FTSE slips as U.S. jobless rate hits 7-month high

By Simon Falush

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Data showing sluggish employment growth in the United States crimped the return of risk appetite, denting banks and energy stocks and ending a sharp two-day rally in Britain’s top shares.

The FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) ended Friday down 0.4 percent at 5,745.32 after it gained more than 4 percent across Wednesday and Thursday as investors grew more confident a debt crisis in the euro zone could be averted.

U.S. employment barely grew in November and the jobless rate unexpectedly hit a seven-month high, disappointing many who had expected to see signs of strengthening recovery.

Risk-sensitive banks (.FTNMX8350: ) gave back some of the strong gains of the previous two sessions, with Standard Chartered (STAN.L: ) off 2 percent.

However overall sentiment remained relatively upbeat.

“Ultimately the market is pro-equity at the moment,” said Tim Rees, fund manager at Insight Investments. “The equity market in most of the developed world is not on demanding valuations, and that is providing support.”

The European Central Bank maintained its buying of euro zone government bonds in modest amounts to reverse a debilitating rise in peripheral countries’ borrowing costs, helping soothe markets.

Domestic data also pointed to economic weakness as the rate of growth in the British service sector dipped in November, as expected, though remaining near October’s four-month high.

PRECIOUS SUPPORT

Precious metals miners were among the top gainers on the FTSE, as gold rose back above $1,390 an ounce, close to its strongest in three weeks.

Gold producer Fresnillo (FRES.L: ) added 4 percent while Johnson Matthey (JMAT.L: ) added 3.2 percent, the platinum processor helped by an increase in target price and estimates from Liberum Capital, which kept a “buy” rating on the stock.

Man Group (EMG.L: ) fell 3.3 percent, the heaviest faller, after Numis Securities cut its rating for the hedge fund firm to “reduce” from “hold” in an otherwise fairly neutral review of British asset managers.

Energy giant BP (BP.L: ) was a significant drag on the index, down 1.5 percent despite strength in the oil price as investors booked profits after two days of strong gains.

Stocks seen resistant to harsh economic conditions also provided support for the FTSE, with utility Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE.L: ) and Imperial Tobacco (IMT.L: ) adding 1 percent.

(Editing by David Hulmes)

FTSE slips as U.S. jobless rate hits 7-month high