LONDON (ShareCast) - 1630: Close Stocks ended Thursday's session broadly lower as both the banking and mining sectors weighed heavily and attentions returned to the situation surrounding Crimea. In the latest news out from Ukraine, it was announced today that the country will 27bn dollar in aid following an agreement with the IMF. Meanwhile, UK sales volumes lifted 3.7 per cent in February against the same month a year ago. In the US, initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 311,000 in the seven days to March 22nd, from a revised 321,000 the week before, which was the lowest since November and surprised analysts who had expected claims to rise to 323,000. The FTSE 100 closed 16.98 points lower at 6,588.32.
1435: UK Chancellor George Osborne has been asked by the parliamentary treasury committee if he or other ministers put pressure on the Co-operative Group or Lloyds Banking Group over the sale of 632 Lloyds branches. The Co-op was in talks with Lloyds to buy its branches but the deal was scrapped last year following the discovery of a 1.5bn pound capital shortfall at the Co-op's banking division.
1251: Stock futures are pointing to a flat start on Wall Street despite data showing that jobless claims dropped to a four-month low last week. Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 311,000 in the seven days to March 22nd, below the consensus forecast of 323,000. Meanwhile, US GDP growth was revised to an annualised rate of 2.6 per cent for the fourth quarter, up from the initial estimate of 2.4 per cent but under the 2.7 per cent estimate. The FTSE 100 is down 40.85 at 6,564.45.
1124: Mining (LSE: MIR.L - news) stocks are providing a drag after Jefferies lowered its earnings forecasts and target prices across the sector and cut its rating for Glencore Xstrata (Other OTC: GLCNF - news) , recommending investors to stick with top picks Rio Tinto (Xetra: 855018 - news) and BHP Billiton (NYSE: BBL - news) . "Chinese demand growth for commodities is unlikely to accelerate without aggressive stimulus, and commodity prices should therefore remain rangebound near current levels," the broker said. The FTSE 100 is down 35 at 6,570.
0905: IMF confirms it will provide up to 18bn dollars in aid to Ukraine via a two-year stand-by agreement.
0835: UK stocks have started the session lower, following yesterday´s slide on Wall Street. Much the same as last night in New York (Frankfurt: HX6.F - news) trading, defensive issues such as AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN - news) or Imperial Tobacco (LSE: IMT.L - news) are doing best now out on the Footsie. BG Group (LSE: BG.L - news) is also up, possibly on reports that the US and EU will move forward on a trade deal including allowing US exports of liquified natural gas. Of note, the American units of HSBC, RBS (LSE: RBS.L - news) and Santander had their capital plans thrown into the rubbish bin by the Federal Reserve. Even financial giant Citi´s dividend and share buy back plans were found to be lacking by the US central bank. Chinese stocks are lower this morning, as is the yuan. FTSE 100 down 35 to 6,571.
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