FTSE recoups losses
London's FTSE 100 and European stocks endured a choppy session on 21 March. Getty Images

UK and European markets began the holiday-shortened week on a slightly downbeat note, as stocks ended a choppy session in the red amid light trading volumes. London's FTSE 100 closed down 0.08% to 6,184.58 and was followed into the red by its European counterparts. Germany's Dax and France's CAC 40 lost 0.02% and 0.78% respectively, while the Pan European Stoxx 600 fell.

Economists warned stocks could struggle for direction for the foreseeable future, though that may prove to be beneficial for the markets. "This [the current trading pattern] may however be a positive for those expecting further gains," said IG's senior market analyst Chris Beauchamp.

"If buyers can hold the line for a while longer, we may see the scepticism that greeted the February bounce turn into something more tangible, and if fund flows turn positive stock
markets could find the upward momentum they have been searching for."

Miners down as Sainsbury's gains

A number of mining stocks were under pressure across both London's main benchmarks and Antofagasta was the worst performer of the day on the FTSE 100, losing over 3%. At the other end of the scale, Sainsbury's was on the front foot after revealing on Friday it had completed the takeover of Argos-owner Home Retail for £1.4bn (€1.8bn, $2bn).

There was more positive news for the retailer after analysts at Nomura upgraded their target price on the stock, while pharmaceutical giant Shire led London's blue-chip risers after receiving positive comments from a number of analysts over the last few weeks and announcing a dividend.

Among FTSE 250 stocks, Halfords and N Brown were both on the back foot after UBS downgraded its stance on both stocks as it adopted a more bearish view on the UK general retail sector over the next 12 months.

However, there was more positive news for specialty chemicals firm Synthomer, which gained strongly, after announcingthe $226m acquisition of Hexion Performance Adhesives & Coatings.

Elsewhere, oil prices edged higher, with both benchmarks gaining over 0.2%. Brent crude rose 0.22% to $41.29 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate climbed 0.29% to $41.26 a barrel.

FTSE 100 - Top 5 risers

Shire Plc +4.31%
Paddy Power Betfair +1.75%
Sainsbury +1.32%
Worldpay Group +1.10%
Pearson +1.06%

FTSE 100 - Top 5 fallers

Antofagasta -3.69%
London Stock Exchange Group -2.70%
TUI AG -2.34%
Aviva -2.22%
Rolls-Royce Holdings -2.16%

FTSE 250 - Top 5 risers

Synthomer +5.63%
McCarthy & Stone +5.19%
Allied Minds +4.62%
Dechra Pharmaceuticals +3.80%
Vedanta Resources +3.68%

FTSE 250 - Top 5 fallers

Brown (N.) Group -6.22%
Halfords Group -5.34%
Polypipe Group -4.88%
Mitie Group -4.06%
Supergroup -3.91%