London’s top index steered clear of falling European stocks on Wednesday, ending the day more or less the same as it had started.
The FTSE 100 finished up a tiny 0.07%, or 4.34 points, to 5853.76.
It is the second time this week that the index has remained more or less stable in the face of worse news on the continent.
On Monday the FTSE dropped a mere 9.28 points, while Germany’s top index fell 3.6%.
The fall on the continent was not as pronounced on Wednesday. The Dax index in Frankfurt was down 1% by the end of the day, while the Paris-based Cac 40 fell by 1.1%
“Equity markets are broadly lower this afternoon as the bulls appear to be in retreat,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets.
“The morning session was mixed as some optimism in relation to the easing of lockdowns was doing the rounds. There was no clear direction in European indices this morning and volatility was low.”
Things got worse when New York woke up, and the FTSE handed back some early gains to end the day only just in the green, Mr Madden said.
Shortly after markets closed in the UK, New York’s two main indices, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones, were down 0.2% and 0.4% respectively.
In London, Shell and BP took a battering. Just a day before, the two oil giants had been soaring on higher oil prices, but as the price of Brent crude dropped 6.4% to around 29 US dollars per barrel, the companies followed suit with drops of their own.
The pound had a bad day against currencies on the other side of the Atlantic and the English Channel. It cost 0.7% fewer US dollars to buy a pound at 1.2345. Against the euro, the pound dropped 0.4% to 1.1425.
In company news, Ocado shares hit an all-time high on Wednesday, ending the day up 5.6%. The online supermarket revealed that retail revenues surged 40.4% in the past two months.
JD Sports rose 2.6% even as the Competition and Markets Authority blocked its takeover of rival Footasylum for £90 million, which was agreed over a year ago.
Virgin Money’s shares joined those jumping despite news that on the face of it looked bad. The bank said that first-half underlying profits more than halved after a £232 million hit it expects from bad coronavirus loans. Shares were up 4.4%.
ITV also joined the category, rising 3% despite revealing that advertising demand fell 42% in April. Companies have been slashing marketing budgets amid the crisis.
Halfords had a great day, with shares up 23% on the news that bosses said April had been better than they expected. Sales in the four weeks to the start of May were only 23% below the same period last year.
The losers included Metro Bank, which dropped 6.66% on the news that customer deposits increased by £77 million to £14.5 billion for the three months to the end of March.
And Hammerson dropped 14.3% after a buyer pulled out of a £400 million deal to purchase seven retail parks from the landlord.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Ocado, up 93.5p to 1772.5p, Hikma, up 123p to 2,490p, Intermediate Capital Group, up 43p to 1,490p, Astrazeneca, up 318p to 8,830p, and Aveva Group, up 131p to 3,709p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Pearson, down 33.3p to 431.6p, Carnival, down 51.8p to 908.8p, Meggitt, down 12.1p to 251.9p, Shell ‘B’, down 52.8p to 1,230.6p, and Royal Bank of Scotland, down 4.55p to 108.2p.