FTSE finishes unchanged

A mixed session for big-hitting mining stocks and wider market lethargy saw the FTSE 100 Index in London end the session unchanged today.

Fresh takeover talk surrounding Xstrata helped some of the sector gain ground, but others were weighed down.

Despite a strong opening on Wall Street this afternoon, hesitant trading in London saw the Footsie close flat at 6087.3 points.

It managed to recover from early losses as investors mulled over the US Federal Reserve's latest interest rate cut and Ben Bernanke's comments.

British Airways was the stand out winner amid the prospect of a tie-up with US rivals American Airline and Continental, soaring 7%.

Reports suggested the trio could co-ordinate schedules, fares and frequent flyer programmes for transatlantic flights.

With oil prices also on the retreat from this week's near US$120 a barrel record, the carrier's shares rose 16.5p to 243p.

Miners featured on both the risers and fallers board amid the cocktail of takeover talk.

Xstrata chief executive Mick Davis's reported comments that he would have no issue with a takeover if it delivered value for shareholders moved the firm 86p higher at 4032p, or 2%, as merger speculation revived.

Kazakhmys was best off with a 2% or 33p rise to 1615p, and Anglo American ahead 65p at 3334p.

Vedanta had earlier clawed back losses after a downbeat note yesterday, but ended the day down 3p at 2242p. Eurasian Natural Resources was also 40p down at 1160p.

Newly merged media group Thomson Reuters also received a boost after a well-received trading update. Shares rose 52p to 1615p as it targeted an extra US$250m (€161.9m) of cost savings.

Retailers were on the back foot after Goldman Sachs cut B&Q owner Kingfisher to 'sell', saying the outlook for DIY spending looked weak.

Kingfisher dropped 1.8p to 131p - a fall of more than 2%. Homebase parent Home Retail Group was also dragged lower, off 7.25p at 256.75p, as it lost some of the gains seen yesterday with forecast-beating annual profits.

Elsewhere, shopping centre and office real estate group Hammerson fell 13p to 995p after it said property values had fallen further this year while retailers suffered and City rents fell as banks cut staff in the credit crunch.

The leading Footsie faller was knee and hip replacement firm Smith & Nephew, which fell nearly 13%, or 85p to 570p, after uncovering "unacceptable" sales practices at a recently-acquired orthopaedics business.

In the FTSE 250, Rank Group saw shares rise more than 6% after the Government yesterday said it was considering helping the bingo industry, aided also by a positive note from Evolution Securities. Shares in the group rose 5.75p to 94.75p.

The Footsie's four biggest risers were British Airways, up 16.5p at 243p, Rexam up 19.5p at 467.25p, Thomson Reuters up 52p to 1615p and BG Group which ended the day 29p at 1260p.

The four biggest fallers were Smith & Nephew, down 85p at 570p, Eurasian Natural Resources down 40p at 1160p, Home Retail Group down 7.25p at 256.75p and British Land, which closed 22p down at 819p.

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