Following a reasonably steady start, the FTSE 100 was down materially by midday, with a 1.2% fall to 7,462.81 points, while the FTSE 250 was off 0.8% at 21,673.64.
This followed weak trading in the US overnight as well as strength in sterling, which hits the relative value of the overseas earnings which dominate the blue chip benchmark index.
Negative sentiment was compounded by persistent geopolitical concerns surrounding Ukraine.
In corporate news, Cineworld (CINE) and Cineplex continued to intensify their legal battle after the latter filed a cross-appeal seeking award for alternative forms damages should Cineworld's appeal against an earlier ruling requiring it to pay C$1.24 billion in damages to Cineplex prove successful.
Marked down 2.3% to 38.5p, Cineworld said it would respond to the cross-appeal as part of the appeal process, and said it disagrees with Cineplex’s cross-appeal.
Today marks the final day that mining leviathan BHP (BHP) will be listed in the FTSE 100 index, as its shares become incorporated in Australia.
In contrast to the negative sentiment, ITV (ITV) was in favour and moved 0.7% higher to 111.9p following an upgrade from Barclays from equalweight to overweight.
Online grocery retailer Ocado (OCDO) fell 5.9% to £14.68 after a German court halted its case against Autostore.
Asset management giant Abrdn (ABDN) has sold just under 40 million shares in life insurance company Phoenix (PHNX) in placing to institutional investors, raising gross proceeds of around £264 million. The shares were sold at a price of 660p.
Abrdn said that it planned to keep hold of its remaining 10.4% shareholding in Phoenix, which gives the insurer the right to appoint a director to the Phoenix board.
Shares in Phoenix drifted 3.4% lower to 663.2p on the news.
Shares in outsourcing company Capita (CPI) fell 1.7% 31.9p after announcing it had agreed to sell Trustmarque to One Equity Partners for £111 million.
The sale of Trustmarque, a provider IT services and solutions, marked another ‘step towards materially reducing our debt, as we continue to simplify and strengthen Capita’, the company said.
Capita added that the £700 million disposals target set by June 2022 had now been met.
Energy infrastructure company Smart Metering Systems (SMS:AIM) has increased its pre-tax profit guidance for 2021 in a trading statement. SMS will report its detailed full year 2021 results on 15 March 2022.
The shares sparked 1.5% higher to 745p on the news.
Shares in research and data analytics group YouGov (YOU:AIM) softened 0.6% to £12.23 despite upgrading its outlook. Full year results to 31 July 2022 were expected to be slightly ahead of the board’s expectations, the company said.
Results for the six months ended 31 January 2022 will be announced on 22 March 2022.
In a positive AGM statement ingredients supplier Treatt (TET) said it had made a ‘good start’ to the year, but it expected profit to revert to a more normal second-half weighting reflecting the seasonality of beverage consumption in the Northern Hemisphere.
A move to larger facilities should mean far greater capacity for ‘enhanced efficiency and an emphasis on sustainability’, the company said.
But the market was uninspired and the shares cheapened 2.3% to £10.85.
This was driven by a sharp rise in buy-to-let mortgages and commercial lending volumes in the first quarter. Total new lending for the quarter to 31 December 2021 increased 35.7% to £708.0 million from £521.8 million in the first quarter of the previous year.