FTSE slips amid murky jobs data and Barclays' earnings miss

London’s stocks faced a shaky start on Tuesday as the FTSE 100 index opened down 0.3% following a confounding UK jobs report and an earnings disappointment from Barclays.

The FTSE 100 index started the day down 24.75 points, or 0.3%, at 7,350.08, underperforming other European markets. The FTSE 250 also experienced a decline of 0.2%, at 17,031.36, and the AIM All-Share dropped by 0.3%, at 678.65.

The concerning news came as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released delayed data, revealing that the UK unemployment rate for the period from June to August stood at 4.2%. This figure represented a 0.2 percentage point increase compared to the previous period from March to May. However, the ONS cautioned that these numbers were part of an “alternative series of estimates” due to increased uncertainty around the data, leading to questions about its reliability.

Pantheon Macroeconomics, a leading economic analysis firm, expressed concerns about the experimental nature of the figures, raising doubts about their accuracy. Despite these uncertainties, analysts believe the official statistics indicate a growing slack in the UK labour market.

In the FTSE 100, Barclays experienced a significant setback with a 5.9% decline in its share prices. The bank reported third-quarter revenue below estimates, although its profit exceeded consensus, despite increased provisions. Barclays’ total income for the quarter rose by 5.2% on-year to £6.26 billion, falling short of the £6.29 billion consensus.

The disappointing performance of Barclays impacted the wider banking sector, with NatWest, StanChart, and Lloyds losing 2.8%, 1.6%, and 1.6% respectively. Bunzl, a distribution firm, also suffered a 5.0% drop in its shares due to a decline in Covid-19 related product sales and reduced inflationary tailwinds.

In the FTSE 250, CAB Payments, a business-to-business cross-border payments provider, saw a substantial decline of 60% in its shares. The company revised its annual revenue forecast, expecting it to be at least 20% higher than the £109.4 million achieved in 2022, significantly below its previous guidance. CAB Payments cited challenges in key currency corridors, including the Central African franc and West African franc, as well as uncertainties surrounding the naira, leading to compressed margins and reduced trading volume.

There was a glimmer of positive news as sofa retailer ScS saw its shares surge by 60% to 271.15 pence. The company agreed to a £99.4 million takeover offer from Italian peer Poltronesofa, providing some relief in an otherwise challenging market environment.