There was a lot of focus on Central Banks around midday today, although as anticipated there was little in the way of action as both the UK’s Bank of England and the Eurozone’s European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged at 0.5% and 0.75%, respectively. Of particular interest was the subsequent press conference from the ECB’s President Mario Draghi, during which he reiterated that the ECB stood ready to support sovereign debt in the secondary markets should the required conditions be met (i.e. countries requested aid from the European bailout fund). The euro and gold traded higher on the comments, although equities remained mixed in Europe.
Data from the US was also marginally supportive of risk assets, with initial jobless claims coming in at 367000, slightly below forecasts (a positive for an unemployment statistic), although still ahead of the previous week’s reading of 363,000. Whilst US factory orders declined the most in three years by shrinking 5.2% in August, it was a smaller fall than anticipated by economists. The major US data point will however be the nonfarm payrolls tomorrow, which is anticipated to show an additional 115,000 employees joining the labour force during August.
The FTSE 100 finished flat for the day at 5828, with a mixed picture on the corporate front. Tesco was the biggest faller, finishing down 3% following a downgrade by analysts at Natixis. Further down the market cap scale, Halfords finished the day up 14% following a second quarter update that showed solid trading after poor weather hampered performance in the first three months of the year. Like-for-like sales for cycling equipment were up 14.7% in the quarter, buoyed by Bradley Wiggin’s Tour de France win and a successful Olympics for team GB’s cyclists. US markets traded around 0.5% higher although European indices were in negative territory.