FTSE 100 dragged down by Pearson and Fresnillo

The FTSE 100 was trading modestly down this morning, although it was still near its highest level in four and a half years.

On the blue chip index, education giant Pearson continued its losses from yesterday and shed 2.33 per cent this morning. Yesterday it warned that annual profits would be lower than expected amid tough market conditions.

Mexican miner Fresnillo sank 2.08 per cent in early deals, despite this morning posting record gold production for the three months to December.

Fellow blue chip miners Vedanta and Polymetal were down 1.6 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.

Banking shares were off in early deals. RBS, which is currently considering splitting the leadership of its investment banking arm, fell 1.34 per cent. HSBC was down 0.3 per cent, Barclays shed 0.84 per cent while Lloyds Banking Group was flat.

Headline risers this morning included AB Foods and home improvement retailer Kingfisher, which increased 1.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively.

Asset manager Schroders was up more than one per cent in early deals.

On the wider index, online grocery store Ocado was a star gainer, adding 7.2 per cent this morning, as it announced former Marks & Spencer chief executive Sir Stuart Rose is to become chairman at the AGM in May.

Clive Black at Shore Capital this morning hailed his appointment: "Sir Stuart is someone we hold in high regard. He is great fun, colourful, opinionated and experienced.

"He will bring much needed esteem to Ocado, a company that had a tarnished flotation to our minds and has a fundamentally flawed business model."

In Japan, the Nikkei closed down 0.35 per cent while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng was off by 0.29 per cent.