Market loses gains as investor worries hit trading

LONDON’S blue-chip index slumped almost 100 points yesterday as worried investors put back nearly all of the previous session’s gains.

Fears over Iraq again dominated the mood, particularly ahead of US secretary of state Colin Powell’s weapons statement to the United Nations today.

With profit takers surfacing after yesterday’s £29 billion rise and Wall Street opening sharply lower, the Footsie closed down 99.3 points at 3590.1.

Norwich Union owner Aviva was off 17.25p at 413p and Friends Provident eased 7p at 91.25p while Royal & Sun Alliance, which had surged 8% after yesterday’s news, fell 8p to 96p. Other fallers included British Airways, off 5.75p to 114p, as low-cost rival Ryanair announced another set of bumper earnings.

Abbey National took centre stage on the corporate news front after announcing it had sold its consumer credit business First National for £848m. The deal with the US-based General Electric Company conglomerate cheered investors initially with a 10p rise but the shares closed down 9p at 409p. Blue-chip retailer Boots fell 10.5p to 525p on the day it announced the closure of its factory in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, with the loss of 1,000 jobs.

Top risers were Daily Mail and General Trust up 13p at 542.5p, Xstrata up 6p at 556p, BAA up 3.5p at 446.5p, Alliance UniChem up 3p at 401p and Bunzl up 1.5p at 365.5p. Leading fallers were Invensys off 5.5p at 47p, Allied Domecq off 34.5p at 309p, Amvescap off 33p at 323.5p, Legal & General down 6.75p at 73.75p and Royal & Sun Alliance down 8p at 96p.

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