Footsie fails to break through vital 6,000 barrier

The FTSE-100 Index failed to break through the 6,000 barrier today, as a strong start by blue-chip stocks petered out during the session.

The FTSE-100 Index failed to break through the 6,000 barrier today, as a strong start by blue-chip stocks petered out during the session.

By the close, the Footsie was up 15.5 points at 5966.9. Breaking 6,000 would represent an important recovery for the Footsie after several weeks of uncertainty because of global economic concerns.

New economy stocks provided the main driving force, although the market failed to pick up on the positive start to trading in the US this afternoon. Many traders in London appeared reluctant to make major moves when most European markets will be taking a public holiday tomorrow.

During an otherwise lacklustre session, a clutch of telecom stocks featured prominently on the Footsie risers' board. Marconi picked up 10%, or 37p to 409½p, after completing its third generation mobile phone radio mast joint venture with Railtrack. The rail operator was also benefiting from the deal, up 15p at 490p.

Among others heading into positive territory were telecom services group Energis, ahead 9%, or 31p at 364p, mobile phone giant Vodafone, up 1½p at 212¼p and Colt Telecom, 45p stronger at 965p.

Of the tech stocks, chip designer Arm was on the up, rising 17p to 384p, while software group Sage marched ahead 20½p to 295¾p. Computer services firm CMG rose 19p to 367p while its rival Logica was also up, sparking 89p to £10.

As investors moved into new economy stocks, more defensive old economy shares slipped, with gas pipeline company Lattice Group topping the fallers' board, dropping 5p to 130½p.

Banks and retailers were also suffering, however, with Bank of Scotland down 19p at 803p amid speculation its merger talks with the Halifax may not be completed this week. Halifax was also off 4p at 796p, while others struggling in the sector included Royal Bank of Scotland, down 35p to £16.19, Alliance and Leicester off 21p at 799p and Lloyds TSB, down 8½p at 726½p

Supermarket Tesco was the biggest retail stock heading south, dropping 6p to 250p, while Morrisons fell 3p to 200p and Marks & Spencer slipped 5p to 268p.

Outside the FTSE-100, out-of-town clothing retailer Matalan continued to tumble after the shock resignation of its chief executive Angus Monro. After a 15% fall late on Friday afternoon, Matalan dropped a further 11%, or 50p to 416p.

Teapot-to-coffee bean group Whittard of Chelsea steamed up 38% after revealing it was in talks with an unnamed party which may lead to an offer being made for the chain. The 115-year-old company was trading up 10½p at 38p.

Market newcomer ebookers.com also gained 19%, or 23½p, at 150p after announcing strong first quarter results. The online travel agency is now trading 50% higher than the 99½p it floated at last Monday.

The biggest Footsie risers were Marconi, up 37p at 409½p, Logica ahead 89p at £10, Energis up 31p at 364p and Sage Group ahead 20½p at 295¾p.

The biggest fallers were Lattice Group, down 5p at 130½p, GUS off 19½p at 539½p, Alliance and Leicester down 21p at 799p, and Tesco off 6p at 250p.

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