StockMarketWire.com - The FTSE 100 struggled for direction and failed to take advantage of weaker sterling as excitement wore off following an agreed delay to Brexit until 31 October, which is expected to prolong uncertainty.

At close, the blue-chip index was 3.9 points lower at 7,417.

US equities fell into negative territory as the Dow Jones declined 0.2% to 26,096 at around 4:45pm UK time.

Brent crude oil declined 0.9% to $71 per barrel and copper cheapened 0.6% to $2.90 per pound.

UK-listed airlines were relieved the peak summer holiday season would not be spoiled by the UK crashing out of the bloc with EasyJet leading the way with a 8.4% advance.

Several stocks traded ex-dividend, notably Standard Life Aberdeen, which fell 3.4% to 266.6p.

LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Asset manager Man Group added 3% after it reported an increase in funds under management as a rebound in global markets since the turn of the year bolstered its investments offsetting fund outflows.

Marks & Spencer dipped 1.5% after Credit Suisse cut its recommendation from 'neutral' to 'underperform'.

DIY group Grafton climbed 6.1% after it conditionally agreed to acquire Polvo from the privately owned Pallieter Group for €131m on a debt and cash free basis.

Retailer WH Smith advanced 2.2% after it hiked its dividend 8% for the six months to February 2019 amid the company's confidence in its future prospects, the business' strong cash generative nature and the positive full-year outlook.

Miner Fresnillo fell 7.2% as it said its first-quarter production came in slightly below its expectations, but kept its full-year guidance unchanged as output was expected to improve in the second half. Peer Glencore slipped 2.8% on a negative note from investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Shares in Ocado went in the same direction, down 2.3% on a downgraded recommendation from investment bank HSBC.

Ted Baker, meanwhile, dipped 1.9% after appointing Lindsay Page as the company's CEO with immediate effect. Page had previously been finance director and acting chief executive at the group.

This came as it announced that the investigation into allegations on founder Ray Kelvin's conduct and the company's HR policies had found 'areas for improvement'.

Sports Direct added 4.5% as it announced it intended to start a new share buyback programme from 11 April up to and including 26 April with the aim of reducing the company's share capital.

Underlying earnings per share were in line with expectations, with higher operating costs in its US business offset by lower finance costs, National Grid said in an update to its technical guidance for 2018/2019. The stock fell 1%.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Diurnal climbed 3.5% after it said it planned to submit a marketing application to the European Medicines Agency for a treatment for congenital adrenal hyperplasia in the fourth quarter of this year.

Clinical development services group Hvivo slumped 7.2% after it reported wider annual losses as asset write-downs offset an increase in revenues.

Avesoro Resources dropped 6.4% even as it maintained its annual output guidance despite reporting gold production fell by more than a third in the first quarter.

Specialist filtration and environmental technology group Porvair gained 4.9% after it said it had made a good start to its 2019 financial year with revenue growth of 18% in the four months to 31 March and group profits in line with expectations.


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