U.K. stocks were little changed, after two days of declines, as losses in Barclays Plc offset better-than-expected factory-production data, and investors watched developments in Ukraine.
Barclays retreated to its lowest price since December 2012. African Barrick Gold Corp. plunged 19 percent after its majority shareholder sold a 10 percent stake. Aviva Plc rose to its highest price since September 2008 as RBC Capital Markets upgraded the insurer.
The FTSE 100 slipped 3.93 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,685.52 at the close of trading in London. The equity-benchmark gauge fell yesterday as Ukraine carried out military exercises and a report showed that China’s exports unexpectedly slumped last month. The FTSE All-Share Index dropped less than 0.1 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index jumped 0.9 percent.
“It seems to be looking better for the U.K. economy but sometimes these data look a little irrelevant in the short term,” said Mike Franklin, chief investment strategist at Beaufort Securities Ltd. in London. “The uncertainty is pervading. It’d be difficult to ignore the situation in Ukraine so soon. With Barclays, some are thinking, oh no, not another issue with the banks.”
U.K. manufacturing output increased 0.4 percent in January from a month earlier, when it gained a revised 0.4 percent, the Office for National Statistics said in London. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey was for 0.3 percent growth.
The European Union told Russia it must change its stance on Crimea by next week or face possible sanctions. EU leaders will discuss penalties on March 17 unless there are clear changes in Russia’s actions, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said today in Estonia.
Addressing reporters in Russia, ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych warned of a possible civil war.
Barclays sank 2.4 percent to 236.2 pence for its biggest two-day loss in almost a month. Shares fell yesterday as the Financial Times named it among banks that will have to set aside a total of as much 10.6 billion euros ($14.7 billion) in additional costs and fines related to currency-manipulation probes. The report cited unidentified analysts.
Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, also listed as one of the banks facing the costs, lost 3 percent to 310.2 pence today.
Separately, AIS Capital Management filed a class-action complaint against banks including Barclays alleging conspiracy to manipulate the price of gold, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing documents it has seen.
African Barrick Gold tumbled 19 percent to 250 pence, its biggest decline since January 2013. Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp., which held 74 percent of African Barrick, sold 41 million shares for 275 pence each.
Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc slid 1.2 percent to 230.8 pence. A gauge of European food and beverage retailers posted the second-biggest decline of the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.
Aviva added 2.8 percent to 523.5 pence. RBC Capital raised its rating on the stock to sector perform, similar to hold, from underperform, citing Chief Executive Officer Mark Wilson’s success in meeting targets and his drive to cut costs. The broker increased its 12-month price estimate by 38 percent to 550 pence.
The volume of shares changing hands in companies listed on the FTSE 100 was 10 percent greater than the average of the past 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.