Blue chip shares struggled for direction for the second day in a row as traders hold their breath over whether US President Trump can deliver his sweeping political programme.

US lawmakers debate Trump's bill to repeal Obamacare health reforms on Thursday (23 March), with the vote expected to hang on a knife edge. Investors will take the result as a sign of the President's chances of delivering the deep tax cuts and a $1trn infrastructure programme he campaigned on.

The FTSE 100 Index slipped seven points to 7317.8, with German's DAX and the Cac 40 in France both slightly higher.

In London, Next was the strongest riser in the top flight, even though it posted its first fall in profit for eight years as the high street fashion chain was hit by tightening household budgets, weaker sterling and poor stock selection.

The retail bellwether posted a 3.8% slide in annual pre-tax profits to £790.2m, down from £821.3m last year, the first time it has failed to grow profits since its 2008-09 year, at the height of the financial crisis.

The chain said full-price sales slipped 1.3%, as the business neglected to stock some of its best-selling staples. But it said it has beefed up its range of staples, which will be reflected in its summer stock, but it added "we will not have our ranges where we want them until the autumn season".

Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said: "Next has to get its house in order and focus more on its core product – something it says it began doing in January.

"Fundamentally the business remains strongly cash generative even if it's not expanding rapidly and is able to maintain solid returns to investors."

Next lifted more than 7%, or 282p to 4167p.

The biggest afternoon risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Next (+282p to 4167p), Marks & Spencer (+8.6p to 333.5p), Ashtead Group (+34p to 1642p), EasyJet (+16p to 1001p) and Royal Bank of Scotland (+3.7p to 238.7p).

The biggest afternoon fallers in the FTSE 100 Index were Hikma Pharmaceuticals (-55p to 2017p), Pearson (-12.5p to 633p), Randgold Resources (-110p to 7185p), Smurfit Kappa (-24p to 2151p) and Reckitt Benckiser (-76p to 7354p).

The biggest afternoon risers in the FTSE 250 Index were Halma (+52.5p to 1012p), Savills (+41p to 917.5p), Marshalls (+14.3p to 364.3p), Softcat (+12.5p to380.8p) and GVC Holdings (+22p to730p).

The biggest afternoon fallers in the FTSE 250 Index Ted Baker (-161p to 2679p), IG Group (-20.5p to 503.5p), Allied Minds (-11.6p to 336p), Kaz Minerals (-16.2p to 478.8p) and Sergo (-10.1p to 452.8p).