LONDON — Britain's benchmark FTSE 100 spent Thursday treading water as investors took stock following two days of heavy losses since Prime Minister Theresa May called for a general election.
By the end of trading the FTSE was virtually unmoved from its opening price, trading up by just 0.04%, or three points, to end at 7,117 points.
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On Wednesday, the FTSE dropped into negative territory for the year, falling below its opening price of 7,142 on January 1 this year, despite having set several record highs earlier in the year. That came after a loss of close to 2.5% on Tuesday, and another 0.5% fall on Wednesday.
Thursday's flat day came against a background of caution in the wider global equity markets, with Jasper Lawler of London Capital Group noting that it "was another jittery day for stock markets. Investors have been juggling multiple sets of corporate results while staying mindful of global geopolitics. That makes a strong directional move difficult."
"The risk surrounding the first round of France’s Presidential election this Sunday have been keeping investors cautious but there were signs of the caution abating."
On a stock-by-stock basis, the FTSE's biggest losers on the day so far include, shopping centre provider Intu Properties, which dropped 4% after passing its ex-dividend date for the year.
Ex-dividend means that anyone buying shares in the company between now and the end of its financial year will not receive a dividend, and instead that dividend will be paid out to the person selling the shares.
Shares in major firms tend to slide when passing the ex-dividend date, as without a dividend the total return on any stock will generally be lower, making it a less attractive investment.
Outside of the FTSE 100, retailer Debenhams — which trades on the FTSE 250 — lost more than 5% despite the announcement of a new digital-focused turnaround strategy from its Amazon alumni CEO.
Elsewhere on the continent, France's CAC 40 popped significantly on Thursday, ignoring the risks associated with Sunday's first round of the country's presidential election. "France’s CAC index was top European gainer, led by banks BNP Paribas and Societe Generale," Lawler noted. The CAC ended the day close to 1.5% higher.
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- European stocks had a huge day after Emmanuel Macron took the lead in the French elections