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Ex-dividend trading trips FTSE 100; National Express tumbles

(Reuters) - The FTSE 100 fell for the first time in five sessions on Thursday as a clutch of blue-chip firms traded ex-dividend, while National Express Group slumped after reporting a pre-tax loss for the first half of the year.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past the London Stock Exchange Group offices in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

A 1.5% decline for the blue-chip index .FTSE saw it lead losses among European peers and pull back from three-week highs as firms including AstraZeneca AZN.L, BP BP.L, Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L and Legal & General Group LGEN.L traded without entitlement to a dividend payout. [.EU]

“A combination of some big stocks trading without the rights to their dividend and a bit of profit taking after a strong run for equities so far in August saw the FTSE 100 on the back foot,” said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

The FTSE 100 is up about 5% so far this month, which if gains hold, will be its best month since April. But the index lags its U.S. and European peers as data points to a much bigger hit to the UK economy from the health crisis.

Although key sectors such as housing have begun to show signs of a rebound, analysts have warned that the mini-boom could go bust once the government’s jobs subsidy programme closes in less than three months’ time and a tax cut expires at the end of March.

Global sentiment also remained unexciting as a deadlock over a U.S. stimulus weighed.

In earnings, bus company National Express NEX.L tumbled 16.2% and posted its worst day since March as it warned of more pressure on its finances over the next year.

London's mid-cap FTSE 250 .FTMC was off 0.9%, retreating from a two-month high.

Tourism company TUI TUIT.LTUIGn.DE fell after it said it was considering divestments or raising new equity to reduce debt taken on to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Insurer Just Group JUSTJ.L and Watches of Switzerland WOSG.L both jumped on upbeat forecasts, while engineering company Renishaw RSW.L slid on scrapping its dividend.

Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Elaine Hardcastle

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