By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
But blue-chip index still above 7,400, after reaching record closes last week
U.K. stocks edged lower Monday, finding no relief after the pound retreated on the U.K. government's announcement of when it will trigger the start of the Brexit process.
The FTSE 100 shed 0.1% to 7,416.20, with oil and gas, mining and financial shares among those losing ground. On Friday, the London benchmark rose 0.1% to 7,424.96, a record closing high. That was the index's second close at a record in a row, and those moves helped the blue-chip gauge gain 1.1% for the week.
"Equity markets are making a negative start to the week as a significant dearth of macroeconomic and corporate news is leaving investors with a lack of drivers," said Henry Croft, research analyst at Accendo Markets, in Monday afternoon note.
Stocks remained stuck in the red even as the pound swung lower after the U.K. government said British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on March 29 to begin the process of leaving the European Union.
G-20 overhang: There was also gloom over the market following the weekend's Group of 20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Baden-Baden, Germany.
The "G-20 meeting revived worries about the U.S.'s trade protectionism as finance chiefs were brought to drop a reference to fight protectionism in their joint statement," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at London Capital Group, in a note.
"Several leaders were left frustrated with the U.S.'s position regarding the global trade under Trump administration, including China, Japan, Russia, Germany and France," she said.
Sterling: The pound's drop didn't push the FTSE 100 out of negative territory. Blue-chips tend to rise when the pound falls, as it boosts the prospects of stronger earnings and sales from overseas for multinational companies.
Sterling came off session highs, buying $1.2393, little changed from $1.2397 late Friday. The pound earlier on Monday hit an intraday high of $1.2436, the first time in three weeks it traded above $1.24. It notched an intraday low of $1.2364.
The "pound is caught between last week's dovish [rate] hike from the Fed, the Bank of England's non-unanimous rate vote, where Kristen Forbes signaled that she believes an increase is in order, and Tuesday's inflation figure, which is set to cross the BOE's long-held 2% target," wrote Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex.
Stocks in focus: Shares of oil producers BP PLC (>> BP plc) (>> BP plc) fell 0.8% and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (>> Royal Dutch Shell Plc)(>> Royal Dutch Shell Plc) lost 0.7% as oil prices dropped, with some analysts saying pressure came as the G-20 officials dropped the group's stance against protectionism. West Texas Intermediate oil fell more than 1% to trade closer to $48 a barrel.
Associated British Foods PLC (>> Associated British Foods plc) climbed 1.7% after Goldman Sachs raised its rating on the company to buy from neutral, saying its fashion retail unit Primark is returning to growth.
Unilever PLC (>> Unilever plc) (>> Unilever plc) is looking at a GBP6 billion sale of its spreads business, which includes the Flora and Stork brands, according to a Sunday Times report (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/unilever-lines-up-6bn-sale-of-flora-and-stork-87bxxlnd2). Shares were up 0.6%.
Vodafone Group PLC (>> Vodafone Group plc) (>> Vodafone Group plc) reached a deal to merge most of its Indian operations with Idea Cellular Ltd . (532822.BY), the country's third-largest mobile operator. Shares of Vodafone were fractionally lower.