LONDON (ShareCast) – – FTSE closes down 32 points at 6,573
– Focus on Budget, unemployment remains unchanged
– Jan Eurozone construction output up by 1.5 per cent

techMARK 2,818.76 +0.56%
FTSE 100 6,573.13 -0.49%
FTSE 250 16,338.84 -0.09%

UK stocks finished today’s busy session in the red as investors digested the Chancellor’s Budget statement, UK unemployment figures, and a number of announcements from Europe.

The FTSE closed down 32.15 points at 6,573.13, down 45.24 points on the week so far.

Budget 2014: Tax cuts announced ahead of 2015 election

UK Chancellor George Osborne today delivered his fifth budget, which revealed a number of tax and spending cuts to boost the economy.

He warned that while Britain was growing at a faster rate than any another advanced economy in the world the recovery was far from assured.

“This country still borrows too much, we still don’t invest enough, export enough or save enough,” he said.

Osborne also revealed the Office for Budget Responsibility had lifted its forecasts for economic growth. The OBR predicted the UK will expand by 2.7% this year compared to its earlier estimate of 2.4%. The UK will grow by 2.3% next year, it said.

The 2015 estimate is one tenth of a percentage point less than had been expected by the consensus.

Osborne added that the OBR sees the Budget deficit falling more than expected this year at 6.6%. He said by 2018-19 annual Budget deficit will disappear, with a move into a small surplus.

Meanwhile, in an effort to support “hard working people”, Osborne said the UK tax-free personal income threshold will be raised to in April 2014 from £9,440 to £10,000 and by a further £500 in 2015.

Additional measures announced in the Budget included a scheme to boost exports by doubling the amount of finance available to £3bn, a five-year cap on structural welfare spending from 2015, starting at £119bn and rising in line with inflation, and freezing duty on cider, lowering the duty on beer by 1p per pint.

UK unemployment rate unchanged at 7.2% in January

The UK unemployment rate remained unchanged in the three months to January at 7.2%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The consensus estimate had been for a reading of 7.1%. The claimant count fell by 34,600 in February (consensus: -25,000).

Average weekly earnings rose by 1.4% for the three months to January (consensus: 1.2%).

Eurozone construction output rose by 1.5% in January

Construction output in the Eurozone expanded by 1.5% month-on-month during January, according to Eurostat.

That came on the back of a revised gain of 1.3% for December, in comparison with the 0.9% initially estimated.

Meanwhile, France’s current account deficit came in at -3.9bn euros in January, according to the French central bank, following a reading of -1.2bn euros in December.

Budget statement effect felt on FTSE

Legal and General fell sharply after Osborne announced in today’s Budget that there will be a “radical change” to the pension system, as a result of which half a million people will no longer have to buy an annuity, Elissa Bayer, Senior Investment Director at Investec Wealth & Investment, explained.

Resolution shares declined after Canaccord Genuity (Other OTC: CCORF – news) downgraded the company from ‘buy’ to ‘hold’ with a target price of 375p.

Bookmaker William Hill (Other OTC: WIMHF – news) slumped after the government’s new Budget included a 25p increase in duty on fixed-odds betting terminals.

Meanwhile, shares of Hargreaves Lansdown (LSE: HL.L – news) were at the top of the leaderboard, which appears to be linked to the Budget statement which announced savers will be allowed to transfer funds back and forth between their cash and stock ISAs.

Shares in Barclays (LSE: BARC.L – news) were given a lift by stories that the bank is weighing up the possible disposal of its Index, Portfolio and Risk Solutions (IPRS) unit, with two rival buyers mooted.

FTSE 100 – Risers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,504.00p +14.46%
Hammerson (HMSO) 565.50p +2.54%
Barclays (Berlin: BCY.BE – news) (BARC) 241.50p +2.31%
Sage Group (LSE: SGE.L – news) (SGE) 424.40p +2.04%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,895.00p +1.70%
Schroders (Stuttgart: PYX.SG – news) (SDR) 2,692.00p +1.58%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 2,007.00p +1.52%
Meggitt (Frankfurt: MGI.F – news) (MGGT) 471.80p +1.40%
BAE Systems (LSE: BA.L – news) (BA.) 413.50p +1.40%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,073.00p +1.23%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 211.20p -8.37%
William Hill (WMH) 351.50p -6.81%
Anglo American (LSE: AAL.L – news) (AAL) 1,388.50p -5.38%
Antofagasta (LSE: ANTO.L – news) (ANTO) 785.00p -5.25%
Aviva (Berlin: GU8.BE – news) (AV.) 490.40p -5.15%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 335.00p -4.56%
Smiths Group (Other OTC: SMGKF – news) (SMIN) 1,301.00p -3.70%
Glencore Xstrata (Other OTC: GLCNF – news) (GLEN) 301.30p -3.26%
Standard Life (LSE: SL.L – news) (SL.) 354.00p -3.12%
Prudential (Frankfurt: PRU.F – news) (PRU) 1,339.50p -2.12%

FTSE 250 – Risers
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 180.70p +10.05%
Rank Group (RNK) 154.00p +6.80%
Victrex plc (LSE: VCT.L – news) (VCT) 1,968.00p +6.72%
St James’s Place (STJ) 865.50p +4.28%
Fidessa Group (LSE: FDSA.L – news) (FDSA) 2,596.00p +4.22%
Domino Printing Sciences (Other OTC: DMIPY – news) (DNO) 821.50p +3.79%
Evraz (LSE: EVR.L – news) (EVR) 62.65p +3.38%
Man Group (Other OTC: MNGPF – news) (EMG) 106.00p +3.21%
Big Yellow Group (BYG) 556.00p +3.15%
Grainger (GRI) 248.00p +2.90%

FTSE 250 – Fallers
Partnership Assurance Group (PA.) 143.00p -55.20%
Ophir Energy (Other OTC: OPGYF – news) (OPHR) 251.70p -14.79%
Ladbrokes (Frankfurt: LADA.F – news) (LAD) 140.40p -11.70%
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI (KSE: 003160.KS – news) ) (PHNX) 702.00p -5.20%
Dairy Crest Group (DCG) 469.90p -5.07%
Xaar (XAR) 864.00p -4.53% Group (MONY) 178.70p -4.44%
Carphone Warehouse Group (CPW) 323.60p -3.89%
Essar Energy (LSE: ESSR.L – news) (ESSR) 64.50p -3.87%
Polymetal International (POLY) 612.00p -3.77%