London open: Sports Direct leads markets lower, Ukraine tensions weigh

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LONDON (ShareCast) - - Ukraine tensions running high
- Wall Street sell-off continues ahead of Q1 earnings
- BoJ holds steady despite tax hike
- Sports Direct (Frankfurt: A0MK5S - news) slumps, miners gain

techMARK 2,725.79 -0.16%
FTSE 100 6,609.27 -0.20%
FTSE 250 16,217.75 -0.28%

Growing tensions in Ukraine pushed UK stocks lower on Tuesday morning (Frankfurt: TDM.F - news) , with sentiment still fragile after yet another sell-off on Wall Street the previous session.

The FTSE 100 was trading 0.2% lower at 6,609, extending losses after hitting a one-week low of 6,622.84 on Monday afternoon.

Ukraine has launched a military operation in the eastern city of Kharkiv and arrested approximately 70 separatists that had seized a regional administration building. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov called the response an "anti-terrorist operation", according to a report by Reuters.

Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Ukraine to stop amassing forces in the south-eastern part of the country in order to counteract anti-government protests. "We call for an immediate halt to military preparations which could lead to an outbreak of civil war," the Ministry said in a statement.

US markets fell sharply again on Monday evening with the Nasdaq registering its worst three-day skid since late 2011 as investors continue to question steep valuations of high-growth tech stocks ahead of the start of the first-quarter earnings season.

Chief Market Analyst Michael Hewson from CMC Markets said: "European markets [are] well above their recent range lows of the past few weeks ago, which suggests the selling might well be contained in the short term, given that European stocks haven't pushed to the elevated levels of their counterparts in the US."

Markets in Asia were mixed overnight after the Bank of Japan decided to hold on current monetary policy despite worries of the effects of a new sales tax increase on the Asian economy. The Japanese central bank chose to keep interest rates unchanged and maintained its pledge to increase the monetary base at an annual pace of 60tn to 70tn yen (£351bn-£409bn).

Sports Direct drops on Ashley share sale

Sporting (Lisbon: SCP.LS - news) goods retailer Sports Direct sunk sharply this morning after it was reported that Founder Mike Ashley is selling £200m-worth of shares, taking his stake from 62% to 58%. Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS-PB - news) said it will place up to 24m shares acquired from MASH Holdings, Ashley's investment vehicle, with institutional investors. The stock is being placed at 850-870p a share, compared with last night's closing price of 893.5p.

Mining (LSE: MIR.L - news) stocks were dominating the upside in London today with Fresnillo (Other OTC: FNLPF - news) , Rio Tinto (Xetra: 855018 - news) , Antofagasta (Other OTC: ANFGF - news) , Anglo American (LSE: AAL.L - news) and Randgold Resources (Dusseldorf: RGR1.DU - news) rising strongly as metal prices improved.

Iron ore producer Ferrexpo (Other OTC: FEEXF - news) edged higher after first-quarter iron ore pellet production rose 9.2% to 2,714,000 tonnes compared to a year ago. The miner also increased the proportion of higher grade pellets at 65% iron, up by 320,000 tonnes or 31%.

Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) was lower after reaching a settlement with a UK care operator over claims the bank mis-sold products linked to benchmark interest rates.

Polymer group Victrex (LSE: VCT.L - news) was higher as investors shrugged off comments about rising currency headwinds and focused on the company's better-than-expected second quarter, which was helped by softer volume comparatives the previous year.

Chemicals business Synthomer (Frankfurt: 7YC.F - news) was trading firmly lower after JPMorgan Cazenove downgraded its rating on the stock from 'neutral' to 'underweight' after an "impressive" 40% run over the last 12 months. The bank said it sees this "as an opportunity to take profits" with the valuation now looking "stretched".


FTSE 100 - Risers
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,397.00p +1.60%
ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM.L - news) (ARM) 988.00p +1.59%
Fresnillo (Berlin: FNL.BE - news) (FRES) 905.00p +1.57%
Antofagasta (LSE: ANTO.L - news) (ANTO) 861.00p +1.12%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,568.50p +0.93%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,709.00p +0.73%
Standard Chartered (HKSE: 2888.HK - news) (STAN) 1,264.00p +0.72%
Unilever (Amsterdam: UNIA.AS - news) (ULVR) 2,549.00p +0.47%
Bunzl (Frankfurt: BUZ1.F - news) (BNZL) 1,630.00p +0.43%
Glencore Xstrata (Other OTC: GLCNF - news) (GLEN) 317.70p +0.33%

FTSE 100 - Fallers
Sports Direct International (Other OTC: SDISY - news) (SPD) 845.00p -5.43%
Associated British Foods (LSE: ABF.L - news) (ABF) 2,643.00p -4.00%
Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT.L - news) (AHT) 918.50p -3.57%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 278.20p -3.34%
Burberry Group (LSE: BRBY.L - news) (BRBY) 1,383.00p -1.64%
Prudential (Frankfurt: PRU.F - news) (PRU) 1,298.00p -1.55%
BT Group (LSE: BT-A.L - news) (BT.A) 369.20p -1.55%
St James's Place (STJ) 803.00p -1.53%
Experian (EUREX: EXPF.EX - news) (EXPN) 1,048.00p -1.50%
Pearson (Dusseldorf: PES.DU - news) (PSON) 1,011.00p -1.37%

FTSE 250 - Risers
Computacenter (CCC) 652.00p +3.08%
Evraz (LSE: EVR.L - news) (EVR) 77.25p +2.05%
Diploma (DPLM) 733.50p +1.59%
Fidessa Group (LSE: FDSA.L - news) (FDSA) 2,642.00p +1.58%
EnQuest (Frankfurt: 3EQ.F - news) (ENQ) 124.80p +1.38%
Vesuvius (LSE: VSVS.L - news) (VSVS) 450.70p +1.35%
Caledonia Investments (CLDN) 2,035.00p +1.34%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 181.10p +1.34%
Northgate (NTG) 537.00p +1.32%
Rank Group (RNK) 159.30p +1.21%

FTSE 250 - Fallers
Synthomer (SYNT) 277.00p -5.01%
Henderson Group (LSE: HGG.L - news) (HGG) 258.40p -3.62%
Mitchells & Butlers (LSE: MAB.L - news) (MAB) 443.00p -2.32%
Domino Printing Sciences (Other OTC: DMIPY - news) (DNO) 764.00p -2.18%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (LSE: HIK.L - news) (HIK) 1,629.00p -2.10%
Carphone Warehouse Group (CPW) 319.10p -1.54%
Pace (PIC) 437.90p -1.51%
Home Retail Group (Frankfurt: PZR.F - news) (HOME) 214.60p -1.47%
International Personal Finance (LSE: IPF.L - news) (IPF) 532.50p -1.39%
Partnership Assurance Group (PA.) 131.90p -1.35%

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