FTSE 100 continues slide as Royal Mail shares struggle
The FTSE 100 continued its slide on Thursday as a stronger pound and disappointing Royal Mail earnings dragged on the index.
London's top tier fell 0.5% or 39.17 points to close at 7,208.44, hit in part by a 0.5% rise in sterling versus the dollar to 1.232.
The pound rose more than 0.4% to 1.158 against the euro, which was under pressure after the European Central Bank kept interest rates on hold and played down signs of inflation across the eurozone.
Multinational stocks on the blue chip index tend to benefit when international currencies are stronger.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: "The pound has been amongst one of the better performers ... after another speech by Prime Minister Theresa May, this time in Davos to the World Economic Forum, where she reiterated her commitment that Britain would remain engaged in a global role post Brexit."
Poor reception to earnings from the likes of Royal Mail and British Land dragged shares down 26.9p to 422.5p, and 22.5p to 595.5p, respectively.
Royal Mail revealed a 6% drop in letter mailing in the nine months to December 25, while business worries over Brexit hit marketing post. It said letter revenues fell 5% over the period.
Shares in commercial property investor British Land fell after announcing it secured a further 314,000 square feet of retail lettings and renewals in the third quarter, while its retail premises experienced a 0.6% drop in footfall over the same period.
Across Europe, the French CAC 40 fell 0.25% while the German Dax was flat.
In oil markets, Brent crude prices fell 0.5% at around 53.94 US dollars per barrel (£43.84), after a surprise rise in US stockpiles.
In UK stocks, Aviva shares dropped 2.4p to 476.3p after the l ife and pensions giant announced it was merging its UK insurance businesses as part of a shake-up that has sparked the departure of its European boss.
Barratt Development shares dropped 11p to 505.5p as the firm unexpectedly announced that chief financial officer Neil Cooper would step down "by mutual agreement" with immediate affect, after just over a year in the job. No further information regarding the reason for his departure was released.
Moneysupermarket Group shares soared 24.1p to 327.1p as turnover rose 20% in the fourth quarter. The company now expects a 12% jump in full-year revenue to £316 million.
It also confirmed that former John Lewis retail director Mark Lewis will take over as chief executive on April 10.
Shares in Pets At Home sank 25.5p to 212.9p after the company said "subdued trading" at its merchandise division dragged on like-for-like sales, which dipped 0.5%, in the third quarter.
Shares in bicycles to car parts chain Halfords shot up 31.8p to 385p after reporting that total sales rose 11.4% in the 15 weeks to January 13.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Pearson up 15.5p to 588.5p, British American Tobacco up 100p to 4,734p, London Stock Exchange Group up 57p to 3,010p, and Smurfit Kappa Group up 29p to 2,089p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Royal Mail down 26.9p to 422.5p, British Land Company down 22.5p to 595.5p, Fresnillo down 49p to 1,398p, and Anglo American down 41p to 1,302p.