Britain’s FTSE falls after weak corporate updates, US data

StanChart, St James’s Place, Witbread fall after updates.

Britain’s top share index faced its biggest one-day drop in nearly a month on Tuesday, weighed down by a combination of disappointing corporate updates and weak U.S. data.

The FTSE 100 closed 73.45 points lower, or 1%, at 7,030.53 points, retreating from a record high of 7,122.74 hit on Monday.

The index extended losses in afternoon trade after a report showed that U.S. consumer confidence unexpectedly slumped in April.

The FTSE is up 7% year to date, tracking a rise across Europe as the European Central Bank’s asset-purchase programme pumps money into the economy and the economic data out of the euro zone improves.

“There’a a bit of bad news,” said Andy Ash, head of sales at ADM Investor Services International. “It’s just a bit of froth (being taken) off the market.”

The FTSE was also held back by Asia-focused bank Standard Charted, wealth manager St James’s Place and Costa Coffee owner Whitbread, all down more than 3% after their updates.

Standard Chartered said profits in the first quarter of 2015 fell by over a fifth from a year ago as losses from bad loans jumped and trading conditions remained challenging.

St James’s Place posted slightly below-forecast inflows in the first quarter. Whitbread shed 2.4% after its chief executive announced plans to leave by February next year.

AstraZeneca slid after U.S. rival Merck & Co’s diabetes drug met heart-safety requirements in a recent study, giving it a leg-up on the UK group.

Traders said the FTSE could struggle to make headway before Britain’s election on May 7, which is expected to be closely contested. Sectors such as utilities and banks could come under regulatory pressure if the opposition Labour party takes office.

No party is expected to win an outright majority.

“As we get closer we’re going to get a bit more volatility but people who hold equities for the long term shouldn’t be distracted by short-term political risk because you just don’t how that will play out,” Ian Williams, a strategist at Peel Hunt, said.

Centrica, which has underperformed along with other domestic utilities this year because of Labour’s plans to cap increases in their bills, gained 2.3% after its chairman said it had made preparations in case it is approached with a takeover offer.

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