FTSE 100 weighed by disappointing results
The pound, meanwhile, was lower due to a stronger greenback.
London’s blue-chip index was in the red on Thursday weighed by disappointing results and a number of stocks going ex-dividend.
The FTSE 100 closed 38.45 points, or 0.53%, lower at 7,157.55 while Germany’s DAX fell 0.6% and France’s CAC was down 0.39%.
Meanwhile, the pound weakened on a stronger US dollar.
Sterling was down 0.5% against the greenback at 1.310 but was 0.36% higher versus the euro at 1.168 at the London market close.
There was a sell-off in mining and financial stocks as Rio Tinto, BHP Group, Evraz and Persimmon went ex-dividend – when buyers of the stock are not entitled to the recently declared dividend payment – while asset manager Schroders posted lower annual profits and insurer Aviva provided a grim outlook.
Aviva was the latest firm to flag pressure from Brexit uncertainties as it warned over “more muted” growth in 2019.
Shares closed down by 14.3p to 419p after the group said it would be “difficult to sustain” earnings growth notched up over the past two years in the face of Brexit woes.
Rival insurer Admiral, however, enjoyed record full-year profits and handed bonuses worth £3,600 to thousands of staff.
A total of 10,000 employees were handed the share award under a bonus scheme linked to Admiral’s performance.
But shares in Admiral still fell by 103p to 2,088p.
In other corporate news, sales at Greggs topped £1 billion for the first time as the launch of its controversial vegan sausage roll helped drive a surge in customer numbers.
The bakery chain posted a 15% rise in pre-tax profits to £82.6 million in 2018, with sales rising 7.2% to just over £1 billion.
Greggs shares declined by 11p to 1,800p.
Shares in Fashion retailer Quiz halved after it warned over profits for the second time in as many months following plunging high street sales.
The group said sales across its 71 UK stores and 169 concessions tumbled 11.1% between January 1 and February 28.
Quiz shares tumbled 16p, or 50%, to 16.1p.
Struggling estate agency Countrywide warned that Brexit will knock its performance over the coming months as the firm posted widening full-year losses.
The group – which is behind the Bairstow Eves and Hamptons brands – reported a bottom line loss of £218.2 million in 2018 compared to £207.3 million of losses the prior year.
Countrywide shares fell 1.3p to 9.2p.
Womenswear retailer LK Bennett collapsed into administration, putting around 500 jobs at risk.
The brand has appointed corporate undertakers at EY to carry out the process.
Staff at the John Lewis Partnership will see their bonuses cut for the sixth consecutive year as the retail giant revealed a slump in annual profits.
The group said it will reduce the renowned bonus to 3% of annual salary, with 83,000 partners sharing a pot worth £44.7 million, down from £74 million the previous year.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, was trading up 0.5% at 66.26 US dollars (£50.57).
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were National Grid up 20.8p to 867.1p, Informa up 16.6p to 728.2p, Spirax-Sarco up 155p to 7,005p, and Melrose Industries up 3.7p to 183.75p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were NMC Helath down 344p to 2,656p, Persimmon down 183p to 2,250p, Rio Tinto down 333.5p to 4,144.5p, and Paddy Power Betfair down 425p to 5,640p.