No rally for FTSE

The London market stayed firmly in the doldrums today as oil prices threatened to break back above $55 a barrel.

The London market stayed firmly in the doldrums today as oil prices threatened to break back above $55 a barrel.

The FTSE 100 Index failed to make up its earlier losses, standing 16.7 points adrift at 4612.7.

After topping $55 in New York last night and falling back slightly iarler today, light crude prices edged ahead again to 54.67 dollars by mid-morning.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 108 points yesterday as traders fretted that disruptions in supply from Norway, Nigeria or Iraq may hinder refiners from building winter fuel stocks.

The big oil companies were slightly in the red as a result of the volatile crude price, with Shell dropping 2.25p to 418.5p and BP losing a penny to 545p.

Footsie newcomer Cairn Energy was also in deficit, losing hold of earlier healthy gains to fall 11p to 1486p.

All the big financial stocks were in the red, with Royal & Sun Alliance leading the losers in the insurance sector and topping the Footsie fallers, down 2% or 1.75p to 74.5p.

Barclays was the biggest victim among the banks, off 8p to 549p, while Lloyds TSB was close behind, declining 5.75p to 431.25p.

On a desperately slow day for corporate updates, Premier Foods lost 1% or 2.25p to 228.75p after private equity group Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst sold its remaining 20% stake in the firm. Hicks owned 93% of Premier until a July stock market flotation reduced its holding to a fifth.

Poundstretcher-to-Instore group Brown & Jackson failed to impress investors with news of a 41% fall in half year losses. Shares fell 3p to 61p.

Headhunting firm Whitehead Mann was on the up, however, after it said its chief executive had quit with immediate effect. The FTSE Smallcap stock gained nearly 4% or 5p to 132.5p.

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