London close: FTSE loiters as traders look ahead to Budget, US rates
Equities in London loitered around their starting levels before ending Tuesday on a mixed note, with Paddy Power Betfair, Ashtead, Direct Line and Worldpay, among others, all under the cosh.
FTSE 100 finished the session down 0.15% or 11.13 points to 7,338.99. FTSE 250 closed up 0.02% or 4.57 points at 18,885.94.
This mediocre performance was replicated on Wall St, which saw the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite down in early deals.
The focus in the US is when the US Federal Reserve will next hike its key interest rate, with a March move widely expected.
Across the Channel, the Euro Stoxx 50, Dax and Cac 40 were all pottering lower.
Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, said earlier that Tuesday was a calm session.
"Traders continue to lock in profits following what has been a strong rally over the last month," he said.
Spreadex's Connor Campbell added that European indices took no joy in their weakened currencies on Tuesday, referring to the weaker sterling and euro and a higher dollar.
"After two relatively dull days of trading things should pick up tomorrow, with Philip Hammond busting out his first (and technically last) Spring Budget," the financial analyst added.
Campbell, like other eyes-peeled market watchers, will be on the lookout for any news relating to Brexit in Hammond's Budget.
In London, wagering specialist Paddy Power Betfair said its new financial year has started in line with views, as it posted a 35% rise in underlying EBITDA to £400m.
Direct Line retreated after saying its full-year profit took a £175m hit from the reduction in the Ogden discount rate.
Electronic payments processor Worldpay fell despite posting a big jump in 2016 pre-tax profit.
BHP Billiton was in the red after talk of Chile's presidential hopeful urging striking miners to refuse a poor contract offer.
It and other miners such as Antofagasta, Glencore and Randgold were also hurting on falls in the prices of gold, silver and industrial metals such as copper, zinc, tin and aluminum.
Equipment hire firm Ashtead fell despite its third-quarter results revealing it remained on track to a strong year of growth, with gross capital expenditure expected towards the upper end of its previous guidance.
Testing, inspection and certification specialist Intertek rose as it said full-year 2016 sales rocketed 18.5% to £2.57bn as weakness in the pound continued to bolster its top-line.
Mondi confirmed the European Commission was conducting an inspection at its Vienna office. It understood the probe was focused on kraft paper and industrial bags.
In the meantime, the Tuesday drift found no panacea tucked away in the latest UK retail sales and house price data.
British Retail Consortium data showed UK retail sales softened in February as consumers adopted a more cautious approach.
Elsewhere, lender Halifax's data showed UK house prices in the three months to February were up 5.1% on the year, below views, but down compared to a 5.7% rise in the January quarter.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Intertek Group (ITRK) 3,765.00p 4.76%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 263.60p 1.31%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,543.00p 1.11%
Convatec Group (CTEC) 257.70p 1.06%
Croda International (CRDA) 3,597.00p 1.04%
Unilever (ULVR) 3,916.00p 1.03%
GKN (GKN) 373.80p 0.89%
3i Group (III) 705.50p 0.86%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,812.00p 0.82%
Capita (CPI) 518.00p 0.78%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) 8,270.00p -5.86%
Standard Life (SL.) 384.90p -3.78%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 338.20p -2.93%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 781.00p -2.62%
Shire Plc (SHP) 4,903.00p -2.25%
Informa (INF) 663.50p -2.00%
Glencore (GLEN) 320.00p -1.99%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,710.00p -1.95%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 7,165.00p -1.92%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,799.00p -1.69%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Grafton Group Units (GFTU) 657.00p 8.24%
Carillion (CLLN) 226.60p 4.67%
Just Eat (JE.) 542.00p 4.63%
Ibstock (IBST) 210.50p 3.64%
Acacia Mining (ACA) 429.30p 3.47%
Nostrum Oil & Gas (NOG) 515.50p 3.39%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,487.00p 3.19%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 224.20p 3.08%
Synthomer (SYNT) 458.00p 2.82%
esure Group (ESUR) 221.00p 2.79%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Aggreko (AGK) 921.00p -12.95%
Mitie Group (MTO) 198.30p -5.62%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 285.30p -4.71%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 288.00p -3.45%
Paysafe Group (PAYS) 409.10p -3.19%
Go-Ahead Group (GOG) 1,787.00p -2.99%
Berendsen (BRSN) 797.00p -2.69%
Cobham (COB) 126.90p -2.08%
Brown (N.) Group (BWNG) 203.30p -2.02%
Ladbrokes Coral Group (LCL) 120.80p -1.87%