Following a week of unbroken green, the FTSE 100 has remained in the red so far this week after it fell on Wednesday.
The index, which contains some of London’s biggest listed companies, was struggling to make much of a move either way through most of Wednesday.
It spent most of the time hovering around 6,754 points, where it had closed on Tuesday, before finally dropping to 6,745.52 as markets closed.
The 8.59 point drop only removes around 0.1% of the index’s value.
In the end, it was a falling oil price which helped decide the FTSE’s direction on Wednesday, said Connor Campbell, an analyst at Spreadex.
“Brent Crude’s retreat from its early 11-month high, and BP and Shell subsequently going in the wrong direction themselves, nixed the FTSE’s hopes of mounting a recovery this Wednesday,” he said.
Brent hit 56.08 dollars per barrel, down 0.9%.
Persimmon was also weighing on the index. The housebuilder said that property sales were slowing in the UK as the Government’s stamp duty holiday is set to end in March. Its shares closed the day down 6.2%.
Mr Campbell added: “The index wasn’t helped by firm losses in its banking and mining sectors, as well as Just Eat’s 4.6% slide following the reveal that its underlying profit margins dramatically shrank in the fourth quarter due to aggressive investment in expansion.”
Markets also remained calm abroad. In New York, traders will be watching what happens in Congress, where the House of Representatives on Wednesday started debating the impeachment of Donald Trump.
If it passes both the House and the Senate, it would bar Mr Trump, who has only a week left as president, from ever running for public office again.
“It would be fascinating to see how investors would greet that news, and whether the removal of Trump from the political sphere for good would be a significant market mover, be it to the positive or the negative,” Mr Campbell said.
France’s Cac index closed the day up 0.2%, while the Dax in Germany rose 0.1%. Currency markets were also subdued, as sterling dropped 0.3% to 1.3624 dollars and rose 0.1% to 1.1205 euros.
In company news, Just Eat Takeaway.com said that orders had jumped 58% in the UK in the last quarter of 2020. But investors were less impressed, sending shares down 4.3%.
Another loser was PageGroup, whose shares tumbled 2.8% on the news that its gross profits had dropped by a fifth towards the end of last year.
William Hill’s shares stayed nearly unchanged, up 0.2%, after it said it would make an annual £30 million loss.
And finally, Asos’s predictions that the pandemic could boost its profits by £40 million sent its shares up by 2%.
The online fashion retailer has said it expects the impact of the pandemic to provide a £40 million profit boost which will help drive it towards the top of its annual targets.
The company told investors that strong lockdown demand meant retail sales rose by 23% to £1.32 billion for the period to December 31.
Asos said half-year profits will be buoyed by “at least £40 million” as it benefited from lower customer returns.
Morrisons was the second highest performer on the FTSE 100 as it revealed plans to become the first supermarket to pay its staff more than £10 per hour, at least. Shares rose 2.8%.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Ocado, up 88p to 2577p, Pennon Group, up 31.6p to 980.2p, Morrisons, up 5p to 185.65p, Next, up 210p to 7880p, and Smith & Nephew, up 40p to 1573p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Persimmon, down 173p to 2612p, Just Eat Takeaway.com, down 394p to 8676p, IAG, down 5.4p to 152.5p, Standard Chartered, down 12.4p to 499p, and HSBC, down 9.65p to 403.15p.