London close: FTSE's progress dampened by ex-dividends, sterling's rise and Brexit worries
(ShareCast News) - Stocks in London passed through a relatively quiet Thursday, with numerous ex-dividend equities, a stronger sterling and Brexit worries combining to dampen progress heading into the end of the first quarter.
"It's been another fairly subdued day for financial markets in the wake of yesterday's triggering of Article 50," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.
The FTSE 100 closed down 0.06% to 7,369.52, and the FTSE 250 ended up 0.18% to 19,011.93.
Over in Europe, the Euro Stoxx 50, Dax and Cac 40 all made reasonable progress, as did the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite in the US.
"Stocks are still in a bit of a holding pattern with traders lacking a bit of conviction to follow through on the last two days of dip-buying," said Jasper Lawler of London Capital Group.
"A positive open in the US, helped by further recovery in crude oil prices improved sentiment in European markets by the afternoon," he said.
Lawler added that sterling's resilience -- up 0.38% to $1.2481 at 16:42 GMT -- in the face of Brexit uncertainty was probably the biggest factor behind the under-performance of the FTSE 100.
Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, said with the Brexit activation failing to spark a major catastrophe it appeared investors were willing to allow the pound to return to the highs it saw at the start of the week.
The FTSE has enjoyed a bull-run higher since late June 2016, after sterling's dive and more recently the so-called 'Trump effect' of US President Donald Trump taking office.
On the corporate news front, tobacco company Imperial Brands gained after saying it remained on target to hit first-half targets, with both revenues and earnings set to be up strongly at the reported level thanks to the weak pound.
Online electrical goods retailer AO World reversed earlier losses to trade higher after saying it raised £50m in a share placing and that it expects full-year revenue to be up 17%.
Supermarket retailer Morrison was a high riser after a double upgrade to 'buy' by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, while equipment rental firm Ashtead was boosted as Liberum initiated coverage of the stock at 'buy'.
However, Marks & Spencer was under pressure after a downgrade by UBS.
Booker nudged lower as its total fourth quarter sales were hit hard by the new tobacco display ban and plain packaging restrictions.
Energy supplier SSE was in the red after it said its dividend cover for its 2017/18 financial year to be at the lower range of its target.
In terms of sectors it was financials, pharmaceuticals, utilities and commercial property most visible on the list of FTSE 100 stocks falling, while on the other side of the ledger miners, supermarkets and house builders did well.
Schroders, Old Mutual, Prudential, Smith & Nephew, British Land, Phoenix Group, Ferrexpo, Go-Ahead and Kier all weighed on London equity markets as their stock went ex-dividend.
Elsewhere, the European Commission's Economic Sentiment Index for the UK picked up to 110.2 in March, the most since September 2015, from 109.4 last month, with business confidence improving in the services, retail and construction sectors, while remaining high in industry.
FTSE 100 (UKX) 7,369.52 -0.06%
FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,011.93 0.18%
techMARK (TASX) 3,471.04 -0.04%
FTSE 100 - Risers
Antofagasta (ANTO) 840.50p 3.00%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,678.00p 2.44%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 3,937.00p 2.34%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,262.50p 2.27%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,177.00p 2.21%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 242.30p 2.15%
Glencore (GLEN) 318.65p 1.81%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,067.00p 1.67%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,007.00p 1.61%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 341.00p 1.52%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Mediclinic International (MDC) 759.00p -3.00%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,595.00p -2.04%
Schroders (SDR) 3,040.00p -1.75%
SSE (SSE) 1,463.00p -1.68%
BT Group (BT.A) 317.00p -1.66%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,218.00p -1.62%
British Land Company (BLND) 592.50p -1.58%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 1,028.00p -1.53%
Intu Properties (INTU) 271.90p -1.52%
Next (NXT) 4,260.00p -1.39%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Petra Diamonds Ltd.(DI) (PDL) 135.40p 9.37%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 237.00p 7.73%
Sanne Group (SNN) 688.50p 5.84%
Polypipe Group (PLP) 372.50p 5.43%
Allied Minds (ALM) 321.00p 4.56%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 825.50p 4.49%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,950.00p 3.94%
Cobham (COB) 135.60p 3.83%
Nostrum Oil & Gas (NOG) 479.30p 3.77%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 171.30p 3.13%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
RPC Group (RPC) 811.00p -7.74%
Clarkson (CKN) 2,720.00p -5.39%
Riverstone Energy Limited (RSE) 1,210.00p -5.10%
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI) (PHNX) 748.00p -3.55%
Shawbrook Group (SHAW) 301.30p -3.12%
Kier Group (KIE) 1,374.00p -2.83%
GVC Holdings (GVC) 727.50p -2.22%
Northgate (NTG) 554.50p -1.86%
ZPG Plc (ZPG) 363.70p -1.81%
Capital & Counties Properties (CAPC) 282.80p -1.74%