FTSE dragged down by ex-dividend firms

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(Close): The London market ended the day in the red, with Centrica among the biggest fallers following its latest results.

The British Gas owner closed 3.7% lower after Centrica reported a 4% rise in annual profits.

However, profits at its British Gas domestic business fell 11%.

The FTSE 100 index closed down 31 points, or 0.4%, at 7,271.3, with a number of firms falling after going ex-dividend.

Easyjet, Rio Tinto and HSBC were the biggest fallers after their shares no longer carried the right to their latest dividend.

Easyjet fell 6%, Rio Tinto shed 5.3% and HSBC ended 4% lower.

The biggest gainer on the FTSE was UK shopping centre landlord Intu Properties, which soared 6.7% after increaseing its dividend payout for the first time in five years.

Intu owns properties including Manchester's Trafford Centre.

RSA Insurance was also among the biggest risers on the FTSE, up 4.8% after its full-year results beat forecasts.

The insurer reported operating profits of £655m, 25% higher than the previous year.

Shares in Barclays, which had risen strongly in early trading after the bank reported a near trebling of full-year profits to £3.2bn ended the day 2.6% lower.

Shareholders baulked at warnings from chairman John McFarlane that "significant challenges remain" as the bank fights US authorities over allegations surrounding its part in a mortgage bond mis-selling scandal.

BAE Systems finished 0.66% higher after annual operating profits of £1.74bn for 2016, up from £1.5bn.

"With an improved outlook for defence budgets in a number of our markets, we are well placed to continue to generate attractive returns for shareholders," said chief executive Ian King.

On the currency markets, the pound rose 0.85% against the US dollar to $1.2556 and climbed 0.54% against the euro to 1.1858 euros.