LONDON (ShareCast) – – FTSE 14 points lower
– Supermarkets drag after Morrison’s results
– Chinese growth point to slowdown

techMARK 2,804.40 -0.46%
FTSE 100 6,608.61 -0.19%
FTSE 250 16,261.58 -0.40%

Stocks were being weighed down by the supermarket sector this morning, while concerns over a slowdown in Chinese growth was also giving cause for concern.

Despite this, the FTSE was only 13.79 points lower at 6,607.11 by the midday point.

Sentiment hit as Chinese figures point to slowdown

Softer than expected Chinese industrial production and retail sales weighed on Asian stock markets on Thursday just days after much weaker-than-expected trade data.

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”.

“With most (though probably not all) distortions of the moveable timing of the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays sorted out by publishing combined January-February figures, today’s numbers clearly add to the raft of highly disappointing soft PMI sentiment as well as hard activity data over recent weeks, signaling a pronounced growth slowdown at the start of the year.”

He also pointed out that “the highly disappointing data are not only amplifying global investors’ worries about weaker growth in the world’s second-largest economy, they will almost certainly feed speculation that Beijing may loosen policies soon to bolster growth”.

OECD unemployment rate stable at 7.6 per cent 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%.

Meanwhile, the French harmonised consumer price index rose by 0.6% month-on-month in February and another 1.1% over the year, according to INSEE, ahead of the 0.4% month-on-month (0.9% year-on-year) expected by economists.

Morrisons dives after poor guidance

WM Morrison‘s share price dropped this morning after guiding 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. Chairman Sir Ian Gibson said last year’s performance was “disappointing” with like-for-like sales falling 2.8% as he admitted that the company has been slow to adapt to the changing UK grocery market.

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. 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 security firm. G4S said on Wednesday that underlying revenues rose 5.8% to £7.43bn in 2013. Underlying profit before interest, tax and amortisation before specific items rose 2.8% year-on-year to £442m, but came in 6% below Panmure’s estimate.

Meanwhile, 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’.

B&Q-owner Kingfisher (LSE: KGF.L – news) rose on 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.

FTSE 100 – Risers
Barclays (Berlin: BCY.BE – news) (BARC) 240.00p +2.67%
Centrica (Frankfurt: CENB.F – news) (CNA (SES: E2:5GC.SI – news) ) 335.20p +2.23%
Kingfisher (Frankfurt: KFI1.F – news) (KGF) 410.30p +1.84%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,334.00p +1.37%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,667.00p +1.21%
Pearson (Dusseldorf: PES.DU – news) (PSON) 1,007.00p +0.90%
HSBC Holdings (HKSE: 0005.HK – news) (HSBA) 604.10p +0.82%
Johnson Matthey (LSE: JMAT.L – news) (JMAT) 3,060.00p +0.53%
Meggitt (Frankfurt: MGI.F – news) (MGGT) 451.70p +0.49%
Rio Tinto (Xetra: 855018 – news) (RIO) 3,188.50p +0.47%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 213.60p -8.33%
Sainsbury (Berlin: SUY1.BE – news) (J) (SBRY) 309.60p -7.08%
Tesco (Frankfurt: TS3.F – news) (TSCO) 300.90p -4.29%
G4S (Copenhagen: G4S.CO – news) (GFS) 226.00p -2.80%
Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT.L – news) (AHT) 924.50p -2.22%
Royal Mail (Other OTC: ROYMF – news) (RMG (Brussels: ROU.BR – news) ) 579.00p -1.61%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 466.20p -1.56%
National Grid (LSE: NG.L – news) (NG.) 821.00p -1.44%
Mondi (Frankfurt: KYC.F – news) (MNDI) 1,087.00p -1.36%
Babcock International Group (BAB (Other OTC: BABB – news) ) 1,396.00p -1.27%

FTSE 250 – Risers
Home Retail Group (HOME) 216.90p +5.75% Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 126.40p +3.52%
Petra Diamonds Ltd (LSE: PDL.L – news) .(DI (KSE: 003160.KS – news) ) (PDL) 155.50p +2.30%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (LSE: HIK.L – news) (HIK) 1,562.00p +2.29%
IP Group (LSE: IPO.L – news) (IPO) 212.00p +2.02%
African Barrick Gold (LSE: ABG.L – news) (ABG) 265.20p +2.00%
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (LSE: MLC.L – news) (MLC) 595.00p +1.97%
Man Group (Other OTC: MNGPF – news) (EMG) 103.90p +1.46%
Fidessa Group (LSE: FDSA.L – news) (FDSA) 2,495.00p +1.30%
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 2,369.00p +1.20%

FTSE 250 – Fallers
Northgate (NTG) 547.50p -6.09%
Fenner (FENR) 396.90p -3.99%
ICAP (Berlin: GBNA.BE – news) (IAP) 402.40p -3.64%
Ocado Group (Other OTC: OCDGF – news) (OCDO) 521.50p -3.25%
Hunting (HTG) 833.00p -2.86%
Grafton Group Units (GFTU) 640.50p -2.81%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 161.50p -2.42%
International Personal Finance (LSE: IPF.L – news) (IPF) 530.00p -2.30%
Victrex plc (LSE: VCT.L – news) (VCT) 1,844.00p -2.18%
Riverstone Energy Limited (RSE) 900.00p -2.17%