FTSE dips as miners take hit

<br />

The <strong>FTSE 100</strong> opened lower today as weaknesses on Wall Street overnight took their toll on <strong>European markets</strong>. <br />
<br />

<strong>Mining stocks</strong> were in the firing line, with falling <strong>commodity prices</strong> and talk of an interest rate hike in China, dragging share prices down. <br />
<br />

<strong>Xstrata</strong> fell by more than one per cent in early trading. <br />
<br />

<strong>Banking stocks</strong> lost some ground after rises earlier in the week, with <strong>HSBC</strong> dipping slightly this morning. <br />
<br />

Medical equipment supplier <strong>Smith &amp; Nephew</strong> saw its shares lift by four per cent after speculation of a merger with <strong>Biomet</strong>. <br />
<br />

However shares in FTSE-listed British Electricals contractor <strong>T Clarke</strong> dived by more than 30 per cent after
it issued a profit warning.<br />
<br />
Meanwhile the <strong>price of goods</strong> leaving UK factories rose faster in December than in the previous month, largely due to the increased price of oil, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).<br />
<br />


On the other side of the Atlantic a flurry of economic data will be released today including <strong>December consumer prices</strong>, <strong>retail figures</strong> and <strong>industrial
output numbers</strong>. <br />
<br />

<strong>JPMorgan's</strong> fourth quarter earnings will also be closely watched as the bruised <strong>US banking sector</strong> looks for indications that
sustainable better times are ahead. <br />
<br />

<strong>US markets</strong> were yesterday hit by gloomy<strong> jobs data</strong> which showed benefit claimants rising. <br />
<br />

However <strong>tech shares</strong> were buoyed by better than expected figures from chip maker<strong> Intel</strong>. <strong>Arm</strong>, which makes chips for Apple's iPhone, was among
the highest risers with its stock soaring by ten per cent. <br />
<br />

<strong>John Lewis</strong> today continued to show that more affluent shoppers were still opening their wallets, with another healthy weekly sales rise.