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UK Market Moderately Lower

3/29/2012 7:02 AM ET

The UK market extended the previous session's losses on Thursday, as growth worries continued to impact markets globally. The Asian markets ended mostly weak and the U.S. index futures point to a lower open.

Moody's Investors Service Wednesday downgraded the credit ratings of five Portuguese banks, mainly due to an expected deterioration in asset quality, additional asset risks and lack of access to wholesale funding sources.

Senior debt and deposit ratings of Banco Espirito Santo, Banco Internacional do Funchal, Banco BPI and Caixa Geral de Depositos were cut by one notch. The debt and deposit ratings of Banco Santander Totta, a subsidiary of Banco Santander S.A., were lowered by two notches to Ba1.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks is losing 1.06 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, is dropping 0.76 percent.

The FTSE 100 index is currently losing 0.73 percent.

Barclays is losing 2 percent, Royal Bank of Scotland is falling 1.8 percent and Lloyds is sliding 2.1 percent.

Marks & Spencer is losing 2.8 percent. Next is down 1.6 percent.

FirstGroup expects pressure on the performance of its UK Bus business due to lower economic activity, particularly in Scotland and the North of England. The stock is plunging nearly 14 percent.

Cape, a provider of non-mechanical support services, said Martin May is resigning as chief executive and as a director of the company with immediate effect to pursue a new challenge. Brendan Connolly has been appointed as acting chief executive. The stock is falling 3.3 percent.

Imperial Tobacco is climbing about 2 percent. The company affirmed that its overall financial position and operational performance for the year to September 30 are in line with the board's expectations.

International Power is surging 5.1 percent. Miner Rio Tinto is gaining 1.8 percent.

Elsewhere in Europe, the German DAX is falling 1.15 percent and the French CAC 40 is losing 0.99 percent. Switzerland's SMI is retreating 0.72 percent.

In economic news, unemployment rate in Germany declined in February, data released by the Federal Statistical Office showed. The unadjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent in February from 6.3 percent in January.

Eurozone economic confidence dropped marginally in March after improving in January and February, survey data from the European Commission revealed. The economic sentiment index fell to 94.4 from 94.5 a month ago, below the consensus of 94.5.

Across Asia/Pacific, markets mostly fell on growth worries. China's Shanghai Composite Index retreated 1.43 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.32 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 declined 0.7 percent while Australia's All Ordinaries slipped 0.21 percent.

In the U.S., futures point to a lower open on Wall Street. In the previous session, disappointing U.S. economic data contributed to weakness in the markets with the major averages ending the day in the red. The Dow fell 0.5 percent, the Nasdaq dropped 0.5 percent and the S&P 500 slid 0.5 percent.

In the commodity space, crude for May delivery is losing $0.41 to $105.00 per barrel and April gold is rising $2.5 to $1655.4 a troy ounce.

by RTT Staff Writer

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