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Markets mixed as investors await Trump meeting with China's Xi Jinping

Markets were mixed on Thursday as investors waited for news from US President Donald Trump's meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The FTSE 100 Index ended lower by around 0.4% or 28.48 points at 7,303.2, while its European counterparts including the French Cac 40 and German Dax rose 0.6% and 0.1%, respectively.

Sterling also failed to find direction, trading flat against the US dollar at 1.248 but rising 0.1% versus the euro to 1.172.

It came ahead of a meeting between the US and Chinese leaders in Florida, which experts say could provide much-needed fuel for markets.

Connor Campbell, a financial analyst for SpreadEx, said: "There is the chance for fireworks in the next 24 hours.

"Trump's behaviour when meeting his international counterparts has moved the markets in the past, and there is no reason why this summit between the US president and his most powerful peer will be any different."

Investors were also digesting minutes from the US Federal Reserve's latest meeting, as well as relatively doveish comments from the European Central Bank (ECB).

A record of the last Fed meeting signalled that the central bank is likely to cut down its 4.5 billion US dollar (£3.6 billion) balance sheet sooner than expected, offloading assets it bought up to support the economy during the financial crisis.

Meanwhile, ECB president Mario Draghi pledged to keep monetary policy on track and interest rates low.

In oil markets, Brent crude prices rose 1.3% to 54.70 US dollars per barrel (£43.82), having recovered from a drop a day earlier when Energy Information Administration (IEA) data showed an increase in US crude inventories.

In UK stocks, BP shares fell 0.75p to 464.45p after the company fended off a fresh shareholder rebellion, having slashed boss Bob Dudley's pay package by 40% for 2016 and cut his maximum earnings by 3.7 million US dollars (£3 million) over the next three years.

Unilever's London-listed shares rose 38.5p to 3,978p as it announced plans to offload its spreads business, which includes Flora and Stork, in a bid to revamp the business after batting off a 143 billion US dollar (£115 billion) takeover attempt from Kraft Heinz.

Pearson fell 45.5p to 637p to the bottom of the FTSE 100 after its stock was downgraded by Exane BNP from "neutral" to "underperform".

EasyJet shares rose 43p to 1,060p following a 10.6% jump in passengers in March, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Mothercare shares rose 3.75p to 118p after reporting a 4.5% jump in like-for-like sales across the UK in the final quarter to March 25 thanks to a 13.6% jump in online sales.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were easyJet up 43p to 1,060p, British Land Company up 14p to 636p, Persimmon up 45p to 2,145p, and Barratt Developments up 10.5p to 559p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Pearson down 45.5p to 637p, Lloyds Banking Group down 1.9p to 63.59p, Aviva down 15p to 514.5p, and Paddy Power Betfair down 200p to 8,385p.

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