FTSE 100 slides on US jobs figures


London Stock Exchange

A turbulent week for investors ended with a slump today after US jobs figures raised fears of an early finish to the country's monetary stimulus campaign.

Employers added 175,000 jobs in January, a better than expected figure but not enough to prevent the unemployment rate edging up to 6.7%.

The good news was taken badly on markets because it may convince the US Federal Reserve to hasten the end of quantitative easing, which is still providing 65 billion US dollars a month of emergency support.

The FTSE 100 Index was close to its opening mark until the figures were released, before closing 75.8 points lower at 6712.7. The decline caps a volatile few days for investors after a 1.5% slump on Monday caused by Russia's military intervention in Ukraine.

The figures increased the value of the US dollar, which had earlier fallen to a two-year low against the euro after the Europe's decision to keep interest rates on hold. The pound was down against the greenback and euro at 1.67 and 1.21 respectively.

The US update also compounded a difficult session for miners after stocks were earlier hit by China's decision to allow the country's first corporate bond default.

Leaders want market forces to play a bigger role but analysts are worried about rising corporate debt and the impact this will have on economic growth as China tries to cool a lending boom.

Anglo American was the biggest faller, off 6% or 102.5p at 1462.5p, while Antofagasta was off 38p at 877p.

Insurance giant Aviva continued to attract buying interest despite the stock surging to its highest level in five years following results on Thursday.

The backing for chief executive Mark Wilson's turnaround plan kept Aviva near the top of the FTSE 100 Index risers board, up 4.5p to 508.5p alongside rival Legal & General which added 3.6p to 237.2p.

Royal Mail was 2p lower at 587p, having lost initial gains seen after JP Morgan Cazenove raised its target price from 700p to 765p. The review was based on a new assessment of the delivery firm's pension liabilities.

And outsourcing firm G4S lifted 8.4p to 243.9p on hopes that it will be able to draw a line under a dire past two years when it reports annual figures on Wednesday following a string of damaging blunders.

Among heavyweight fallers, Vodafone was 8.65p lower at 238.65p after Reuters reported that an improved offer from the mobile phone giant had secured a preliminary agreement to buy Spain's Ono.

In today's corporate news, AGA Rangemaster lifted 15p to 188p after it said current order intake was more than 6% ahead of the prior year, with the house market recovery among the factors in its improved fortunes.

Operating profits for last year rose 26% to £8.2 million as sales of AGA cookers surged 10%, having been down 2% at the half year stage.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were G4S up 8.4p at 243.9p, Pearson ahead 21p at 1054p, Petrofac up 27p at 1405p and Legal & General ahead 3.6p at 237.2p.

The biggest fallers were Anglo American down 102.5p at 1462.5p, Glencore Xstrata off 15.1p at 324.85p, Antofagasta down 38p at 877p and Randgold Resources off 185p at 4880p.