Direct Line drags FTSE 100 down 1.8%

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(Close): London's leading shares closed almost 110 points lower on Thursday, with insurer Direct Line leading the slide with a 9% fall.

Losses mounted in late trading to leave the FTSE 100 1.8% lower at 6,036.7 points.

Direct Line was one of several companies going ex-dividend, along with BHP Billiton, which fell 4.9%.

Supermarket chain Morrisons, which recently returned to the FTSE 100, was another big faller, shedding 4.5%.

The decline came after the retailer posted a further drop in annual profits as a result of the price war in the supermarket sector.

Shopping centre owner Intu Properties, a recent entrant to the FTSE, was the top riser, adding almost 1.5% to 299.8p.

The company, whose centres include Lakeside in Essex and the Trafford and Arndale centres in Manchester, is worth just over £4bn.

On the FTSE 250, estate agent Savills rose 5.2%, while OneSavingsBank was the biggest faller, losing 7.8%.

On the currency markets, the pound rose 0.6% against the dollar to $1.4301, but tumbled 0.9% against the euro to €1.2810.