30pm

US weekly jobless at 1.30pm

US Chicago PMI at 2.45pm

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