he FTSE 100 took a small step backwards on Tuesday after the blue-chip index briefly lifted to a four-year high.
It teetered ever closer towards an all-time record but ultimately slipped back into negative territory after downbeat sessions for multinational companies and a firm fall by Ocado.
Traders elsewhere in Europe were more positive, with Germany’s Dax pushing to an 11-month high due to an improving economic outlook.
London’s top index finished the day down 9.04 points, or 0.12%, at 7,851.03.
The Dax improved 0.29% by the end of the session and the French Cac finished 0.37% higher.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “The FTSE 100 has underperformed despite briefly pushing up to a new four-year high, with the record high at 7,903 remaining tantalisingly just out of reach.
“Today’s main drag on the UK benchmark has been the more defensive sectors of healthcare, with some underperformance from some big caps like Unilever, AstraZeneca, and HSBC.”
Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said: “This looks like a temporary interruption to the index’s victorious progress however – the trading statement season has gone well so far for UK firms, providing a foundation for further gains in the near term.”
Across the Atlantic, US traders returned to work with some pessimism, with the key markets slipping on the opening bell after the latest Empire manufacturing survey showed economic activity plunged in January.
Meanwhile, sterling received a lift after the latest labour market figures showed a rise in wage inflation.
The pound was up 0.59% against the dollar at 1.226 and was 0.87% higher against the euro at 1.136 at the close.
In company news, Ocado led the fallers on the FTSE 100 after its latest trading update disappointed investors, who had been hopeful after positive announcements by retail rivals.
The company revealed record Christmas sales but highlighted that the size of customer baskets fell over the last three months of the year and indicated it could drop further.
As a result, shares in the business closed 75p lower at 733p.
Elsewhere, Revolution Bars tumbled more than a quarter after the hospitality firm said it is shutting venues on Mondays and Tuesdays this month and in early February in a bid to cut its energy bill.
The group said earnings for the year are “likely to be lower than previously guided” as it also highlighted that industrial action by rail workers impacted revenues.
Shares finished the day 2p lower at 5.4p.
Spirits giant Diageo gained ground after investors welcomed its deal to buy Philippines dark rum brand Don Papa Rum. Diageo shares moved 65p higher to 3,766.5p.
The price of oil bounced back amid renewed hopes that Chinese demand will recover following the easing of pandemic restrictions.
Brent crude oil increased by 1.5% to 84.2 US dollars (£68.63) per barrel when the London markets closed.
The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 were SSE, up 36p at 1,718.5p, Diageo, up 65p at 3,766.5p, National Grid, up 15.5p at 1,037.5p, Weir Group, up 26.5p at 1,836.5p, and BT Group, up 1.9p at 132.2p.
The biggest fallers of the session were Ocado, down 75p at 733p, Berkeley, down 120p at 4,337p, JD Sports, down 3.25p at 158.5p, Endeavour Mining, down 37p at 1,930p, and WPP, down 16.4p at 924.4p.
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