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London open: Markets lower after China data, but Next surges

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UK markets opened slightly lower again on Friday as worsening economic data from China outweighed a bullish statement by High Street retailer Next.

The FTSE 100 was continuing to pull back following a stellar end to 2013, which saw the index rise nearly 5% in the final two and a half weeks alone. London’s benchmark index was trading down around 0.2% at just above 6,700.

Chinese data released overnight sparked a fall on markets in Asia, as growth in the services sector eased in December. The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) measuring the Chinese non-manufacturing sector fell from 56 to 54.6 last month – its worst reading since August 2013.

This following a raft of manufacturing PMIs out from China, the US and UK yesterday which also showed that activity had slowed down in December.

“Although both PMI manufacturing and services remain above the expansion zone, markets are worried that a loss of momentum in the Chinese economy could leave the emerging markets area feeling more vulnerable as the Fed in the US kicks off tapering,” said Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital.

After a relatively quiet few weeks for markets in terms of economic data, the schedule will ramp up today with investors on the look out for a barrage of data from the UK, including Nationwide house prices, the construction PMI, mortgage approvals and consumer credit figures.

Meanwhile in the States, data on vehicle sales, the New York ISM index and a press conference with soon-to-be-departing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will keep investors busy.

Retailers rise after Next ups guidance

Retail stocks were performing well again today after Next raised its full-year profit guidance following a “significantly” better-than-expected fourth quarter. The retailer also revealed a special dividend of 50p a share and said it would return a further £300m of surplus cash in the year ahead.

The news comes just a day after department store and retail bellwethers John Lewis and House of Fraser reported excellent sales over the key Christmas period. According to The Times, the latter’s Chief Executive John King said that the group expects to float on the London stock market by the end of the year.

Other retailers including Marks & Spencer, Sports Direct, Kingfisher, Home Retail and Sainsbury were also trading higher early on.

Leading the downside this morning were a number of stocks exposed to the housing sector, including Ashtead, Wolseley, Persimmon and Bellway. Financial groups HSBC, Resolution, Prudential and Jupiter Fund Management were also in the red.

United Arab Emirates healthcare provider NMC Health fell despite saying that its 2013 results will be in line with expectations, with growth seen in both its healthcare and distribution divisions throughout the 12-month period.

FTSE 100 – Risers

Next (NXT) 6,070.00p +9.76%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,538.00p +2.01%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 434.20p +1.61%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 725.00p +0.76%
SSE (SSE) 1,349.00p +0.75%
Hammerson (HMSO) 493.90p +0.71%
Kingfisher (KGF) 388.70p +0.65%
Standard Life (SL.) 357.00p +0.62%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,511.00p +0.60%
Schroders (SDR) 2,619.00p +0.54%

FTSE 100 – Fallers

Antofagasta (ANTO) 807.50p -1.76%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 771.00p -1.60%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 650.00p -1.47%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 306.00p -1.45%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,411.00p -1.22%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,278.00p -1.08%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 91.35p -0.92%
IMI (IMI) 1,506.00p -0.86%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,681.00p -0.83%
Prudential (PRU) 1,333.00p -0.82%

Source: ShareCast

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