FTSE runs out of steam

The FTSE 100 Index ran out of steam today as investors paused for breath in the face of mixed economic news on both sides of the Atlantic.

Wall Street had a lacklustre early trade after disappointing consumer data, while in London a smaller decline than first feared in UK output between April and June was tempered by figures casting doubts over the impact of the Bank of England’s efforts to boost the money supply and aid the economy.

The FTSE 100 Index closed down 5.9 points at 5159.7 today, holding on to most of its impressive 1.6% surge yesterday.

An afternoon increase on the London index was snuffed out by weakness in the US.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.3% on the back of an unexpectedly poor consumer confidence report, although this was in contrast to figures showing a lift in US home prices.

In London financial stocks were on the front foot, with Barclays up 4.25p at 369.25p. The taxpayer-backed banks recovered their poise after recent weakness.

Royal Bank of Scotland cheered 0.4p to 52p and Lloyds Banking Group rose 1.05p to 104.8p after BNP Paribas bought back non-voting stock from the French government.

Insurer Aviva added 12.4p to 431.2p, while rumours that Legal & General could be a bid target for investment vehicle Resolution lifted its shares to the top of the league – up 3.75p to 82.75p.

Other firms in the sector were also given a boost. Standard Life was 6.3p higher at 213.2p and Prudential rose 12.5p to 598.5p.

They were joined on the way up by catering firm Compass, which lifted 12.8p to 372.4p after revealing it had improved margins in the fourth quarter.

Among other trading updates, Thomson and First Choice holiday group TUI Travel ended flat after it announced a 13% fall in winter sales in its core UK market and it detailed a £440m (€481m) fundraising plan to repay loans to its German parent group.

Vodafone was a faller today despite news that it had secured a deal with Apple to sell the popular iPhone. The firm’s shares fell 2.95p to 141.5p.

Softer commodities added to the downward pressure while property firms also had an off day after Credit Suisse brokers downgraded the UK real estate sector.

Land Securities was the worst-hit blue chip – down 3% or 18.5p to 638p. Segro and British Land were off 9.1p to 367.3p and 4.8p to 482p respectively.

In the FTSE 250, Irn-Bru firm AG Barr soared 11% after boosting first-half profits by 20% in a period of “continued economic uncertainty”. Shares rose 85.5p to 835p.

Other risers included Clover firm Dairy Crest, which climbed 23.2p to 400p on the back of a steady trading update. It said its Country Life butter brand had overtaken rival Anchor for the first time, helped by a major advertising campaign.

The biggest Footsie risers were Legal & General up 3.75p to 82.75p, Compass Group up 12.8p to 372.4p, Standard Life up 6.3p at 213.2p and Aviva up 12.4p to 431.2p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Lonmin down 55p at 1648p, Land Securities down 18.5p at 638p, Segro down 9.1p at 367.3p and Vodafone off 2.95p at 141.5p.

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