Source - SMW
The FTSE 100 index traded down 0.5% at 7,607 heading into the close, despite new highs in US markets, as pharmaceutical stocks reversed their gains of earlier this week, weighing on the benchmark.

GlaxoSmithKline shed 1.7% to £18.05 and Hikma Pharmaceuticals slid 3.4% to £19.07 while on the FTSE 250 index Dechra Pharmaceuticals dropped 8.6% to £28.03 after a disappointing half-year trading update.

Shares in Premier Inn-owner Whitbread fell 5.4% to £45.76 after it reported a 1% rise in its total sales for 2019 against a challenging backdrop, with sales in the UK market down 2.2% on a like-for-like basis. 

Whitbread warned several times last year that companies had cut back on business spending and despite high hopes it seems there was no 'Boris bounce' in bookings post-election. 

Another stock dragging the index down was publisher Pearson as it guided down profit expectations for the full year due to a sharp decline in sales in the US.

Chief executive John Fallon, said: 'We have secured flat revenue this year and delivered operating profit within the guidance range, with much weaker sales in US Higher Education Courseware offset by a strong performance in the broader 76% of Pearson.'

Despite the firm announcing a £350m share buyback starting later this month, the shares dropped 8.5% to a decade low of 565p. 

Building materials group Marshalls lost 5.4% to 786p despite reporting a 10% jump in revenues for the year to 31 December. Full-year orders were weaker than at the half-year stage due to a softer market and adverse weather..

Associated British Foods was a rare bright spot as it reported 4% growth in revenues in the first quarter led by 'good' Christmas sales at discount retailer Primark in its core UK market and a 'marked upturn' in Eurozone sales. Shares added 4.3% to £26.65.

Another riser was real estate investment trust Workspace, which saw strong customer demand in the third quarter. The trust, which provides commercial space, saw more than 1,000 enquiries per month on average compared with 907 per month in the same quarter in 2018/19.

Lettings averaged 113 per month, compared with 98 in the third quarter of 2018/19. The news helped lift the shares 0.7% to £11.51. 

Petrofac was a minor gainer after it was awarded a contract to design, supply and install the HVAC onshore and offshore substations for the Seagreen wind farm project by SSE Renewables. The shares rose 0.2% to 383p on the news.

The wind farm will be located 27 kilometres off the coast of Angus and once constructed will be the largest in Scotland.    




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