Market overview: S&P lowers European Union's credit rating one notch

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LONDON (ShareCast) - 1440: Ratings agency Standard and Poor's has lowered the European Union's long-term credit rating to AA+ from AAA, albeit with a stable outlook.

1340: The US economy expanded in the third quarter at a faster rate than previously estimated, according to data from the Commerce Department. Gross domestic product climbed at a 4.1 per cent annualised rate, the strongest since the final three months of 2011 and up from a previous estimate of 3.6 per cent.
Growth was driven by consumer spending on services such as health care and by company investments in software.

1259: The FTSE 100 is up 11.35 at 6,596.05 with stock futures in the US pointing to small gains when Wall Street opens in a few hours' time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which hit an all-time high last night, is set to hit its 47th record in 2013 alone.

1140: GfK (Frankfurt: GFK.F - news) 's forward-looking consumer sentiment indicator for Germany rose to 7.6 points in January from 7.4 points in December, the highest level since August 2007. Economists had expected it to remain unchanged. The research company said the "consumer climate is off to a good start in 2014", indicating that domestic demand will remain a key driver of economic growth.

1020: The UK economy is growing faster than previously forecast, according to the Office for National Statistics. Gross domestic product was up 0.8 per cent in the July-to-September period compared with the previous quarter. It was in line with previous figures but growth in earlier quarter was revised up. On a year-on-year basis, growth was 1.9 per cent, revised up from an earlier estimate of 1.5 per cent.

0940: UK consumer confidence fell for the third straight month in December, data showed. The GfK/NOP index headline consumer confidence index fell to -13 from -12 in November, despite an improving economic outlook.

0922: Asian markets finished mixed overnight amid continuing volatility in China's money-market rates, which have risen higher for a third straight day. Renewed concerns about another credit crunch prompted the People's Bank of China (HKSE: 3988-OL.HK - news) to make an emergency liquidity injection, while the Shanghai Composite fell for its ninth consecutive session, its worst losing streak since 1994, according to Bloomberg. The FTSE 100 however is extending gains ahead of the holidays, currently trading at levels not seen since late-November. The index is up 23.25 points at 6,607.95.

0830: Stocks have opened flat this morning, holding on to their highest levels in over a week after after a strong surge the day before in the aftermath of the Fed taper. BAE Systems (LSE: BA.L - news) is a heavy faller this morning after the United Arab Emirates withdrew its interest in buying 60 Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighters, a major blow for the defence group which had been in talks regarding the 6bn-pound contract for over a year. Leading the upside are oil majors Shell (LSE: RDSB.L - news) and BP (LSE: BP.L - news) , along with retailers M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury (EUREX: SBRF.EX - news) , who were recovering after a poor performance in recent days. The FTSE 100 is down 0.97 points at 6,583.73.

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