FTSE indices plunged today with 80% of blue chips off by more than 1%. Wall St's early losses were limited and Europe closed marginally lower. Worst hit were financials as escalating military violence in Yemen and the Greek-debt saga saw risk-wary investors flee.

FTSE 100 closed down 95.64 points, or 1.37%, to 6895.33, off recent highs above 7000. FTSE 250 fell 246.09, or 1.41%, to 17,256.2. Crude retreated from earlier highs. At 4.41pm, WTI was up 3.35% to $50.86/bbl. Brent rose 4.14% to $58.82/bbl. Gold and silver prices rose as investors shied from equities and other risk.

Schroders was pounded down, its non-voting shares (SDRC) off 4.85% to 2450p. Among other financials Man Group (EMG) lost 3.55% to 201.1p and Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) faltered 3.4% to 1166p. Insurers trailed Prudential (PRU). Property stocks lined up behind British Land (BLND), and utilities followed United Utilities (UU.).

Jitters over fuel costs saw IAG (IAG) down 3.37% to 587p. EasyJet (EZJ) fell 2.8% to 1837p despite expecting an up-on-guidance H1 performance. Ryanair (RYA) also tapered. Retailers were in the shop window. Burberry (BRBY) dipped 2.03% to 1787p, while supermarkets queued up behind Sainsbury's (SBRY) 1.2% slide to 264.4p. Pharma stocks softened, too.

RBS (RBS) fell 0.57% to 350.3p on selling 24.7% of US business Citizens to focus on the UK. RBS would make $3.2bn from the deal. Oil stocks shrugged off earlier gains and were mostly lower as crude rose after Saudi Arabia launched air strikes in Yemen against Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels. Miners also reversed, but their falls were more limited than elsewhere.

BIGGER MOVERS

Oilex (OEX), up 26.32% to 3p, said it was pleased with construction progress at Cambay-73,which should enable the Joint Venture to commence production during May 2015. Overall progress of the project is 77% complete.

Arcontech (ARC) crashed 22.58% to 0.12p as investors ignored a swing into H1 profit and focused on a profit warning as a major customer terminates a contract early. Elsewhere, Metminco (MNC) surged 10.24% to 0.32p after discovering a new area of copper mineralisation next to its Los Calatos project in Peru.

Plexus (POS) gained 19.68% to 241.75p as it entered a framework agreement with large Chinese oil services provider Jereh for a licensing deal that would enable the latter to manufacture and sell Plexus' patented wellhead equipment in China and Asia.

AFC Energy (AFC), up 15.79% to 24.75p, has received its first partial building permit from the Stade permitting authorities in Germany to start construction of what will be the world's largest industrial alkaline fuel cell facility.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Stateside, initial unemployment claims fell to 282,000 in the week to March 21, down 9000 on the week, US Department of Labor said. Meantime, the flash US Services Purchasing Managers' Index Business Activity Index rose to 58.6 in March, from 57.1 in February.

UK retail sales rose 0.7% in February, from January, Office for National Statistics data showed. In January sales contracted 0.3%. The market had expected a rise of 0.4% in February.

Euro-zone M3 money supply grew at an annual rate of 4.0% in February, below forecasts for 4.3% and ahead of January's 3.7%, European Central Bank data showed. The data also showed private-sector loans fell 0.1% annually in February, from a dip of 0.2% in January and against an expected 0.1% rise.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Scisys (SSY), down 9.09% to 85p, more than doubled its FY pretax profit to ã3.0m, from ã1.5m. Revenue was ã40.3m, from ã42.6m. Final dividend rose 10% to 1.17p. Meantime, DFS Furniture (DFS), down 4.25% to 248.88p, posted an H1 pretax loss of ã14.4m, from a loss of ã14.0m. Revenue was ã431.2m, from ã390.1m. Gross sales were up 10.5% to ã431.2m.

London Stock Exchange (LSE) fell 5.3% to 2403.5p as Borse Dubai looks to dispose of its 17.4% stake. The chunky shareholding, worth about ã1.4bn at present prices, was being sold with the help of a consortium of investment banks, media reports said.

SuperGroup (SGP) strutted 6.13% higher to 990.75p on a well-received strategy update outlining plans to generate global growth. This includes news the Superdry brand owner has bought out its US licence and will shortly start paying dividends, as well as a premium clothing line collaboration with actor Idris Elba.

Safestyle UK (SFE), up 3.9% to 179.75p, has booked a FY pretax profit up 73% to ã16.4m, from ã9.5m. Revenue was ã136.0m, from ã124.8m. Total dividend was to 9.3p. Meantime, Henry Boot (BHY), down 6.12% to 222.5p, has posted a FY pretax profit of ã28.3m, up 54% on the year. Total dividend was 5.60p, from 5.10p.

Other stocks in the news included Science in Sport (SIS), Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), Polypipe (PLP), KCOM Group (KCOM), Highcroft Investments (HCFT), M&C Saatchi's (SAA), Polymetal (POLY), Churchill China (CHH), Seplat Petroleum Development Company (SEPL) and Personal Group (PGH).

kMarketWire.com