FTSE backtracks

The FTSE 100 Index was back below the 5000 barrier today after a 2% fall for Japan’s Nikkei index set the tone for a lacklustre start to week.

The Footsie was 36.6 points lower at 4974.8 by mid-morning, with sliding oil and metal prices weighing down petrochemical and mining sectors.

Oil prices fell to near $68 a barrel, while US stock futures pointed to a lower open on Wall Street.

Nikkei’s sharp fall came as Japan’s stronger currency weighed on major exporters like Toyota and Canon amid concerns it would erode the value of their overseas profits.

With corporate news thin on the ground, miners dominated the fallers board. Eurasian Natural Resources was the sector’s worst casualty, losing 30p to 840p, while Vedanta Resources dropped 52p to 1880p.

Another leading Footsie faller was catalytic convertors firm Johnson Matthey, which slid 3% or 37p to 1410p after a broker downgrade from Morgan Stanley.

Heading the other way was bid target Cadbury, up 4p to 779.5p after the Dairy Milk maker’s latest snub to US food giant Kraft over the weekend, criticising its would-be acquirer’s “low growth” business.

In the FTSE 250, broadcaster ITV gained as much as 4% amid speculation that a ban on product placement in television shows will be lifted.

But shares later fell back – to stand 0.1p higher at 54.6p – ahead of a separate ruling due tomorrow from the Competition Commission on possible changes to rules for selling advertising.

Meanwhile, a warning from a leading think tank that property values will not return to their 2007 peak for at least another five years unsettled housebuilders, with Barratt Developments down 11p at 269.8p and Persimmon off 10.5p at 504p.

Sports World owner Sports Direct was down another 4p to 103.9p as shares continued to flag following news of probes into alleged anti-competitive practices and fraud last week.

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