The FTSE 100 Index shed more than 2% today as positive news for the UK economy was overshadowed by gloom on Wall Street.
The top flight fell 93.6 points to 4383.4 at the close despite a survey signalling a return to growth for the country’s powerhouse services sector.
But in the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was in the red after worse than expected factory orders and services data. Higher than expected oil stockpiles also sent crude prices down after a strong run higher.
In London, another factor behind the fall was several FTSE stocks turning ex-dividend, meaning new investors will not take part in the next dividend payout. This dragged on the index as shares prices adjusted lower.
Most of the Footsie’s biggest casualties were ex-divs, with National Grid down 39p to 561p, heavyweight telecoms giant Vodafone off 5.8p to 113p, drinks can maker Rexam 23.25p lower to 306.75p and media firm WPP sliding 23.75p to 429.75p - the latter not helped by a downbeat trading update yesterday.
The ex-div stocks joined banks and miners on the list of share losers.
Barclays lost another 5%, or 13.75p to 259.75p, as the fall-out from yesterday’s sale of a near 12% stake by a major Middle Eastern investor showed no sign of easing.
Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland lost 3.5p to 66p and 2p to 36.1p as investors took billionaire Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s move as a signal to sell bank shares across the board.
Lower metal prices after a recent bull run saw miners also fall into the red, led by Vedanta Resources. The miner was the Footsie’s leading faller, off 137p at 1582p or 8%. Others in the sector on the back foot included Xstrata and Anglo American, which fell 50p to 728p and 113p to 1785p respectively.
But Morrisons was one of those seeing share rises in another strong day for the supermarket sector. The UK’s fourth largest chain was up 3.5p to 247.5p ahead of what is expected to be another positive trading update tomorrow.
Among its rivals, Sainsbury’s cheered 2.25p to 316.5p, while Tesco added 0.9p to 353.7p.
Utility group Northumbrian Water was in the spotlight in the FTSE 250 after reporting a 10% drop in annual profits.
Shares in the group – which saw profits hit by last year’s energy price rises and lower usage by firms in the recession – fell 3.25p to 245.25p.
Elsewhere, online gaming site Sportingbet failed to hold on to early gains seen after it reported a 34% hike in third quarter earnings. The stock opened more than 2% ahead, but later fell 1.5p at 62.5p.