FTSE mostly flat in very quiet session

<p>An unusually quiet trading session saw the FTSE 100 trade within a 20-point range for much of the day to close near flat territory. Today’s […]</p>

An unusually quiet trading session saw the FTSE 100 trade within a 20-point range for much of the day to close near flat territory. Today’s session was more of a sign that traders are waiting to see whether the UK index can close above resistance levels between 6091-6117 and push on.

Negative data for equities from across the pond gave traders little encouragement to add to their existing ‘buy’ positions with both jobless claims and inflation data coming in slightly higher than the market had expected. When both pieces of data came out at 1.30pm GMT, the UK index, and its European index peers sold off somewhat as traders crystallised positions.

On the flip side, the Philadelphia Fed Index showed that business activity in the US grew much more than expected in February, hitting its highest level for seven years, giving the US economic recovery another good vibe. However, the Philly Fed did little to inspire investors on a rather lacklustre Thursday trading.

Banks in demand again
In terms of sectors, it has been another strong performance for banking stocks with Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group amongst the top gainers in London. On top of increased trader optimism that the two UK banks could report a similarly bullish performance to that of Barclays when they announce earnings next week, a number of brokers have sent positive notes regarding outlook for both RBS and Lloyds. As such, this has continued to add to the positive banking sentiment amongst traders to lift the banking sector to its highest level for 10 months.

The price of copper fell over 1% today, giving traders an excuse to reduce some of their exposures in mining firms such as Rio Tinto and Xstrata, with the latter’s share prices bearing the brunt of the selling, falling over 2%.

A sales warning from BAE Systems which said it expected sales to fall around 20% as a result of the poor performance of its land and armanents business hit the firm’s shares today by as much as 4.4%. Traders have, as expected, clung to the sales warning and turned a blind eye to the marginal increase in profits for the year.

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