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Markets Unexcited by Debt News

It will apparently take more than lower unemployment and government borrowing to convince investors that the UK economy is over the worse.

Morningstar 18 March, 2010 | 5:50PM

The FTSE 100 remained flat in spite of news that the Government borrowed £12.4bn in February, less than expected. The figure for January was also revised down to £43m from £4.3bn.

The figures still look frightening on most measures, so it wasn’t enough to revise most people’s poor view of the UK. The FTSE dipped 2 points to 5,642. The German Dax and French CAC 40 were also down on the day. The Dow Jones and Nasdaq were marginally up as European markets closed.

Premier Farnell was the day’s strongest riser, gaining 9.84% to 220p as it returned to profit for the full year. The group said sales and underlying operating profit had both returned to year-on-year growth during the fourth quarter. Baker Greggs also reported full year results ahead of expectations

Elsewhere, the markets were supported by bid activity. Oil services group Wellstream Holdings rose 6.8% to 579p as Brazil’s Petrobras and Italy’s Enel were rumoured to be interested in the group. Arriva build on its 17% rise yesterday, gaining another 4.6% to 708p. Germany’s Deutsche Bahn confirmed it had made an approach for the group.

Pulling in the opposite direction was Savills. In spite of robust full-year results, the shares wobbled on news that the group expects the UK residential market to be hit by the General Election in the second half of the year. It also said that its Asia Pacific division was unlikely to see as strong a year.

European insulating and roofing supplier SIG was the day’s biggest faller as it swung to a loss for the full year 2009. Revenues were damaged by a slump in building activity and restructuring costs. The group said that 2010 was likely to be another tough year with revenues not levelling out until the middle of the year.

The banks were a drag on the overall performance of the FTSE 100. Analysts blamed profit-taking as the Royal Bank of Scotland slid 3.6% to 42p, Lloyds fell 3.2% to 55.55p and HSBC slipped 1.7% to 681p.

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