Speculation over plans to tackle eurozone debt and disappointing earnings from US investment bank Goldman Sachs have led to losses on the London market.
The FTSE 100 Index closed 79.7 points lower at 5976.7 after Goldman reported a 53% plunge in fourth-quarter profits due to sharp declines in its investment banking businesses.
Confidence in the banking sector was shaken further by reports out of Germany that Greece’s debt may have to be restructured. The German government was reported to be considering a plan that would allow the Greek government to retire some of its debt early, using subsidised credits from the EU bailout fund.
Barclays, which has also been troubled by a fine and compensation order totalling £67 million on Tuesday from the Financial Services Authority, dropped more than 3% or 11.6p at 296.1p.
But sentiment was weak across the Footsie financials as HSBC lost 5.2p at 704.1p, Lloyds dropped 1.6p to 66.2p and investment bank Investec eased 12.5p at 513p.
The pound continued to make gains against the dollar, up at 1.59, as sterling continued to feel the effect of Tuesday’s high-inflation report, but was down against the euro at 1.18.
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 45p to 1051p, or 4%.
But the focus was largely outside the top flight after the latest flurry of updates.
While bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes raced 7% and 2% 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 12.3p to 189p 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.