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Weak company earnings drag down FTSE

Wednesday, March 05 17:15:22

Britain's top share index fell again today after rebounding from two-week lows in the previous session, with updates from some companies disappointing investors and tensions over Ukraine weighing on sentiment.

Engineering turnaround specialist Melrose fell 7.8 percent, the top decliner on the FTSE 100 index, after warning of challenging market conditions and saying sales growth in 2014 would not be easy to achieve.

Legal and General, a provider of life insurance and pensions, fell 1.9 percent, with analysts flagging a small miss in operational profit, while Standard Chartered dropped 2.1 percent after reporting its first drop in annual profits for a decade and saying its profits will remain "challenged" in the first half.

"Some large-cap companies have been particularly hit today, with Standard Chartered coming under pressure," James Butterfill, global equity strategist at Coutts, said.

"There has been some easing in tension, but the crisis in Ukraine is far from resolved and could easily deteriorate, if the situation is not handled sensitively."

French President Francois Hollande hosted a meeting of the U.S., Russian, British, French and German foreign ministers on Wednesday to discuss the Ukraine crisis.

The West and Russia, which said it could not order "self-defence" forces in Crimea back to their bases, are facing the most serious confrontation since the end of the Cold War over influence in Ukraine, a major commodities exporter and strategic link between East and West.

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.7 percent at 6,775.42 points after rebounding 1.7 percent in the previous session following a fall of 1.5 percent on Monday on Ukraine tensions.