LONDON (ShareCast) – – FTSE down 30.69 points, weighed by Yellen comments
– Mortgage lending falls six per cent
– Broker comment lifts SSE (LSE: SSE.L – news)

techMARK 2,800.23 -0.66%
FTSE 100 6,542.44 -0.47%
FTSE 250 16,217.35 -0.74%

UK stocks finished in the red today as investors digested hawkish comments from Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, the impact of yesterday’s Budget, and a fall in monthly mortgage lending.

The FTSE 100 closed down 30.69 points at 6,542.44, coming off a low of 6,494 this morning.

Yellen, speaking last night after the Federal Open Market Committee voted to taper its asset purchase programme by another $ 10bn a month to $ 55bn, signalled that the first rate hike could come six months after quantitative easing (QE) ends.

If the central bank continues to taper at the same rate, QE should come to an end in October or November, which means that interest rates could rise as soon as April or May. Ahead of this week’s meeting, analysts had widely expected a rate hike to come towards the end of 2015.

While the unexpected hawkishness from the new Fed chair came as a surprise to many, the message delivered about the economy was upbeat, as policymakers lowered their forecasts for unemployment which is set to fall to between 6.1% and 6.3% by the year-end.

In other global news, US President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Crimea.

Obama’s remarks come after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on Tuesday accepting Crimea as a sovereign state. It followed a referendum on Sunday which showed an overwhelming support for the region to leave Ukraine.

Obama said there would be visa bans and asset freezes in Russia and sanctions against senior officials of the country’s government.

“In addition, we are today sanctioning a number of other individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership, as well as a bank that provides material support to these individuals,” he said.

UK mortgage lending down 6% in February

Total (NYSE: TOT – news) gross mortgage lending decreased by 6% in February month-over-month to $ 15.2bn, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

Against the year-ago period, mortgage lending rose 43% from £10.6bn to its highest since February 2008.

Elsewhere, the Confederation of British Industry’s total orders index for the three months to March rose to a balance of six points, from three in the month before, well above the historical average of -17.

The consensus estimate was for a reading of five. The business lobby described the reading as “robust”.

SSE rises on rating upgrade

Electricity provider SSE was in the top spot after receiving a ratings upgrade from Morgan Stanley (Berlin: DWD.BE – news) .

Next (Dusseldorf: NXG.DU – news) was on the up after the High Street retailer reported annual profit that met the top end of its guidance, driven by growth in online sales. The company achieved an 11.8% rise in pre-tax profit to £695m in the year through January 2014, reaching the upper range of the company’s forecast of £684m-700m.

Standard Life (LSE: SL.L – news) climbed after Deutsche Bank (Xetra: DBK.DE – news) retained its ‘buy’ rating.

Meanwhile, Resolution dropped after saying that changes in the Budget have a “negative implication” for new business flows in the individual annuity market.

Hargreaves Lansdown (LSE: HL.L – news) shares retreated from yesterday’s highs when they were at the top of the leaderboard.

Paper and packaging giant Mondi (LSE: MNDI.L – news) dragged its sector lower, as the shares fell 2.5% in what was most likely profit taking after the company received positive analyst support after results in late February and strong long-term run in the stock.

FTSE 100 – Risers
SSE (Berlin: SCT.BE – news) (SSE) 1,486.00p +3.34%
Standard Life (SL.) 362.70p +2.46%
Next (NXT) 6,730.00p +2.28%
Tullow Oil (LSE: TLW.L – news) (TLW) 780.00p +1.76%
Anglo American (LSE: AAL.L – news) (AAL) 1,411.50p +1.66%
ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM.L – news) (ARM) 990.50p +1.43%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS (LSE: RBS.L – news) ) 305.30p +1.26%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,393.00p +1.24%
Carnival (Berlin: CVC1.BE – news) (CCL) 2,450.00p +1.24%
Smiths Group (Other OTC: SMGKF – news) (SMIN) 1,317.00p +1.23%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 318.10p -5.04%
Hammerson (HMSO) 545.00p -3.63%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,455.00p -3.26%
British Land Co (BLND) 659.50p -2.37%
ITV (Frankfurt: IJ7.F – news) (ITV (LSE: ITV.L – news) ) 197.50p -2.32%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 423.40p -2.10%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 1,037.00p -2.08%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,488.00p -1.98%
Mondi (Frankfurt: KYC.F – news) (MNDI) 1,051.00p -1.87%
BP (BP (LSE: BP.L – news) .) 468.25p -1.82%

FTSE 250 – Risers
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 2,347.00p +5.96%
Diploma (DPLM) 775.00p +4.80%
Savills (Other OTC: SVLPF – news) (SVS) 638.50p +3.65%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 187.00p +3.49%
Ophir Energy (Other OTC: OPGYF – news) (OPHR) 260.00p +3.30%
Kenmare Resources (LSE: KMR.L – news) (KMR) 14.69p +3.16%
Cobham (COB) 307.80p +2.60%
Essar Energy (LSE: ESSR.L – news) (ESSR) 66.00p +2.33%
Henderson Group (LSE: HGG.L – news) (HGG) 255.80p +2.28%
Premier Farnell (LSE: PFL.L – news) (PFL) 225.00p +2.27%

FTSE 250 – Fallers
Partnership Assurance Group (PA.) 124.00p -13.29%
Hellermanntyton Group (HTY) 307.00p -4.95%
Perform Group (Frankfurt: 8PG.F – news) (PER) 248.00p -4.62%
Intu Properties (Other OTC: CCRGF – news) (INTU (LSE: INTU.L – news) ) 308.30p -4.61%
Xaar (XAR) 825.00p -4.51%
Ladbrokes (Frankfurt: LADA.F – news) (LAD) 134.10p -4.49%
Tullett Prebon (LSE: TLPR.L – news) (TLPR) 284.60p -3.95%
PZ Cussons (LSE: PZC.L – news) (PZC) 347.40p -3.85%
Booker Group (LSE: BOK.L – news) (BOK) 160.10p -3.26%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 875.00p -3.21%