U.K. Stocks Slip Ahead Of Holiday; Diageo Shares Hit

Dow Jones Newswires

Equities in the U.K. slipped Thursday, with Diageo PLC shares souring after a quarterly sales update, and as investors were cautious as violence erupted in Ukraine ahead of a long holiday weekend.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index shed 0.2% to 6,569.72, but was still in line for minor rise of 0.1% for the week which will be shortened by the Good Friday holiday. Read: The best stocks to play thriving U.K. economy.

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Heading into the holiday, talks between Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the U.S. were being held in Geneva centered on Ukraine's political crisis and tension with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the Kiev government committed "a serious crime" by sending in troops to stop unrest in Ukraine's eastern region.

Three pro-Russian protesters were killed and 13 wounded on Thursday after a clash with Ukrainian authorities at a military installation in the southeastern city of Mariupol.

Among individual stocks, Diageo PLC led losses on the FTSE 100. Shares fell 4.2% after the drinks company, whose brands include Smirnoff vodka and Guinness stout, said sales declined 1.3% in the third quarter, on currency weakness as well as on softer activity in emerging markets.

British luxury-products retailer Mulberry PLC warned Thursday it now expects annual profit before tax of roughly GBP14 million ($23.5 million), slightly below expectations. Mulberry said it plans to unveil lower-priced products in a bid to bolster sales. But Mulberry shares , which are off of the FTSE 100, were higher by 1.1%.

Meanwhile, shares of Burberry Group PLC were down 1.7%. Burberry on Wednesday said second-half sales rose 19%, but that it expects currency exchange rates to weigh on profit.

Although unlisted, investors in U.K. assets keep watch on Co-operative Group Ltd., and the embattled conglomerate posted a full-year net loss of GBP2.3 billion ($3.86 billion), mainly stemming from an operating loss at Co-operative Bank PLC of GBP1.44 billion.

The FTSE 100 finished Thursday's session up by 0.7%.