It was another quiet day in financial markets, with the marginally positive tone resulting from, counter intuitively, relatively weak US data that provided some support for more monetary easing from the Federal Reserve. Housing starts were lower than expected at 746,000, with initial and continuing jobless claims slightly higher than forecasts had predicted. Both the labour and housing markets are crucial barometers of America’s economic health, and improvements in both metrics are widely studied for clues as to the pace of recovery. Elsewhere in the US, Facebook shares hit their lowest point since the IPO today, trading at $19.73, nearly half their initial listing price. The catalyst for today’s ca. 6% fall was the expiration of a lock-up period, during which early investors were prohibited from selling their shares. Today’s expiration meant that 270m shares, held by the likes of Goldman Sachs were now available to be sold, an opportunity that appears to have been taken to a small extent.
UK retail sales rose 0.3% in the month to July, much better than the -0.1% initially forecast, with data for June’s also being revised from its previous 0.1% to 0.8%. Sterling initially jumped on the news that the domestic economic outlook may not be as gloomy as recent GDP data suggested, making gains against the US dollar although reversing early appreciation against the euro.
The FTSE 100 finished flat at 5834, slightly lower than its European peers.