Market Report: China news caps off a decidedly sober start to the year


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The Independent Online

They say that when the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. The same could easily said about China, which yesterday spooked global markets by publishing disappointing economic data.

The FTSE 100 fell 31.18 points to 6717.91 as mining stocks – including Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – were dragged down 28p to 1,292p, 17p to 1,852p and 39.5p to 3,370p respectively on the back of the poor manufacturing data.

The news capped off a decidedly sober start to the year. Low trading volumes (and probably a few second-day hangovers) took the fizz out of London’s leading share index.

Debenhams bounced a little after its profit warning on New Year’s Eve wiped 12 per cent off the department stores group, rising 2.15p to 75.15p on news of its financial director’s departure. The fashion retailer Next, which publishes its Christmas figures today, rose 80p to 5,530p while Primark’s owner Associated British Foods gained 43p to 2,488p after John Lewis and House of Fraser both reported festive sales up about 7 per cent. However, Marks & Spencer, which surprised the markets with a 30 per cent pre-Christmas sale, was down 5.3p at 427.3p.

Mid-cap oil and gas explorer Ophir Energy fell 26.9p to 300.9p, ranking among the day’s largest fallers after the company revealed it had completed its latest drilling programme in Tanzania but had found water, not oil.

Elsewhere, RSA Insurance rose 0.80p to 92.2p after a dire end to the year for the FTSE 100 insurer, whose chief executive Simon Lee departed after it discovered a hole in its Irish accounts.

The African-focused gold miner Avocet Mining fell 0.82p to 8.71p after it missed a £9.6m loan payment to its largest shareholder, Elliott Management. Last year its shares fell 90 per cent as the gold price slumped and it suffered troubles at its Burkina Faso mine, including landslides.

There was also a sign of M&A activity to kick-start the year, albeit in the junior AIM market where research specialist Cyprotex rose 0.26p at 7.88p as it bought US rival CeeTox for an initial £600,000.