British stocks ended lower Tuesday as corporate results failed to inspire investors who were looking for direction on a day when most European markets were closed for the May Day holiday.
BP's Chief Executive John Browne also announced that he was stepping down after losing a court battle against a newspaper that wanted to publish details about his personal life and sexual orientation. The shares slipped 0.4 percent.
The FTSE 100 index closed down 0.5 percent, or 29.60 points, at 6,419.60. Trading lacked inspiration, with most Continental indexes closed. U.S. stocks got off to a mixed start, while Japanese stocks closed lower in a week also affected by holidays.
In Turkey, the stock market continued its slide, dropping 3.2 percent ahead of a decision by the nation's highest court to cancel last week's disputed presidential vote. The benchmark index had sunk 6.3 percent on Monday.
Analyst David Buik at Cantor Fitzgerald said he believes the London market was in a holding pattern before several busy earnings days later in the week.
"We need something exciting to get things moving," Buik said, noting that volumes are low in London. "It's all happening later in week when we have companies such as British Sky Broadcasting reporting earnings."
More broadly, the market has been trending upward, noted Stuart Fowler, head of U.K. equities at AXA Investment Management.
In the last month, the FTSE 100 index managed to add on 1.7 percent from a close of 6,308 at the end of March.
"Corporate news is sufficiently supportive so there's no reason to think that this shouldn't carry on," Fowler noted.
Among banking groups, Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley and Lloyds TSB were all weaker. Data showed that the U.K. could be in line for a half-point rate hike in May after very strong consumer confidence figures were released.
"April's strong CBI retail trade survey is the sort of report that will make the Bank of England blanch," said David Brown, chief European economist at Bear Stearns. "The jump in retail confidence underlines that consumer demand is getting too robust and could swing the probability odds to a half-point rather than quarter-point U.K. rate rise next week."
Mining shares including BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Rio Tinto all lost more than 0.3 percent as metals prices slipped.
Shares of Imperial Tobacco, the world's fourth-largest cigarette maker, declined 1.2 percent as the chief executive said he was hopeful the company could still acquire Franco-Spanish Altadis.
Newly promoted to the FTSE 100, Punch Taverns declined 3.4 percent, backing off from gains made on Monday. Punch met analyst expectations for adjusted pretax profit.
InterContinental shares rose 1 percent after the reclusive Barclay Brothers took their stake in the hotels group to 8.2 percent from 7.1 percent.
Sarah Turner is a correspondent of Dow Jones Newswires.