The pan-European STOXX 600 <.STOXX> closed 0.6% lower, with London's FTSE 100 <.FTSE> sliding 1.5% as a jump in the pound hurt exporters on the index, while heavyweights like AstraZeneca <AZN.L>, BP <BP.L>, and GlaxoSmithKline <GSK.L> traded without entitlement to a dividend payout, hitting their shares. Reversing a recent trend, investors favoured pockets of markets that have remained resilient in the wake of the coronavirus crisis such as the technology sector. On Wall Street, Apple <AAPL.O> was set to record $2 trillion in market capitalisation.
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. "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.
Cybersecurity firm Avast said on Wednesday it expected full-year organic revenue to grow at the upper end of its forecast after a strong first half, underpinned by the work-from-home trend. Shares in Avast, which joined the FTSE 100 index in June and touched an all-time high of 604.5 pence last month, were trading 5% lower in early deals at 569 pence. Chief Executive Ondrej Vlcek said Avast performed strongly in the half, aided by increased demand for its anti-virus, privacy and performance software driven by people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.