FTSE 100 ends in the red as ITV shares slide

The FTSE 100 struggled for direction on Thursday, while the pound continued to edge higher as currency traders eagerly anticipate Theresa May’s so called “Plan B” Brexit proposal.

London’s top flight was off 27.76 points, or 0.4%, at 6,834.92 by the close of play as ITV helped drag the index into the red.

The broadcaster ended the day at the foot of the FTSE 100 following a stinging research note issued by Bank of America, stating that ITV is susceptible to a shift in advertising away from TV.

The bank reckons that TV consumption is falling 8% a year among the under 35s, adding that it is cutting its rating on ITV from buy to underperform.

ITV shares ended down 8.15p, or 5.94%, at 129.1p.

At the other end of the spectrum, Primark owner Associated British Foods shares rose to the top of the index as profits at the budget fashion chain came in “well ahead”, despite a fall in like-for-like sales over its festive quarter.

The retailer saw a “modest decline” in like-for-like sales in the 16 weeks to January 5, although total sales lifted 4% as it opened more stores.

It cheered a better-than-expected festive performance for its budget high-street chain in the UK, with total sales up 1%.

Shares were up 152p at 2,330p at the close.

Shares in gambling company GVC were also on the rise after the firm said it expects full-year earnings to beat market consensus thanks to strong growth in its online business.

The bookmaker expects to post underlying earnings of between £750 million and £755 million – ahead of market consensus of £739 million.

Shares closed up 14p at 687p.

Sterling, meanwhile, experienced another day of gains, despite no sign of the Brexit deadlock in parliament being broken.

The pound was up over 0.4% versus the US dollar at 1.29 at the London market close. Against the euro, the British currency advanced 0.5% to 1.135.

It came despite Theresa May’s attempts to reach out across the party political divide being widely ridiculed as a stunt, with the Prime Minister refusing to budge on her “red lines”.

Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx, said: “Staking its hopes on a ‘no deal’ Brexit being less of a potentiality than it was at the start of the week, the pound continued to rise.

“After consecutive evenings of fraught Brexit drama, attention now seems to have shifted to Monday, when Theresa May has to present her Plan B to Parliament, and then to January 29th, when said plan will be voted on.”

In Europe, Germany’s DAX was down 0.12% and France’s CAC dropped 0.3%.

A barrel of Brent crude was trading at 60.69 US dollars, a decrease of 0.94%.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Associated British Foods up 152p at 2,330p, Sage Group up 12p at 625p, GVC up 14p at 687p and United Utilities up 14.2p at 808p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were ITV down 8.15p at 129.1p, Wood Group down 26.4p at 541.2p, SSE down 38.5p at 1,126p and Standard Life Aberdeen down 7.6p at 262.4p.