FTSE 100 opens lower on weak economic data

The index fell in early trading, as investors were cautious on sluggish economic data. A contraction in US manufacturing, following a production slowdown in China, meant shares were little changed ahead of the European Central Bank's monthly meeting tomorrow.

Oil firms and miners clustered in the fallers, with natural resources group Bumi leading the pack, shedding 7.71 per cent this morning. Last week it posted a loss for the first half of this year thanks to weak coal prices.

Oil behemoth BP also dragged the index down, falling 3.14 per cent. The British oil firm is being sued by a number of institutional investors for gross negligence over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and it was revealed that the US government filed court papers against the company.

Miner Ferrexpo bumped along the bottom, losing 3.18 per cent.

Two infrastructure investment companies – Bilfinger Berger and John Laing Infrastructure – both fell by 2.52 per cent.

At the other end of the spectrum, car dealership Pendragon rose by more than seven per cent in early trading.

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct jumped 3.85 per cent, thanks to a positive trading update, which showed sales were boosted by the Olympic Games.

Shares in drinks brand Britvic were up by 3.16 per cent in early trading, on rumours of a merger with fellow drinks firm AG Barr.

UK financials had a tough morning. HSBC was down 0.88 per cent, Barclays slipped 0.91 per cent and RBS was flat on yesterday. Only Lloyds Banking Group was up, by 0.49 per cent.

In Asia, the Nikkei dropped to a five-week closing low as weak US data prompted fears of a global slowdown. It closed down 1.09 per cent at 8,679.82. Across the pond, the Dow Jones also fell, closing down 0.42 per cent at 13,035.94.