- The FTSE declined into negative territory, with ex-dividend utility stock SSE (SSE) dimming 1.1% to £12.99.

National Grid (NG.) was also down 1.4% at 831.4p.

There was weakness among retailers such as Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF) and luxury brand Burberry (BRBY).

Other noticeable fallers included Imperial Brands (IMB) and Vodafone (VOD).

The FTSE 100 traded 0.4% lower at 7,694.

Brent crude oil was stable at $69.39 per barrel.


Wall Street was lifted by gains in technology stocks overnight, including IBM and Microsoft. The Dow Jones rallied 1.2% to 26,115.


Associated British Foods revealed record sales at the discount clothing retailer and maintained full year earnings guidance. Shares in the firm fell 2.9% to £27.73.

Costa Coffee owner Whitbread (WTB) needed a boost as like-for-like sales at the coffee chain fell 1.5% in the 13 weeks to 30 November. Media reports resurfaced that investor Sachem Head had asked Whitbread to consider a breaking up the business, helping the shares rise 2.2% to £39.39.

GKN (GKN) said Melrose (MRO) was misleading with its takeover offer, saying the bid was at a 'fake premium.' GKN has rejected two buyout offers in the last week from Melrose.

Parcels delivery service Royal Mail (RMG) reported an increase in sales, driven by higher parcel volumes and its international division. The strong trading did little to alleviate concerns over the balance sheet, pension scheme issues and ability to maintain dividends as the stock dropped 2.1% to 457.1p.

Experian (EXPN) delivered a 5% increase in third quarter organic sales and expects mid-single digit organic growth for the full year. This failed to impress with the shares retreating 1% to £16.46.

Infrastructure group Balfour Beatty (BBY) gained 2.4% to 298p after announcing US tax reforms will cut its tax rate this year and boost the value of its investments portfolio by £95m.

Lower full year sales in the US at Ibstock (IBST) weighed on the shares, which were down 3.6% at 253.4p.


Countrywide (CWD) plummeted 16.3% to 113.2p after warning it will miss sales and earnings forecasts. The property services company said expected earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation was anticipated to fall from £72m to £65m due to disappointing trading in sales and lettings.

Investors were expecting the worst at EMIS (EMIS). The NHS IT systems provider revealed delivery and service level failures on EMIS Web Suite, triggering a 16% crash to 809p.

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