FTSE down slightly

Weaker oil and energy stocks after falling crude prices saw the FTSE 100 Index end a volatile session in the red today.

London's blue chips see-sawed through the day with spikes coming from healthy profits at mobile phone giant Vodafone and some better news from the US housing market.

Losses in the mining and housebuilding sectors and oil dipping back below the US$130 a barrel mark weighed down the Footsie to leave it down 28.8 points at 6058.5.

Analysts cited oil's drop on fears that high petrol prices were dampening down demand. The dip saw BP lose 13.5p to 616.5p, with fellow prospectors Cairn Energy and BG Group easing 72p to 3371p and 20p to 1291p respectively.

On the flip side, they provided a welcome boost for fuel-dependent British Airways, which added 8.25p to 214.75p.

The building and property sectors spent the day on the back foot after leading housebuilder Barratt Developments was hit by a wave of selling.

Reports that one broker had put seven million shares in the firm on sale knocked the stock 4% lower, or 9.25p at 210.75p, and left rivals in negative territory.

Persimmon, which owns Charles Church, dropped 5p to 509p while second-tier rival Taylor Wimpey eased 0.75p to 95.75p.

Property developers Hammerson and Land Securities were also in the red, losing 19p to 901p and 15p to 1416p respectively.

Vodafone shares were higher for a while after the mobile phone company announced plans for chief executive Arun Sarin to hand over the reins to his deputy Vittorio Colao. While the departure came as a surprise, analysts were hopeful the move will not result in a change in strategy. Shares later gave back the gains to stand 2.8p lower at 160.5p.

Among the other fallers, B&Q owner Kingfisher dipped 1.9p to 138.1p after the holiday weekend proved a washout for many parts of the country, dashing hopes for a boost in demand for seasonal items.

On a brighter note, possible bid interest in Peroni brewing firm SABMiller caused shares in the London-listed company to jump by 7%.

Weekend speculation relating to an approach from InBev, should an offer for Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch fall through, meant SABMiller gained 85p to 1309p.

In the FTSE 250 Index, Northern Foods jumped 0.25p to 86.25p after announcing annual profits at the top end of expectations. It was matched on the FTSE 250 Index by Yell, which gained 2.5p to 128.25p amid speculation it could be a bid target for Microsoft.

Elsewhere, Moss Bros dived 5.25p to 40.25p, after investment group Baugur said it was no longer interested in a takeover.

The Footsie's four biggest risers were SABMiller, up 85p to 1309p, British Airways up 8.25p to 214.75p, Compass Group up 11.5p to 373.25p and Tui Travel which closed 7p down at 240.5p.

The four biggest fallers were Imperial Tobacco, off 64p at 2065p, Admiral Group down 23.5p at 849.5p, Wood Group down 10.75p at 451.25p and Royal Bank of Scotland which ended the day 5.5p down at 241.25p.

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