LONDON (SHARECAST) - 1630:Close The first real trading day of September has seen stocks finish in a rather unfortunate manner, with sharp losses. That following the release of slightly weaker than expected ISM manufacturing sector survey data. Evraz was knocked lower by downbeat commentary out of Credit Suisse while ARM Holdings appears to be the victim of a downgrade from Deutsche Bank. Out on the FTSE 350, Ashtead soared higher, buoyed by positive comments from its management and multiple broker upgrades. August's construction sector PMI served to confirm the weakness in the sector, as new orders fell at their quickest since early 2009. The UK services sector PMI on the other hand rose unexpectedly in August, to the 53.7 point level (Consensus: 51). FTSE 100 down 86 to 5,762.
1537: The Markit/CIPS service sector purchasing managers' index for the month of August has come in at 53.7 (Consensus: 51), following a reading of 51 for July.
1446: Real Estate Investment Trust British Land has today announced the launch of a 300m pound convertible debt offering which it will use to fund the recently announced acquisition of the Clarges Estate.
1504: US ISM manufacturing index has come in below forecasts, at 49.6 (Consensus: 49.8) for the month of August, versus 50 for the prior month. That has sent Wall Street immediately lower, dragging London stocks down in turn. FTSE 100 down 68 to 5,690.
1359: After falling below 5700 shortly after midday the top-share index has recovered a little, although mining stocks remain in the doldrums. US stocks are set to open little changed. FTSE 100 is down 54 at 5,705.
1255: An earlier fall in shares of British American Tobacco is being attributed to reports that Russia could ban smoking in public places.
1105: The Footsie has fallen to its lowest levels of the day, down 40 points at 5,719, in spite of US stock futures pointing to mild gains on Wall Street after the opening bell in a couple of hours. Some heavyweight stocks in London are being hit by broker downgrades this morning: Vodafone has been downgraded by Bernstein from 'outperform' to 'market perform' on the back of 'an increasing number of negative risks'; RBS has been downgraded by Investec to 'hold'; UBS has downgraded British Land to 'neutral'; while JP Morgan has cut its ratings for REIT peers Land Secs, SEGRO, Quitain Estates, Songbird Estates.
1025: Investec has this morning downgraded its view on shares of RBS, to hold, as well as their target price, to 245p from 300p. Their analysts say that: "Investors in RBS have had too many false dawns – “underlying” operating profits performing broadly “in line with expectations” but continuing to be dwarfed by material negative one-off items, of which there are still more coming down the pipe. Reducing Non-Core drag softens the blow, but after another modest rally, we throw in the towel." FTSE 100 down 47 to 5,711.
1022: Plant hire firm Ashtead is leading gains out on the FTSE 350 after raising its full year guidance. Also propelling the shares higher, analysts at Jefferies have raised their target on the company´s shares to 360p from 320p before.
1009: The selling has accelerated on the top share index following the release of a weaker than expected construction sector PMI this morning, with RBS and Standard Chartered moving lower accompanied by shares of British American Tobacco and Vodafone. The latter has been downgraded by Bernstein to neutral from outperform.
0930: UK construction sector purchasing managers´ index for the month of August comes in at 49 points (Consensus: 50), versus 50.9 for the previous month.
0855: Shares of Petrofac are now leading to the upside on the benchmark index, after analysts at Credit Suisse upgraded the company´s shares to 'outperform' from 'neutral', while raising their price target to 1,800p from 1,750p. 'We believe the stock has performed poorly on a lack of project awards over the summer period and elevated expectations for the IES business. We believe the next few months will be better: awards should step up, thanks to less instability in the Middle East, and the payoff of extensive marketing efforts in southeast Asia and amongst oil majors,' they add. FTSE 100 is down 29 at 5,730.
0810: Stocks have opened lower after credit-ratings agency Moody's lowered its outlook for the European Union (EU), although it maintained the EU's 'Aaa' rating. UK retail sales in August were not quite as bad as feared, sliding 0.4 per cent year-on-year on a like-for-like basis, according to data from the British Retail Consortium; the market had been expecting a half-point fall. State-owned lender Royal Bank of Scotland leads the market lower as the threat of a bruising legal battle with angry shareholders continues to hang over the company. In the mid-cap space, equipment hire firm Ashtead is flying after raising profits guidance for the second time in three months on the back of a rip-roaring start to the new financial year, while pubs group and ale-brewer Greene King is another wanted stock after it shrugged off the wet weather to make a good start to its new financial year. FTSE 100 is down 24 at 5,734.