London’s blue-chip index was relatively subdued on Monday as a lack of political and economic news failed to excite traders.
The FTSE 100 closed 13.91 points, or 0.2%, higher at 7,034.13, while Germany’s DAX fell 0.04% and France’s CAC declined 0.38%.
David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets, said European equity markets traded lower “as no change to the macroeconomic climate encouraged traders to cash in their positions”.
He said: “The US-China trade spat, the Italian recession and the uncertainty hanging over Brexit are all bubbling away in the background. Volatility has been low as there has been little in the way of news to trigger excitement.”
Meanwhile, the pound slipped after data showed that output in Britain’s construction sector lost momentum in January and slowed to its weakest level for 10 months as Brexit uncertainty weighed on firms.
Sterling was down 0.26% against the US dollar at 1.305 and was flat versus the euro at 1.142 at the London market close.
The Markit/CIPS UK Construction purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell to 50.6 in January from 52.8 the previous month and missed analysts’ expectations of 52.5.
Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index, said the UK manufacturing and construction sectors nearing stagnation adds to the growing list of evidence that Brexit uncertainty is hampering progress and dampening confidence across the economy.
“The negative impacts of Brexit are becoming increasingly noticeable as we move towards March 29 with no deal in place. There is a clear feeling that the UK economy is slowing as [Prime Minister] Theresa May continues to go in circles with Brexit”.
In corporate news, Ryanair swung to a third-quarter loss and unveiled a management shake-up that will see boss Michael O’Leary head up the group for another five years.
The Irish carrier booked a pre-tax loss of 22.1 million euro (£19.3 million) in the three months to December 31, which compares to a 112.9 million euro (£98.8 million) profit in the same period last year.
Ryanair’s London-listed shares closed down 0.26 euro to 11.18 euro.
Outsourcer Serco inked a £560 million contract to provide health services to the Australia Defence Force in conjunction with Bupa.
The firm will be responsible for providing “essential defence support services” across more than 50 bases in Australia as a sub-contractor to the private healthcare giant.
Serco shares fell 0.5p to 113p.
Takeover target Flybe is to hold a shareholder vote in March on whether to oust chairman Simon Laffin, while the airline also mulls two separate proposals for the group.
Flybe said that following a request from Hosking, its biggest shareholder, it will convene a general meeting to consider resolutions to replace chairman Mr Laffin with Eric Kohn.
Flybe shares rose 0.1p to 3.3p.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, traded down 1.05% at 62.08 US dollars (£47.54).
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Rentokil Initial up 9.1p to 349.5p, Sage Group up 16p to 642.8p, TUI up 28.5p to 1,190p, and Halma up 28p to 1,450p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Smurfit Kappa down 52p to 2,160p, Imperial Brands down 53.50p to 2,505.5p, NMC Health down 42p to 2,538p, and WPP down 14p to 863p.
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