Sales growth in key markets of insurance group Prudential failed to impress investors today as the London market slipped back into the red.
The Pru lost more than 2% or 12p to 491p to become the second heaviest blue-chip faller even though it said it was on course to meet its sales targets for the UK.
With rivals in the insurance market such as Aviva also given the cold shoulder by traders, the FTSE 100 Index dropped 7.2 points to 4848.4 by mid-morning.
Norwich Union owner Aviva weakened 8.5p to 607p but its fall was partly attributable to the stock going ex-dividend, meaning shareholders are no longer entitled to the latest payouts. Other companies to weaken for this reason included ITV, off 3.5p at 122.5p, and Tesco which eased 5.5p to 317.75p.
Oil stocks were preventing the Footsie from sliding further as the price of crude rallied ahead of data showing the level of inventories in the US in the run-up to the summer driving season.
BP climbed 3.5p to 532p and Shell added 1.5p to 473.5p after the price of a barrel of Brent crude for June delivery rose 45 US cents to 53.39 US dollars.
Second-tier rival Cairn Energy advanced 3% or 36p to 1188p as investors continued to warm to yesterday’s full-year results and its drilling progress in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
Updates from outside of the top flight drew a negative response with housebuilder McCarthy & Stone down 18p at 615p after warning it was “slightly more cautious” about prospects for its second half.
And a warning from packaging specialist DS Smith that it may have to push up prices to counter higher energy and raw material costs drew a lacklustre response from the market, pushing shares down 4.5p to 152.5p.
Shares in IT group Computacenter tumbled nearly 8% or 22.5p to 267.5p after it warned of a substantial drop in profits this year after a tough start, with group sales down 10% so far.