- MPC split on rate decision for first time since 2011
- FOMC minutes due out after the close
- Ex-dividend stocks, Balfour Beatty weigh on market
- Beverage shares
hit by Carlsberg results
techMARK 2,798.96 -0.07%
FTSE 100 6,752.88 -0.39%
FTSE 250 15,794.83 -0.63%
UK equities retreated from a three-week high on Wednesday as investors took profits after five straight days of gains, with ex-dividend stocks providing a drag on the market.
News that the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) saw a split vote on interest rates for the first time in three years has also prompted an element of caution on the markets as rate-hike fears resurfaced.
Meanwhile, the abrupt end to a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel as well as the reported killing of an American photojournalist by Islamic State militants dampened sentiment amongst traders, as geopolitical tensions once again sapped risk appetite.
The FTSE 100 was trading down 0.4% at 6,753 by midday after having settled at 6,779.31 the previous session, its highest close since 29 July.
Central bank minutes in focus
With economic data thin on the ground, the focus of Wednesday's trading session was on central banks in the UK and US.
Minutes from the MPC meeting surprised economists by showing that two out of the nine members on the committee voted in favour of a rate hike - the first time this has happened since July 2011. The MPC agreed that the degree of spare capacity in the economy has narrowed though individual members continued to hold a wide range of views.
Capital Economics senior UK economist Samuel Tombs said following the minutes that "it would be foolish to rule out the possibility of a 2014 rate hike".
Meanwhile, Barclays Research analysts said they continue to foresee a rate hike in the fourth quarter of this year despite data showing a larger-than-expected dip in inflation in July.
Minutes from last month's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in the States will be released at 19:00 and could also spark some volatility on financial markets worldwide. The FOMC delivered a relatively hawkish message about inflation at its latest meeting, lifting its medium-term forecasts for price rises.
Investors may also be on the lookout for comments about the Fed's exit strategy from its quantitative easing programme which is on course to finish in October.
Ex-div stocks fall, Balfour slumps
A number of blue chips were weighing on the market on Wednesday morning after going ex-dividend, including British American Tobacco, Hammerson, InterContinental Hotels Group, Mondi, Prudential, Rexam and Carnival. Stocks on the FTSE 250 trading without access to their latest dividend payouts included Brit, Catlin, Fidessa and Taylor Wimpey.
Infrastructure firm Balfour Beatty saw shares sink sharply after the company rejected an improved merger offer from construction group Carillion and decided not to extend the 'put up or shut up' deadline that expires on Thursday. Analysts at Liberum said there is "little (if anything) Carillion can do ahead of [the] deadline" and that the group will have to wait until November to make another approach under UK takeover rules.
Beverage companies Diageo, SABMiller and Stock Spirits were all trading in the red on negative readacross from Carlsberg after the Danish brewer said that sales have been hit by falling demand in Russia and Ukraine because of geopolitical tensions.
Mining and trading giant Glencore was flat despite reporting an 11% increase in its interim dividend and unveiling a $1bn share buyback after profits rose in the first half of 2014.
Meanwhile, a reduction in risk appetite was benefiting stocks in the defensive sectors such as utilities, with National Grid, SSE, Centrica and United Utilities among the best performers.
Housebuilders such as Persimmon, Barratt Developments and Berkeley Group were pulling back after a decent performance on Tuesday, with renewed worries about a rate hike - and its potential impact on the UK housing market - hit share prices.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Royal Mail (RMG) 451.20p +2.83%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,122.00p +1.35%
Kingfisher (KGF) 313.30p +0.87%
SSE (SSE) 1,518.00p +0.86%
Sage Group (SGE) 400.50p +0.86%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,364.00p +0.81%
Centrica (CNA) 317.00p +0.67%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 4,266.50p +0.66%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,223.00p +0.45%
National Grid (NG.) 885.50p +0.45%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Mondi (MNDI) 1,001.00p -2.15%
CRH (CRH) 1,398.00p -2.10%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,508.50p -2.04%
Hammerson (HMSO) 603.00p -1.87%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 362.00p -1.79%
3i Group (III) 385.10p -1.76%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 2,507.00p -1.53%
Old Mutual (OML) 193.90p -1.37%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 2,403.50p -1.27%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,333.00p -1.26%
FTSE 250 - Risers
FirstGroup (FGP) 126.10p +5.61%
Keller Group (KLR) 889.50p +2.48%
CSR (CSR) 582.00p +2.37%
Diploma (DPLM) 667.50p +1.75%
PayPoint (PAY) 1,093.00p +1.67%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 201.80p +1.66%
Rightmove (RMV) 2,495.00p +1.55%
Genus (GNS) 1,144.00p +1.24%
Go-Ahead Group (GOG) 2,233.00p +1.22%
Debenhams (DEB) 65.25p +1.16%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Balfour Beatty (BBY) 239.20p -6.56%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 2,433.00p -5.81%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 141.00p -3.75%
Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 579.50p -3.17%
Brit (BRIT) 252.40p -2.92%
Soco International (SIA) 432.90p -2.87%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 115.30p -2.86%
Just Eat (JE.) 244.50p -2.86%
Carillion (CLLN) 327.10p -2.85%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,753.00p -2.83%