Mining stocks put FTSE deeper into the red

Bid speculation surrounding Heathrow airport owner BAA was not enough to prevent the London markets sliding into the red today after miners made significant losses.

BAA provided the main interest of the day as Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial confirmed it was considering a possible bid.

It sent shares in BAA up 15% – 97.5p to 752.5p – but weakening metal prices sent miners tumbling as the FTSE 100 Index closed 21.7 points down at 5725.1.

Marks & Spencer was also in positive territory – up 14.75p to 510p – with traders picking up on bullish comments from chief executive Stuart Rose at an industry conference.

The pair added support to a slight rally which saw the Footsie recover some of its losses early in the day which left it 65 points down at around 5680.

Miners dominated the fallers board after a weakening of metal prices around the world and amid heavy profit taking.

Simon Denham, of Capital Spreads, said gold had suffered its worst day for over three years, while copper “came in for a mauling”.

“In commodities, the warning that markets were looking a bit tired came in with a vengeance,” he said.

Kazakh explorer Kazakhmys was the worst hit in the sector, down 4% or 32.5p to 819.5p, while Anglo American shed 75p to 2012p and BHP Billiton eased 37p to 976.5p.

The blow to the commodities sector was also felt by oil companies as the weakness seen following recent fourth quarter results continued.

Royal Dutch Shell slipped 38p to 1875p while BP fell 6.5p to 641p as investors remained cautious about the stock following disappointing figures yesterday.

Insurers were the other major stocks in the red, with Old Mutual topping the fallers board – down 5% or 9p to 185p. Legal & General was also down 3.5p at 122p and Royal & Sun Alliance was off a penny at 125p.

The developments at BAA deflected from a strong set of annual figures from GlaxoSmithKline, which rose 13p to 1457p after the results hit the top end of market expectations.

Investors were also helped by a positive outlook, although this did little for rival AstraZeneca as its shares declined 45p to 2640p.

Reckitt Benckiser, the world’s biggest household cleaning goods group, was also among the top performers after its encouraging results. Shares cheered 43p to 1978p.

And Scottish Power emerged with credit from its results announcement, as shares lifted 4.5p to 587p. While the group warned that it faced continued cost pressures in its retail arm, the rest of the company performed well with a 42% rise in nine-month profits to £470 million. It also indicated that the sale of its US-based PacifiCorp business may happen earlier than first thought.

The day’s biggest blue chip risers were BAA up 97.5p to 952.5p, Marks & Spencer up 14.75p to 510p, United Utilities 19.5p higher at 700p and Reckitt Benckiser up 43p to 1978p.

The heaviest fallers were Old Mutual off 9p to 185p, Kazakhmys down 32.5p to 819.5p, BHP Billiton 37p lower at 976.5p and Anglo American down 75p to 2012p.

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