LONDON (ShareCast) – – FTSE closes down 67.12 at 6,553.78
– UK house prices ease in February
– Supermarkets drag
– BoE (Shenzhen: 000725.SZ – news) announced banking bonus reforms

techMARK 2,786.87 -1.08%
FTSE 100 6,553.78 -1.01%
FTSE 250 16,186.23 -0.86%

UK stocks finished sharply lower, dragged by supermarkets, woes about Chinese growth, and reports Russia was moving its troops closer to Ukraine.

The FTSE 100 closed down 67.12 points at 6,553.78.

The New York Times said today that “in Moscow, the military acknowledged significant operations involving armoured and airborne troops in the Belgorod, Kursk and Rostov regions abutting eastern Ukraine”.

Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State has said it is unclear whether or not Russia will annex Crimea, commenting that, “if Russia continues on its course of the past weeks, it will not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine”.

“We, also as neighbours of Russia, would not only see it as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia. No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.”

Crimea is due to hold a referendum in three days but the Group of Seven leaders has issued a statement saying it is illegal and would not be recognised by the international community.

US President Barack Obama met Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House yesterday. Obama said “the international community – the European Union and others- will be forced to apply a cost to Russia’s violations of international law and its encroachments on Ukraine”.

Sentiment hit as Chinese figures point to slowdown

Nerves about a sharper than expected slowdown in China exports in February intensified after data published overnight showed further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy.

January industrial production growth eased to 8.6% year-on-year from the previous month’s 9.7% growth rate.

A separate report showed China’s retail sales improved less than expected, logging an annual rise of just 11.8% versus the previous increase of 13.6%. Analysts expected a growth rate of 13.5%.

Nikolaus Keis, an Economist at UniCredit Research, said the figures came as a “huge disappointment”.

OECD unemployment rate stable at 7.6% in January

The jobless rate in the developed world held at bay in January, with the 20 largest economies remaining at 7.6%, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

A total of 46.2m people were unemployed, 3.8m less than at the peak reached in April 2010, although 11.5m more than in July 2008. In the Eurozone alone, the rate was unchanged at 12%.

In other news, the Bank of England has announced that bankers may be liable to repay bonuses as many as six years after receiving them, in the event of “misbehaviour”, big losses, or poor management.

UK house prices ease in February, RICS reveals

UK house prices rose in February at the slowest pace in six months due to bad weather, a survey revealed on Thursday.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said its main house price balance measure last month came to +45, compared to +52 in January, downwardly revised from +53 reported earlier.

It missed forecasts for the reading to remain unchanged. However, RICS said the easing could be down to the exceptionally wet weather in the UK, which could have deterred people from going out to view houses.

In lighter news, video streaming services will be added to the basket of goods and services used to measure consumer price inflation (CPI (Other OTC: CPICQ – news) ) each month, but DVD recorders will be left out, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed today.

The move was part of the annual review of the list of items included in the basket to ensure CPI reflects current consumer spending as closely as possible.

Morrison leads supermarkets lower after ‘disappointing’ results

WM Morrison‘s share price dropped today after it issued a disappointing set of full-year results, with like-for-like sales falling 2.8 per cent. Chairman Sir Ian Gibson admitted that the company had been slow to adapt to the changing UK grocery market.

The supermarket chain guided to an underlying pre-tax profit of £325-375m this year, some 30-40% below what the market was expecting, as it unveiled a £1bn investment programme.

Larger supermarket groups J Sainsbury and Tesco (Xetra: TCO.DE – news) also declined sharply after the statement, along with Morrison’s online joint venture Ocado, which extended losses after disappointing the market with its own results yesterday. Sainsbury (Berlin: SUY1.BE – news) was also hit by a target price reduction by Jefferies, from 410p to 350p.

Department store Marks & Spencer (Other OTC: MAKSF – news) , which has a large food offering, also fell.

G4S (LSE: GFS.L – news) was also in the red after Panmure Gordon trimmed its target price from 200p to 185p after lowering its forecasts following an analyst meeting with the firm.

Antofagasta (Other OTC: ANFGF – news) was also lower after Investec (LSE: INVP.L – news) cut its target price from 764p to 753p and retained a ‘sell’ recommendation.

Meanwhile, B&Q-owner Kingfisher (LSE: KGF.L – news) rose on positive readacross from Homebase and Argos-owner Home Retail Group (Frankfurt: PZR.F – news) , which said that annual profits would come in ahead of the top end of market expectations.

Centrica (LSE: CNA.L – news) also climbed strongly after HSBC upgraded the stock to ‘overweight’ on the back of the outlook for its upstream prospects.

Barclays (LSE: BARC.L – news) was higher after Numis upped its target price from 274p to 280p and upgraded the stock from ‘hold’ to ‘add’.

FTSE 100 – Risers
Centrica (Frankfurt: CENB.F – news) (CNA (SES: E2:5GC.SI – news) ) 334.80p +2.10%
Kingfisher (Frankfurt: KFI1.F – news) (KGF) 407.40p +1.12%
Barclays (Berlin: BCY.BE – news) (BARC) 235.65p +0.81%
Smith & Nephew (LSE: SN.L – news) (SN.) 923.50p +0.71%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,957.00p +0.61%
Hammerson (HMSO) 552.00p +0.46%
Johnson Matthey (LSE: JMAT.L – news) (JMAT) 3,057.00p +0.43%
British Land Co (BLND) 673.00p +0.30%
BG Group (LSE: BG.L – news) (BG.) 1,070.50p +0.09%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,353.00p +0.07%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 205.20p -11.93%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 304.90p -8.49%
Tesco (Frankfurt: TS3.F – news) (TSCO) 298.75p -4.98%
Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT.L – news) (AHT) 903.50p -4.44%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 458.80p -3.12%
Mondi (Frankfurt: KYC.F – news) (MNDI) 1,068.00p -3.09%
Royal Mail (Other OTC: ROYMF – news) (RMG (Brussels: ROU.BR – news) ) 570.50p -3.06%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 432.90p -2.68%
SABMiller (Berlin: BRW1.BE – news) (SAB) 2,779.00p -2.64%
Tullow Oil (LSE: TLW.L – news) (TLW) 779.50p -2.56%

FTSE 250 – Risers
Home Retail Group (HOME) 215.40p +5.02% Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 126.60p +3.69%
Man Group (Other OTC: MNGPF – news) (EMG) 106.00p +3.52%
Pace (PIC) 483.50p +2.87%
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (LSE: MLC.L – news) (MLC) 595.00p +1.97%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (LSE: HIK.L – news) (HIK) 1,557.00p +1.96%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,264.00p +1.94%
Hiscox Ltd (HSX) 683.50p +1.41%
PayPoint (PAY) 1,165.00p +1.30%
Synthomer (Frankfurt: 7YC.F – news) (SYNT) 260.50p +1.28%

FTSE 250 – Fallers
Northgate (NTG) 543.00p -6.86%
Ocado Group (Other OTC: OCDGF – news) (OCDO) 502.50p -6.77%
Genus (GNS) 1,074.00p -5.95%
Fenner (FENR) 393.40p -4.84%
Vedanta Resources (Other OTC: VDNRF – news) (VED) 794.50p -4.68%
RPS Group (LSE: RPS.L – news) (RPS) 314.50p -4.44%
Oxford Instruments (LSE: OXIG.L – news) (OXIG) 1,275.00p -4.14%
Ferrexpo (Frankfurt: FEX.F – news) (FXPO) 138.40p -4.02%
Hunting (HTG) 826.50p -3.62%
Kazakhmys (Frankfurt: A0HFWR – news) (KAZ) 270.00p -3.54%

FTSE TechMARK – Risers
Filtronic (FTC) 52.75p +8.21%
Ark Therapeutics Group (AKT) 0.51p +3.06%
Skyepharma (Frankfurt: SK8C.F – news) (SKP) 199.75p +2.44%
Phoenix IT Group (PNX) 121.00p +2.11%
Sarossa Capital (Other OTC: AIOAF – news) (SRC) 1.77p +1.43%
Optos (OPTS) 201.00p +0.63%
Vectura Group (LSE: VEC.L – news) (VEC) 157.25p +0.32%
IShares Euro Gov Bond 7-10YR UCITS ETF (IEGM) € 185.46 +0.26%
NCC Group (LSE: NCC.L – news) (NCC (Other OTC: NCCBF – news) ) 222.00p +0.23%
SDL (SDL (LSE: SDL.L – news) ) 381.75p +0.20%

FTSE TechMARK – Fallers
Gresham Computing (LSE: GHT.L – news) (GHT) 134.00p -2.90%
Innovation Group (Other OTC: INVGF – news) (TIG) 33.75p -2.88%
Promethean World (LSE: PRW.L – news) (PRW) 34.50p -2.82%
Wolfson Microelectronics (LSE: WLF.L – news) (WLF) 119.25p -2.25%
Dialight (DIA (Berlin: DI6.BE – news) ) 870.50p -1.58%
Anite (AIE) 82.75p -1.49%
BATM Advanced Communications Ltd (LSE: BVC.L – news) . (BVC) 16.75p -1.47%
Kofax Limited (NasdaqGS: KFX – news) (DI (KSE: 003160.KS – news) ) (KFX) 524.50p -1.13%
Torotrak (Frankfurt: TQ5.F – news) (TRK) 22.88p -1.08%
Consort Medical (Other OTC: CSRMY – news) (CSRT) 969.50p -1.07%