Britain's top shares ticked lower in early trading on Wednesday, largely consolidating the previous session's strong gains, with ex-dividend factors accounting for all the decline, and strength in miners keeping the blue chip index just below the gain line.
At 0736 GMT, the FTSE 100 <.FTSE> index was down 1.76 points, or 0.1 percent at 5,765.19, having leapt 1.8 percent higher on Tuesday, holding just below the level at which it started April and after a roller-coaster ride so far this month.
Ex-dividend considerations knocked 9.10 points off the FTSE 100 index on Wednesday, with Aggreko
The retailer posted a 1.6 percent rise in full-year group profit before tax and one-off items to 3.9 billion pounds, broadly in line with an average forecast of 3.88 billion pounds.
Today's results are all about the performance of the struggling UK business, and though the Q4 LFL (like-for-like sales) of -1.6 percent ex-petrol isn't quite as bad as worst fears, much needs to be done to turn the situation around and there is plenty of focus on the £1bn investment underway to do just that, independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said.
Other food retailers pushed higher in sympathy, with WM Morrison
Miners <.FTNMX1770> also lent their strength to the FTSE 100 index, with the sector underpinned by a bounce in copper prices helped by upbeat comment on the global growth outlook from the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday.
Precious metals miner Fresnillo
Weakness in integrated oils <.FTNMX0530> was the biggest sectoral drag on the blue chips, falling back after gains in the previous session as Brent crude futures eased.
Investors were also cautious ahead of minutes from the April Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee meeting, to be published at 0830 GMT, with all its nine members expected to have voted to maintain UK interest rates at record low levels.
An outcome of 7-2 is expected for the vote on any change to the central bank's quantitative easing programme, also unchanged from the previous month.
Britain's latest jobs report will also be unveiled at 0830 GMT, with March claimant count unemployment seen up 7,200, after also rising 7,200 in February, and the ILO unemployment rate seen unchanged at 8.4 percent in February.
Technical analysts were also cautious on the market rally.
Although the short-term intraday charts indicate a shift in sentiment to the upside, the bigger picture shows that the index is merely finishing a normal retracement, said James A. Hyerczyk, analyst at Autochartist.
Now that the market has reached this retracement zone, the battle between the bulls and bears should begin. If the bulls win the battle, then traders should look for a challenge of the high for the year at 5,989.10. A failure to win the battle will put the market back in the hands of the bearish traders. This means another challenge of the low for the year at 5,572.30.
(Editing by Catherine Evans)