FTSE ends series of gains

The FTSE 100 ended a six-day winning streak today as US retail figures disappointed and investors took the chance to book profits.

The top flight fell 17.5 points to 5253.5 as June's 0.5% decline added to doubts over the health of the US consumer and fuelled worries about slowing growth this year.

Wall Street switched between gains and losses as markets also digested forecast-beating results from chipmaker Intel after US markets closed on Tuesday.

The US firm benefited from a stronger computer market - helping send chip designer Arm Holdings to the top of the leader board in London - up 9.6p to 318.5p or 3%.

Despite the gains for the firm CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said: "Profit-taking appears to have been the order of the day."

Corporate news was thin but UK figures showed a 34,000 fall in unemployment to 2.47 million in the quarter to May - the first decline since January, although driven by a record rise in part-time workers.

The figures were nonetheless a positive surprise for the markets and helped lift the pound near 1.53 against the dollar, which was weakened by the retail sales figures. Sterling hovered near the 1.20 mark against the euro.

Heavyweight BP dragged on the index for most of the day as the shares lost some of its recent gains after it delayed the testing of its new containment cap for the Gulf of Mexico spill. Shares fell more than 2% or 9.35p to 401p.

Inter-dealer broker Icap suffered heavier losses, shedding 20.1p or almost 5% to 416.1p after the firm reported slowing trading volumes in June.

It was followed down by defence giant BAE Systems, off 9.6p to 318.9p as a Morgan Stanley downgrade and more general worries over spending cuts weighed on the stock.

Negative broker comments also meant a tricky session for Footsie oil and gas explorers Tullow Oil and Cairn Energy. The pair lost 15p to 1135p and 16.3p to 454p respectively as Deutsche Bank lowered its target price on Tullow.

Barratt Developments started well in the FTSE 250 after it forecast profits ahead of expectations, but caution about prospects in 2011 dragged back the shares later to stand 0.7p down at 104.3p.

Pubs chain JD Wetherspoon was another loser despite returning to sales growth in the fourth quarter and striking a more hopeful note about trading. Shares, which have enjoyed a decent run in recent days, fell 15.2p to 422.5p.

Elsewhere chocolate retailer Thorntons dropped 1p to 80p after a 6% fall in like-for-like sales in the last quarter. The company is cutting 35 jobs at its head office in Derbyshire.

The biggest Footsie risers were ARM Holdings ahead 9.6p at 318.5p, Fresnillo up 16p to 1113p, Associated British Foods up 14p at 1049p and Serco up 5.5p at 579p.

The leading Footsie fallers were Icap down 20.1p to 416.1p, Cairn Energy off 16.3p to 454p, Admiral down 45p at 1432p and Burberry, which finished 24.5p off at 794p.

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