Short sellers are predicting bad news from Wm Morrison's preliminary results tomorrow.
The supermarket has been falling steadily since September but many think it can fall further, with data from Astec Analytics showing the number of shares being borrowed, the prerequisite for short selling, at the highest level in almost a year.
Morrisons, down 2.9p at 230.8p, is expected to launch a turnaround strategy tomorrow but Santander warned that "a dramatic operational deterioration" has constrained management's options. Numbers from Kantar Worldpanel yesterday revealed a fall in both market share and sales in the first quarter.
Aviva rose after upgrades from Nomura and Royal Bank of Canada. Fahad Changazi at Nomura thinks Aviva is still trading at a discount to peers. The insurer added 14p to 523.5p.
Merrill Lynch helped Reckitt Benckiser and Next to the top of the table in two separate notes. The broker reckons Reckitt's purchase of lubricant-maker K-Y earlier in the week is just the start of a possible acquisition spree, talk that sent the consumer goods group up 113p to 4,953p. Another missive dubbing Next "the gift that keeps on giving" helped it climb 150p to 6,745p.
But any gains on the blue chip index were held back by the banks after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned that the forex rigging scandal currently unfolding could be "as serious" as Libor. Barclays fell to a 15-month low, down 5.85p at 236.15p, not helped by a forecast downgrade from Morgan Stanley.
The FTSE 100 closed down 3.93 points at 6,685.52.
On the mid-cap index, African Barrick Gold lost almost a fifth of its value, down 58.1p at 250p, after its parent company cashed out.
Toronto-based Barrick Gold sold a 10 per cent stake and Goldman Sachs warned that last year's attempt to sell its entire 73 per cent holding to China National Gold means further disposals are likely.
Share, parent company of independent retail stockbroker The Share Centre, was the day's biggest riser on AIM thanks to positive results, up 8.5p to 37.5p.Reuse content