LONDON (ShareCast) - 1630: Close UK markets ended firmly in the red on Tuesday, as investors reacted to the political uncertainty unravelling in the Eurozone's third-largest economy. The inconclusive parliamentary election raised fears the nation's debt crisis will worsen amid political instability. Company wise, GKN (LSE: GKN.L - news) got a boost after Jefferies said that company has a sound platform for solid growth after the engineering group's pre-tax profit came in ahead of its predictions. Meanwhile, Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) , RBS (LSE: RBS.L - news) and Lloyds were all registering steep losses with RBS weighed down by comments from Nomura ahead of its full-year results on Thursday. In UK economic news, BoE policy-maker Paul Tucker said that he is open to the possibility of more quantitative easing (QE) under certain conditions, according to his report to members of parliament. The FTSE 100 fell 85 points to 6,270.
1510: Consumer confidence also beat expectations in the US: the Conference Board's consumer-confidence index rose to 69.6 in February, a three-month high (consensus forecast: 62.0). The prior month's estimate was revised up from 58.4 to 58.6.
1445: Following the sharp drop seen in the opening hour, the FTSE 100 (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) has continued to trade around one per cent lower, though losses have been trimmed after a positive start on Wall Street. US benchmarks are showing gains between 0.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent after some upbeat housing data. The S&P/Case-Shiller house-price index rose by a better-than-expected 6.8 per cent year-on-year in December (consensus forecast: up 6.6 per cent), the best annual gain in seven years. Meanwhile, new home sales surged by 15.6 per cent month-on-month in January (consensus forecast: up 3.0 per cent). The Footsie is down 68 points at 6,287.
1238: Imperial Tobacco (LSE: IMT.L - news) is moving up the leader board after the company today stated its intention to grow dividends by at least 10 per cent per annum for the medium term. FTSE 100 down 92 to 6,264.
1006: The Italian Treasury has seen the yield on the 8.75bn euros of bills on sale this morning rising to 1.237 per cent, up from 0.73 per cent the last time around. The Bank of England´s Charles Bean, Paul Tucker, David Miles and Ian McCafferty are now testifying before the Treasury Select Committee.
0908: Barclays, RBS, Lloyds, Aberdeen asset management (Other OTC: ABDNF - news) : financials have fallen decisively towards the bottom of the pile. Whitbread (LSE: WTB.L - news) is down after announcing lowerthan-expected like-for-like sales for the fourth quarter. Amongst the few gains to be seen are those in Randgold Resources and Fresnillo (Other OTC: FNLPF - news) , as investors edge towards the relative safety of precious metals. Taking the lustre somewhat off that move however, Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS-PB - news) has today lowered it three month forecast for the price of gold to 1,615 dollars per ounce, from 1,825. Croda is a standout gainer, with its shares managing to advance despite the awful market backdrop following its latest yearly results. FTSE 100 down 82 to 6,277.
0823: London equities have begun the session with sharp losses, tracking the reaction on Wall Street to the current state of disarray of Italian politics after the unexpected 'hung' parliament which came out of this weekend´s polls. "The resulting situation is extremely complex and it is unlikely to lead to a stable coalition. Some sort of bi-partisan agreement to change the electoral law and then new elections seems the most likely outcome. In the meantime, uncertainty will remain high," write analysts at Unicredit (Milan: UCG.MI - news) this morning. Somewhat predictably, banks and miners are leading losses in the Footsie on Tuesday, although GKN and Whitbread are also moving lower. An auction of 8.75bn euros in Italian Treasury bills, towards 10:00, will be closely watched to better gauge the impact of the elections on the outlook for Italy and the Eurozone. Acting as a backdrop, the President of the Federal Reserve of Atlanta (BSE: ATLANTA.BO - news) , Dennis Lockhart, indicated overnight that he believes that maintaining the current quantitative easing is appropriate, at least going into the second half of this year. Acting as a backdrop, the President of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, will deliver an important policy speech tonight. Italian 10 year Treasury yields are rising by 36 basis points to 4.82%. FTSE 100 down 87 to 6,268.