Worse-than-expected inflation and unemployment data in the United States has tipped the London market into the red.
Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.2% after the US Labour department reported a higher-than-expected increase in unemployment claims last week and inflation increased on a monthly basis at an above forecast 0.4% in January.
The FTSE 100 Index, which was flat earlier in the session, retreated 14.4 points to 6070 by mid-afternoon on Thursday as traders mulled the implications of the downbeat US data.
The Labour market in the US remains sluggish despite recent signs of improvement in the recovery, with jobless claims increasing by 25,000 to 410,000 in the week ending February 12.
Elsewhere, increased political unrest in Libya, Bahrain and Iran gave investors the jitters. Miners weighed the market down as copper prices stumbled to three-week lows, with Anglo-Swiss firm Xstrata down 3% or 45p at 1432p, while copper miner Kazakhmys was not far behind, dropping 37p at 1501p.
In corporate news, BAE Systems sank to the bottom of the Footsie, losing 4% or 15.6p at 340.1p, after the defence giant warned sales were likely to fall in 2011.
Shares in B&Q parent Kingfisher dropped 0.6p to 256.7p after it forecast a 20% rise in annual profits.
The banking sector filled the risers’ board, as confidence in the sector was boosted by upbeat earnings from Barclays and French giant Societe Generale.
Royal Bank of Scotland led the sector, adding 1.3p to 48.6p, while Lloyds was not far behind, up 1.8p at 69p. Barclays was also on the rise, up 2.5p at 334.5p, while HSBC climbed 9.6p to 731.1p. It is the third session in which banks have outperformed the market after Barclays announced a 32% rise in pre-tax profits to £6.1 billion on Tuesday.
Outside the top flight, Ladbrokes’ shares dropped 5.1p to 136.9p after the UK’s biggest bookmaker reported a 20% jump in annual profits