FTSE 100 ends lower on dismal earnings from Reckitt, St. James's Place

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain

By Shristi Achar A and Johann M Cherian

(Reuters) - The UK's main FTSE index closed down on Wednesday as earnings updates from Reckitt and St. James's Place disappointed investors, while caution loomed ahead of key inflation figures from the U.S. and Europe this week.

Reckitt tumbled 13.3% for its worst day since December 1999 after missing quarterly like-for-like net sales expectations as an investigation showed some employees had under-reported liabilities in the Middle East.

The personal care, drug and grocery stores index housing consumer staples names, dropped 3.7%.

St. James's Place slumped 18.6% to an 11-year low after the wealth manager swung to an annual loss, hit by a 426 million pound ($538.98 million) provision made for potential client refunds over historic ongoing servicing complaints.

"It's definitely not been one of the better earning seasons and there has been weakness, and that's not necessarily surprising given the macroeconomic backdrop, not just in the UK, but also globally," said Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index.

More broadly, the large-cap FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 index shed 0.8% each.

Nearly two months into 2024, against the backdrop of a slowing local economy, the more domestically exposed mid-cap index has starkly underperformed its more internationally-focused peer, with the former down over 3% year-to-date, compared with a 0.8% decline in the FTSE 100.

In prime focus will be U.S. and European inflation data this week that could offer insights into when central banks in the developed world could start cutting interest rates.

Among other stocks, Taylor Wimpey fell 4.8% after the homebuilder said it would build fewer homes this year.

Aston Martin dropped 4.0% as the luxury carmaker pushed back plans to launch its first battery electric vehicle by a year.

In a bright spot, HICL Infrastructure added 2.5% after announcing a share buyback plan and the disposal of its equity interest in the Northwest Parkway toll-road project.

(Reporting by Shristi Achar A and Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Chris Reese)