Traders kept a cautious stance ahead of last night’s Federal Reserve minutes being released, even as a string of data on both sides of the Atlantic appeared to favour a “risk-on” approach.
William Nicholls, a dealer at Capital Spreads, said: “Markets became more and more erratic in trading ahead of the minutes, and are moving quickly in either direction for no apparent reason.”
The FTSE 100 jumped briefly into the black before falling again in a session that saw the London market hamstrung by stocks turning ex-dividend.
The index closed 16.93 points lower at 6,681.08.
Vodafone was among the heavyweights trading without rights to its latest payout, and was down 2 per cent at 227.2p as a result.
And a sliding gold price pushed miner Randgold Resources to the bottom of the table, down almost 3 per cent or 126p at 4,495p.
Among the risers, Aberdeen Asset Management’s shares received a fresh boost as a raft of institutional analyst notes increased price targets for the fund management firm. It gained 3.5 per cent or 16.8p at 492p.
In a quiet session for corporate news, attention was focused on Lloyds Banking Group as chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio qualified for a £2.2 million bonus at the end of trading.
The Portuguese banker met the criteria after the stock remained above 73.6p, although he will not be able to sell his bonus shares until 2018 under the company’s incentive scheme. Shares fell 0.1p to 75p but the price remained high enough to trigger the bonus.
Outside the top flight, Royal Mail’s stock recovered from a scare as brokers turned bearish. UBS issued a “sell” rating and the shares fell during the day, but recovered to finish flat at 550p.