FTSE 100 ends day in negative territory

The FTSE 100 struggled for direction on Thursday as markets digested news from the European Central Bank and comments made by US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross.

London’s premier index shed 23.93 points, or 0.35%, to end the day on 6,618.95.

David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets, said that traders were held back by mixed news from the continent and stateside.

“The European Central Bank maintained their monetary policy, meeting expectations. Mario Draghi, the head of the ECB issued a statement that was on the dovish side.

“The central banker cautioned about risks to the downside, and said that stimulus is needed to sustain inflation.

“Wilbur Ross, US secretary of commerce issued a mixed statement in relation to Chinese trade.

“Mr Ross claimed the two sides were ‘miles and miles’ away from ending the trade dispute, but he also said there is a fair chance that China will get a trade deal.”

In stocks, shares in British Airways owner IAG nudged up after the airline ended its interest in low-cost carrier Norwegian, adding it will sell its remaining stake in the firm.

Last year, IAG took a 4.61% stake in Norwegian, bought with the intention of launching a full bid.

But on Thursday, the firm said that it does not intend to make an offer for Norwegian and will sell its stake in the company.

IAG shares closed up 2p to 633p.

Barclays shares closed down as the bank’s chief executive revealed that activist investor Edward Bramson, one of the lender’s largest shareholders, has not laid out his strategy.

Mr Bramson, through his investment vehicle Sherborne, has built a 5.5% stake in Barclays and is ramping up pressure on the lender to curtail its investment arm.

Barclays boss Jes Staley said he had a “reasonable engagement” with Mr Bramson, but he is yet to reveal his plans for the lender.

Shares closed down 0.2p down at 162.66p.

Shares in Fever-Tree fizzed up after the drinks firm reported another year of rapid growth, with consumers snapping up its mixers during the heatwave and the busy Christmas period.

In a trading update, the group said full-year revenue for 2018 was around £236 million, an increase of 39%.

The group’s board expects full-year results to be comfortably ahead of its expectations.

Shares in the company rocketed 350p to 2,948p.

The pound held on to gains made in recent days, trading at 1.306 versus the US dollar, a decrease of 0.2%. Against the euro, sterling was flat at 1.149.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX was up 0.47% while France’s CAC 40 was up 0.59%.

A barrel of Brent Crude was changing hands for 60.8 US dollars, an increase of 0.1%.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Centrica up 3.25p at 134.4p, St James’s Place up 20.6p at 962p, Evraz up 8.1p at 463.6p and Ashtead up 29p at 1,899p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Vodafone down 5.22p at 144.04p, Reckitt Benckiser down 191p at 5,593p, British American Tobacco down 57p at 2,425p and EasyJet down 25.5p at 1,254.5p.