Poor data in the US and at home send FTSE down - London Report

WEAK data at home and poor results across the Atlantic meant the FTSE 100 faced its biggest one-day drop in nearly a month yesterday.

The FTSE 100 closed 73.45 points lower, or one per cent, at 7,030.53 points, retreating from a record high of 7,122.74 hit on Monday.

The index extended losses in afternoon trade after a report showed that US consumer confidence unexpectedly slumped in April.

But the FTSE is up seven per cent year to date, tracking a rise across Europe as the European Central Bank’s asset-purchase programme pumps money into the economy and the economic data out of the Eurozone improves.

“There’s a bit of bad news,” said Andy Ash, head of sales at ADM Investor Services International. “It’s just a bit of froth (being taken) off the market.”

The FTSE was also held back by Asia-focused bank Standard Charted, wealth manager St James’s Place and Costa Coffee owner Whitbread, all down more than three per cent after their updates.

Standard Chartered said profits in the first quarter of 2015 fell by over a fifth from a year ago as losses from bad loans jumped and trading conditions remained challenging.

St James’s Place posted slightly below-forecast inflows in the first quarter. Whitbread shed 2.4 per cent after its chief executive announced plans to leave by February next year.

Astrazeneca slid after US rival Merck & Co’s diabetes drug met heart-safety requirements in a recent study, giving it a leg-up on the UK group.

Traders said the FTSE could struggle to make headway before the General Election on 7 May, which is expected to be closely contested. Sectors such as utilities and banks could come under regulatory pressure if the opposition Labour party takes office.

Centrica, which has underperformed along with other domestic utilities this year because of Labour's plans to cap increases in their bills, gained 2.3 per cent after the chairman said it had made preparations in case it is approached with a takeover offer.

Shares in UK Oil & Gas Investments fell over eight per cent after the company responded to press reports that its interest in the Horse Hill licence, which is linked the oil find near Gatwick announced this month, will expire in September. Similarly, Doriemus and Solo Oil, its peers on Aim which are also linked to the Horse Hill well, saw their shares head down.