The FTSE 100 Index ended the week on a sour note today as heavyweight oil and financial stocks put a drag on the market.
With Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average lingering just below its opening mark as trading in London closed, the Footsie ended a week marked by two fresh year highs, firmly in the red.
Having climbed as high as 4321 in early trading the blue chip index finished the session 57.7 points below its opening mark at 4257.
Traders said volumes were relatively light for a quarterly futures and options contracts expiry day and, given a lack of major corporate news in London, the market took its cue from heavyweight stocks.
Profit takers also played a part in dictating the direction after seeing this week’s breaches of the 4300 mark.
Oil stocks continued the weakness seen yesterday following a cautious broker note. Shell shed 5.25p to close at 386.75p, while BP slipped 7.25p to 422p.
And financial shares were also in the red led by Friends Provident which slumped 5% or 7.75p to 133.75p, Legal & General was down 4% or 3.75p at exactly £1, and Bradford & Bingley fell 11p to 301.5p.
Among other sectors heading south, telecoms pair Vodafone and mmO2 gave back some of their gains achieved during yesterday’s positive session in London. Vodafone moved 1.25p lower at 123.5p, while mmO2 slipped 1p to 59.75p.
Also losing out was Cadbury Schweppes after warning hot weather in Europe had dented confectionery sales. Shares lost 6.5p to 381.25p, a 2% fall.
On a brighter note, cruise operator Carnival featured on the Footsie risers board with a gain of 13p to 2076p, after third quarter results yesterday showed an improving trend for demand following the Iraq war.
Outside the top flight, security printer De La Rue gave shareholders a much needed boost with forecasts of significantly better half-year results than originally hoped.
The progress of an Iraqi bank note printing contract has lifted De La Rue, with shares surging 6% or 17.5p to 306.5p.
But the company was beaten to the top of the FTSE 250 Index risers board by another strong rise from IT hardware company Spirent.
With speculation growing of a takeover bid, Spirent achieved its highest close for more than a year with a gain of 9% or 5p to 61.25p.
Elsewhere, Anglo-Australian pallets firm Brambles Industries shed 5% or 9.25p to 180p after dismissing renewed speculation about potential takeover offers.
Among smaller stocks, drugs company Alizyme surged 43% or 34.25p to 114.5p after it said tests had found that its new “anti-fat” drug carried fewer side-effects than its nearest rival.
But retailer Homestyle slipped a penny to 118p as it reported an 11% decline in like-for-like furniture sales since the end of April.
The biggest FTSE risers were Schroders up 14.5p at 765p, InterContinental Hotels up 7p at 511.5p, Schroders NV up 6.5p at 665.5p and Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust up 1.75p at 186.25p.
The biggest fallers were Friends Provident down 7.75p at 133.75p, Alliance UniChem down 22p at 516p, Legal & General down 3.75p at 100p and Bradford & Bingley down 11p at 301.5p.