StockMarketWire.com - Sterling remained strong despite a fall in UK employment between November and January.

Investors were also cautious ahead of the US Federal Reserve meeting where a hike in the interest rate was expected.

A rising pound is bad news for most companies in the FTSE 100, with approximately 70% of the earnings from constituents of the index generated overseas.

The FTSE 100 was 0.4% lower at 7,031.

Brent crude oil rose 1.1% to $68.16 per barrel. Gold gained 0.3% to $1,315 per ounce and copper was 0.5% lower at $3.01 per pound.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

It was a mixed performance overseas with US equities closing higher overnight, while markets in Asia reversed.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan was the biggest faller, down 0.5% at 21,380 this morning.

MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

IT infrastructure products specialist Softcat's (SCT) cautious outlook concerned the market, which overlooked decent half year results, causing the shares to fall 12.4% to 595p. The company said it is confident of meeting expectations for the year but 'have some important months ahead.'

Screwfix owner Kingfisher (KGF) revealed pre-tax profit fell 10% to £682m in the year to 31 January 2018, prompting the stock to slump 7.3% to 313p.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Embattled Carpetright (CPR) was flat at 40.2p after announcing it plans to close underperforming stores and restructure the business. The carpets retailer reported it is considering a company voluntary agreement to allow it to shut loss-making stores and cut its debt burden.

Formal menswear specialist Moss Bros (MOSB) warned profit for the year to January 2018 is expected to be 'materially lower than market expectations.' Its shares crashed 22.3% to 45.5p.

Struggling babywear retailer Mothercare (MTC) said its lenders deferred testing its financial covenants on 24 March. Investors marked the stock 8.3% higher to 17p.

Oil and gas company Range Resources (RRL) revealed Range Resources Drilling Services won a contract with a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB), sparking a 26.8% surge in the shares to 0.2p.

Printing tech firm Xaar (XAR) rallied 12% to 300p after new products lifted sales by 4% to £100.1m in 2017.

Higher operating losses and lower net cash weighed on Cambian (CMBN), down 4.1% at 196p.

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