FTSE loses ground

The FTSE 100 Index closed in the red for a second straight session today after a mixed report on the US jobs market.

FTSE loses ground

The FTSE 100 Index closed in the red for a second straight session today after a mixed report on the US jobs market.

Closely-watched government data showed the US unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in almost two years last month, but fewer jobs were created than expected.

London's Footsie closed 35.2 points lower at 5984.3 following declines yesterday as investor caution surrounding the US jobs data prompted a bout of profit taking.

The US jobs figures - a key indicator of the health of America's economy - showed the unemployment rate falling to 9.4%, while a net total of 103,000 jobs were created last month, which was less than the 150,000 pencilled in.

Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 40 points following the report, while Federal Reserve boss Ben Bernanke also said in a statement to the Senate Budget Committee that it will take years for jobs to come back.

The US jobs news knocked the strength of the dollar, while the pound enjoyed gains against most major currencies.

Sterling rose to $1.56 and €1.20.

Among London stocks trading lower, miners retreated with silver specialist Vedanta Resources down 46p to 2448p.

Arm Holdings, which was yesterday's big riser after Microsoft said it would run the latest version of its Windows software on Arm's microchips, gave back some of the gains to stand 22.4p lower at 459.6p, a drop of 5%.

One of the bright spots of the session came from the retail sector after sportswear chain JD Sports Fashion maintained its recent run of forecast-beating updates.

Despite the disruption caused by the snow in December, JD said like-for-like sales at its UK stores, which include 350 JD Sports and Size outlets, were up 2.5% in the last five weeks of 2010. It also revealed that profits for the year to January 28 will exceed City expectations of £75.4m (€90.77m).

JD shares added another 3% or 29.5p to 895p, while rival Sports Direct International gained 3.1p to 168p.

It was a better day for many high street players, with Next and fashion group Burberry ahead in the top flight by 13p to 2087p and 6p to 1127p respectively.

B&Q owner Kingfisher was up 3.1p to 263.6p after suffering earlier this week following snow-hit sales reports from a swathe of retailers.

In the FTSE 250, tour operator Thomas Cook dropped 3.2p to 197.2p after news the planned merger of its high street business with The Co-operative had been referred to the Office of Fair Trading.

But budget airline easyJet was on the rise, ahead 19p to 474p, as the market reacted well to December traffic figures seen as robust given the snow disruption.

The carrier said it sold 7.6% more seats in December than the same time a year earlier.

The biggest Footsie risers were GKN ahead 9.7p to 229.7p, Man Group up 7.9p to 310.2p, Shire up 27p to 1589p and Whitbread up 31p to 1887p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Arm Holdings down 22.4p to 459.6p, Capital Shopping Centres down 10.9p to 408.2p, 3i Group off 8.5p to 329.3p and British American Tobacco down 54.5p to 2426.5p.

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