Investors were left disappointed by earnings results from US investment bank Goldman Sachs as markets on both sides of the Atlantic were weighed down by the financial sector.
Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average was lower after Goldman reported a 53% plunge in fourth-quarter profits due to sharp declines in its investment banking businesses. Its stock fell 2.6%.
In the UK, the FTSE 100 Index lost 25.8 points to 6030.63, with banks and miners leading the retreat from Tuesday’s fresh 31-month high.
Barclays, which has also been troubled by uncertainty in the eurozone and a £67 million fine and compensation order on Tuesday from the Financial Services Authority, dropped more than 2% or 6.2p at 301.5p.
Sentiment was weak across the Footsie financials as HSBC lost 0.7p at 710p, Lloyds dropped 0.6p to 67.1p and investment bank Investec eased 33p at 5701p.
Financial Times publisher Pearson headed gains on London’s FTSE 100 after it raised guidance for a key earnings target in an upbeat trading statement. The group’s shares rose 59p to 1065p, or 6%.
But the focus was largely outside the top flight after the latest flurry of updates.
While bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes raced 7% and 3% higher, Comet parent Kesa plummeted and embattled music and book group HMV suffered hefty falls as Christmas trading woes took their toll.
William Hill shares rose 13.3p to 190p as it said the weather conditions that decimated sporting fixtures in the run-up to Christmas may not have been as damaging to its business as many feared.
It forecast annual profits at the top end of expectations and said retail turnover grew by 4% in December, despite the weather disruption.