Weakness in shares of advertising giant WPP added to ongoing oil price worries today as the the FTSE 100 Index dipped into negative territory.
With the cost of crude in New York at almost 50 US dollars, the Footsie followed Wall Street lower to ease 8.7 points to 4353.9 by mid-morning.
The lack of major corporate news did little to generate buying interest, with shares in the only blue-chip company to report – WPP – falling despite half-year results in line with expectations.
WPP offered a generally upbeat assessment of prospects, although chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell cautioned that its key market of the United States may suffer a post-election hangover. Shares were 2% lower, down 11.5p at 483p.
Other media companies were caught in the WPP sell-off, including FT owner Pearson, which weakened 6.5p to 605p, and ITV, off 1.25p to 101.25p.
Elsewhere, the cost of oil weighed on a clutch of industrial-based companies with BAE Systems down 2.5p at 202p, Rolls-Royce off 2.75p at 227p and Smiths Group 7.5p lower at 687p. British Airways also fell 2.25p to 211.5p.
Outside the top flight, electrical engineering group T Clarke got a lukewarm reception to figures showing half-profits had halved. Despite a 25% increase in the interim dividend and optimism for 2005 results, shares fell by as much as 4% before recovering to stand 1% or 4.5p lower at 481.5p.
And there was no bounce back for sports retailer JJB Sports after its profits warning yesterday led to a 15% fall in its share price. The stock fell 0.25p at 183.5p while John David Group, the owner of rival JD Sports, was unchanged at 169p.
Shares in newly-listed holiday parks group Center Parcs failed to budge from 79.5p after announcing plans to spend £40m (€59m) as a part of an investment strategy devised with landlord Sun Capital.