Fallout from disappointing US growth data continued to haunt the market, which struggled to find direction despite largely positive news on the corporate front.
The FTSE 100 lost more than 150 points in the previous two sessions and was down by another 40 points at one stage before recovering slightly to end the day 14.35 points higher at 6,960.63. The uncertain mood followed yesterday’s weaker-than-expected US GDP reading of just 0.2 per cent for first quarter, well below forecasts of 1 per cent growth.
Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “Even a royal baby on the way wasn’t enough to get UK investors excited. Slowing US growth and a mixed bag of UK corporate earnings weighed on sentiment.”
British Airways owner International Airlines Group was a heavy blue-chip faller despite reporting its first profit in the post-Christmas quarter since its acquisition of Spain’s Iberia in 2011. Shares dropped 14p, or 2.5 per cent, to 545p as it warned that its rate of profit improvement in the current quarter will be slower due to fuel prices and the timing of Easter.
Royal Mail was among the biggest risers, jumping 23.5p or 5.3 per cent to 467.7p after a Dutch rival ended talks with a joint venture partner over plans to expand into the UK.
Outside the top flight, John Menzies soared 27.5p or 7.6 per cent to 390p after a Swiss activist investor said it wanted to “unlock value” in the Edinburgh-based baggage handler and newspaper distributor.
Property website operator Zoopla jumped 30p, or 16.2 per cent, to 215p after a surprise deal to buy price comparison firm uSwitch. Another property player, estate agency group Foxtons, said first-quarter revenues fell 3.1 per cent amid relatively low levels of activity in London. But shares leapt 17p to 220p – an increase of 8.4 per cent.