The FTSE 100 dipped slightly this morning as fresh data showed a contraction in Chinese manufacturing output, sparking fears over global growth.
The FTSE was down 21 points, or 0.3%, to 6536 after HSBC published flash Purchasing Managers’ Index figures showing the levels of Chinese manufacturing had hit an eight-month low. The 48.1 reading for March is a drop from the 48.5 figure for February, and is evidence of a further drop in momentum.
Betting company William Hill (WMH.L) was amongst the fallers, dropping 6.4p, or 1.9% to 333p, as investors fretted about a potential regulatory clampdown on fixed odds betting machines as well as the increased tax hit delivered by the Budget. Chancellor George Osborne last week announced a hike in duty on the machines from 20% to 25%.
Analysts at Barclays have cut their price target for Williams Hill from 393p to 370p and reiterated its equal weight rating for the stock. ‘While we believe William Hill is well placed to gain market share and outperform on a three- to five-year view, we expect the regulatory risk surrounding machines to weigh on the shares in the near term, albeit to a lesser extent than for Ladbrokes (LAD.L),’ they said.
ARM Holdings (ARM.L) was down 19p, or 1.9%, to 976p, after analysts at Liberum Capital restated its sell recommendation for the designer of chips for mobile phones. Liberum has forecast a slowing of five-year earnings per share growth, and argued slowing growth in the smartphone and tablet market would hit the company’s growth of royalties.
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) was the highest riser, jumping 1p or 1.3% to 78.4p after Investec upgraded the bank to a buy rating after shares dropped by 10% over the space of 10 weeks.
Standard Life (SL.L) rose 7p, or 0.6% to £12.07p after it confirmed reports it was in talks to acquire fund management group Ignis Asset Management from fellow insurer Phoenix Group (PHNX.L). Phoenix was amongst the biggest risers in the FTSE 250, jumping 16p, or 2.3%, to 703p on the news.