Resource stocks were weighing heavily on the FTSE 100 on Friday afternoon, sending the index one per cent lower, despite actions by central banks in the UK and the Eurozone to ease the pressure on bank lending.
Credit ratings agency Moody's has downgraded 15 major banks and financial instiutions, including the major lenders on Britain's High Street. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Barclays, Lloyds and HSBC all got the downgrade treatment as the agency completed its review of the global banking sector. Barclays' rating was downgraded by two notches while the ratings of the others were ratcheted down by one level.
In spite of this, banking stocks were broadly higher today on the back of reports that the Bank of England's financial policy committee (FPC) will announce a reduction of between 20-30% in banks' liquidity buffers to support lending.
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it has relaxed some of its collateral rules on banks in an effort "to further support the provision of credit to households and non-financial corporations." The ECB said it had reduced the rating threshold and amended the eligibility requirements for certain asset-backed securities, thus broadening the scope of measures to increase collateral availability.
In other news, Spanish banks will need €51-62bn euros in additional capital in a worst case scenario, according to the independent consultants Oliver Wyman and Roland Berger hired by the government to perform a new round of stress tests on its financial sector. Spain is expected to make a formal request for assistance from the EU some time over the next few days.
Germany's business confidence indicator compiled by the IFO Institute fell from 106.9 to 105.3 in June, a two-year low. The market was expecting a reading of 105.9.
FTSE 100: Banking stocks robust after rumours of easing liquidity buffers
Banking peers Lloyds, HSBC and Barclays were all making gains on Friday afternoon despite having their credit ratings downgraded by Moody's, after the news of easing liquidity buffers. RBS, which was also downgraded by Moody's, finished flat.
Lloyds said that Moody's recognised "the substantial momentum we have made in de-risking our balance sheet and delivering on our strategy." However, RBS said it disagreed with the ratings change as it is "backward-looking and does not give adequate credit for the substantial improvements the group has made to its balance sheet, funding and risk profile."
Heading the other way were the miners and oil stocks with Fresnillo, Petrofac, AMEC, Glencore and Kazakhmys among the worst performers.
Shares in cruise ship operator Carnival were sinking after the group released its second-quarter results. Profit before tax slumped to just $14m from $206m the year before, after the firm was hit by a $145m adjustment relating to fuel derivatives.
FTSE 250: Michael Page drops after broker downgrade
Recruitment firm Michael Page International fell after Credit Suisse downgraded its recommendation from 'neutral' to 'underperform', saying that on a risk-reward basis, the stock is the 'most vulnerable of the employment agencies given weakening economic conditions'.
Heading the other way was price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com after Citi upgraded the stock to 'buy', while Domino's Pizza delivered gains after Canaccord Genuity raises its recommendation to 'buy'.
Private equity investment firm 3i rose on the back of press speculation of potential organisational changes at the company. The group released a statement saying that "the commentary is speculative in nature and the company has no comment at this time."
Defence technology contractor Cobham dropped after saying that its division, Cobham Aviation Services, will not be converting the remaining UK Voyager aircraft. The company in charge of the project, AirTanker, has decided to relocate the conversion operation to Spain.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was one of five major banks to be hit with a record-breaking 1.7bn euro fine from the European Commission for their part in rigging interest rates, while Barclays escaped a fine due to its whistleblowing role. [Wed 13:15]
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