FTSE down slightly

FTSE down slightly

BP outperformed its oil rivals in the FTSE 100 Index today after incoming chief executive Bob Dudley announced a raft of measures aimed at rebuilding the shaken company.

Shares in the oil giant climbed 8.7p or 2% to 413.8p after Mr Dudley, who takes over from embattled boss Tony Hayward on Friday, said he hoped the launch of a new safety division would restore trust after the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

But BP's gains were not reflected in the wider market, as weak housing data rattled investor confidence and saw the FTSE 100 fall 16 points at 5562.

The number of mortgages approved for house purchases fell to a six-month low during August.

A total of 47,372 loans were approved for house purchase during the month, down from 48,346 in July, according to the Bank of England.

Banking stocks were among the FTSE 100 losers, with Barclays down 3.6p to 305.4p, HSBC off 11.7p at 647.8 and Royal Bank of Scotland slipping 1p to 47.1p.

Elsewhere in the top flight, BP's competitors failed to follow suit, with Royal Dutch Shell down 1p at 22.1p, Tullow Oil off 2p at 1281 and Cairn Energy slipping 1.6p to 458.5p.

Airport scanners and medical devices firm Smiths Group reported a 17% rise in annual profits to £435m (€504.5m), but an initial rally in shares faltered as investors noted cautious comments over the potential impact of government spending cuts on sales growth. Stocks were down 2p to 1212p.

Rolls held its spot at the top of the risers board with a gain of 4% or 21.7p to 613.3p after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock and said the City may have missed the potential for improved profitability following the recovery in after-markets.

Other firms on the front foot included Smith & Nephew, which climbed 5.5p to 570p, while industrial testing firm Intertek added 16p to 1836p.

Elsewhere, Dairy Crest put back recent falls to rise 23.7p to 372.7p in the FTSE 250 Index after it announced that it has renewed a contract to supply the supermarket Morrisons with fresh milk through to 2015.

Transport provider FirstGroup added 18.2p to 367.8p after reporting signs of more stable trading in its North American school bus arm.

The Aberdeen-based group said demand for first class train travel is also recovering to levels not seen since the recession struck and said it was trading in line with management expectations.

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