Markets: Transatlantic economic woes hit FTSE

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Continued uncertainty over economic prospects on both sides of the Atlantic kept Britain’s top share index under pressure yesterday.

Worse-than-expected US jobless claims figures following the disruption caused by superstorm Sandy combined with ongoing fears that President Obama will be unable to strike an agreement to avoid America’s fiscal cliff on 1 January..

Also weighing on stocks were some dreary figures from Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, which showed the eurozone economy contracted by 0.1 per cent in the July to September period. Following on from the 0.2 per cent decline in the second quarter, the figure officially puts the region back into recession.

Meanwhile, UK retailers were dumped by investors after the Office for National Statistics reported a drop of 0.8 per cent in sales volumes for October, much bigger than the 0.2 per cent decline predicted by City analysts.

The benchmark FTSE 100 Index closed down 44.26 points or 0.8 per cent at 5,677.75.

Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG, said: “The form that the FTSE has shown of late suggests that a retest of the September lows of 5,634 could well be on the cards in the coming days.”

The retail sales blow triggered a fall of 2 per cent for sector bellwether Marks & Spencer. Its shares dropped 7.8p to 370.6p, while B&Q-owner Kingfisher was off 7.6p to 275.4p and Sainsbury’s slipped 5.8p to 333p after also dropping on Wednesday in the wake of half-year results.

BP dipped 0.4p to 425.4p after its Deepwater Horizon agreement announcement just before the market close, but the stock had been higher earlier in the session as investors saw the deal removing some of the uncertainty hanging over the stock since the disaster.

NEW YORK: Wall Street ended moderately lower last night as the prospect of a drawn-out battle over impending US tax and spending changes left investors wary, while Wal-Mart tumbled after disappointing forecasts.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 29.49 points, or 0.23 per cent, to close at 12,541.46 while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed down 2.26 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 1,353.23. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 9.87 points, or 0.35 per cent, at 2,836.94 at the close.