An unexpected climb in the rate of unemployment in the US triggered declines across world markets on Friday as fears over the strength of the country’s recovery reignited.
Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2% as the unemployment rate hit 9.8% in November, a seven-month high.
The knock to investors’ confidence rippled across the Atlantic, where the FTSE 100 Index slipped 12 points to 5758 by mid-afternoon. Elsewhere, Germany’s DAX index fell 0.3%, while the CAC-40 in France dipped 0.3%.
The world’s biggest economy has recently shown signs of gaining momentum with busier factories, rising car sales and a good start to the Christmas shopping season. But the London market reversed a two-day rally as the US Labour department confirmed employers only added 39,000 jobs last month, sharply down from the 172,000 created in October.
Economists had expected the jobless rate, compiled from a separate household survey, to hold as its October rate of 9.6%.
Elsewhere in the US, orders for manufactured goods declined for the first time in four months, dropping 0.9% to 420 billion US dollars (£270 million) in October, the Commerce Department said.
Banking stocks wavered following the report with Lloyds and Barclays down 0.1p at 66.4p and 5.9p at 269.2p respectively, while Royal Bank of Scotland moved higher, up 0.1p at 41.7p.
In corporate results, shares in pubs group Greene King were steady after it reported a better-than-expected 17% rise in pre-tax profits to £73.1 million and a 4.2% improvement in revenues to £484.1 million. The company, which climbed 7.9p to 467.9p, also announced plans to fully integrate its Scottish business Belhaven in a bid to save the company £1 million.
Premier Foods shares fell more than 1% after the firm said it was in advanced talks with two parties over the sale of its meat-free food range Quorn. The statement follows speculation that named Swiss consumer giant Nestle as a frontrunner in the auction, which could value Quorn at more than £200 million. Shares were down 0.3p at 18.3p.
Housebuilder Berkeley provided some rare cheer to the sector when it posted an 18% rise in pre-tax profits and 20% surge in sales reservations. The firm, which focuses on London and the south east, lifted its profits guidance for the full year after strong demand in London and stable prices boosted sales. Shares were up 31.2p at 871.2p.