FTSE drops slightly

Shares in BP and Marks & Spencer jumped by more than 2% today as the blue-chip pair overcame a lacklustre session for the wider London market.

BP's recovery came as speculation mounted that the beleaguered oil giant is looking for a strategic investor to help secure its future.

The stock, which hit a 14-year low last month, is said to have asked advisers to drum up interest among rival oil groups and sovereign wealth funds about taking a stake of between 5% and 10% at a cost of up to £6bn (€7.25bn).

BP shares rose 8.15p to 330.15p, a gain which helped the FTSE 100 Index remain near to its opening mark with a drop of 1.8 points to 4836.3.

The rise for BP materialised at the same time as it said the clean-up costs from the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster had reached £2bn (€2.4bn).

With US markets closed for the Independence Day holiday, investors were experiencing a slim session for trading volumes.

As well as BP, M&S shares rose 3% as the market positioned itself ahead of the company's first quarter trading update on Wednesday.

Despite the more nervy retail climate, Nomura analyst Fraser Ramzan expects like-for-like sales growth in food of 1.5% with a 4% advance in general merchandise, which includes clothes.

In a strong session for the retail sector, Next added 30p to 2019p, B&Q owner Kingfisher added 2.8p to 210.6p and Burberry cheered 9.5p to 749p.

This was despite disappointing monthly growth figures in the services sector, which offered fresh signs of a consumer spending slowdown.

The other big rise in the FTSE 100 Index came from school books-to-Penguin publisher Pearson after analysts at Royal Bank of Scotland removed their sell rating on the stock. Pearson rose almost 2%, or 16.5p to 883.5p.

Banks and mining stocks were under pressure as Royal Bank of Scotland dropped by a penny to 39.1p, Barclays fell 4.4p to 262.5p and Anglo American eased 26p to 2277.5p.

One of the biggest moves in the FTSE 250 Index came from plumbing supplies firm BSS after it backed a cash and shares takeover offer from builders' merchant Travis Perkins.

The proposal valued BSS at £558m (€674.1m), slightly higher than previously thought and sufficient for its shares to rise another 11.3p to 427.5p.

Travis Perkins, which has targeted cost savings from the deal of £25m (€30.2m) a year by 2013, fell 3.5p to 751p.

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