Edgy markets lack real direction

In mid-morning trading the FTSE 100 is up 20 points, as markets retake yesterday’s lost ground.

So far this year a feeling of edginess has hung over traders, and now the FTSE 100 has once again retraced its footsteps from yesterday. Across the European indices there has been a similar format, with no real sense of direction materialising as yet. This afternoon will see the latest efforts from ECB president Mario Draghi and his cohorts to boost morale at their monthly press conference. The UK for its part has already seen its trade balance figures come in and, as expected, fall to -£9.4 billion. It is highly unlikely the Bank of England will change either the base rate or the asset-purchase facility.

Tesco’s £1 billion spent on refocusing back to the UK market has yet to bear fruit. The food retail giant has seen its year-on-year sales drop by 2.4% for the Christmas period. Morrisons' inability to offer a user-friendly online shopping platform has resulted in a 5.6% drop in its year-on-year sales. Marks and Spencer, whose food arm has partially compensated for the tenth consecutive quarter of falling clothing sales, has found its shares faring better than the other retailers' in the morning trading session. Royal Bank of Scotland looks set to embark on another round of cost-cutting, and staff will be only too conscious that this normally involves redundancies.

Last night’s FOMC minutes certainly held the markets' attention, although ultimately they contained very few surprises. Traders will now quickly turn their attention to the first non-farm payroll figures of the year, released tomorrow. Ahead of the open, we expect the Dow Jones to start 48 points higher at 16,510.

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