FTSE Close: Stocks dip ahead of US inflation data; grocers, insurers weigh

The FTSE 100 ended lower on Wednesday ahead of a key US inflation report Thursday that could impact Fed policy direction. Grocers and insurers were among the biggest blue-chip drags, while housebuilders advanced.

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.4% at 7,651.76. The mid-cap FTSE 250 also ticked down 0.1% to 19,280.08 and the AIM All-Share lost 0.4%, at 749.71.

Traders now await the latest US consumer price figures, which according to analyst consensus are forecasted to edge down slightly, showing a slight moderation in annual headline and core inflation.

Berkeley and Taylor Wimpey led FTSE 100 risers with gains of over 1% each. Meanwhile, FTSE 250 housebuilder Persimmon surged 6.3%, beating its completion target and reporting a healthy forward sales position.

Sainsbury’s tumbled 6.3% as clothing and general merchandise sales disappointed over the vital Christmas period, overshadowing resilient grocery growth. Grocery peers Ocado and Tesco also declined.

Additionally, insurers Admiral and Direct Line plunged over 5% each.

On the upside, FTSE 250 bakery chain Greggs gained 5.4% following a 20% annual jump in total sales, pinned on further transaction growth.

In other news, small-cap Costain said it has won a major contract from Northumbria Water worth up to £670 million over 12 years. Its shares climbed 9.0%. Meanwhile, Marks Electrical plunged 24% after profit guidance was cut, hurt by narrowing margins over the peak Christmas season.