Top flight shares keep Footsie down

Top flight shares ended the week lower than they started it after falling commodity prices reduced the value of mining stocks.

Top flight shares ended the week lower than they started it after falling commodity prices reduced the value of mining stocks.

The FTSE 100 Index ended today 6.7 points off at 4886.5, about 32 points below its starting point of 4918.9 on Monday.

Mining stocks dragged the Footsie lower as raw material prices suffered their biggest two-day fall in seven weeks.

The losses eclipsed rises in oil-dependent stocks such as British Airways as the cost of US light crude fell 44 US cents to just above 48 dollars a barrel.

In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 32 points shortly after London’s close as computing groups Dell and Nvidia said sales this quarter may beat analysts’ estimates. However, lower consumer confidence figures kept a lid on the Dow’s gains.

Back in London, British Airways sat in second place in the Footsie risers with a 2% or 6p rise to 260p as investors cheered lower oil prices and a forecast-busting profits haul of £415 million for its last financial year.

Even though BA said it anticipated a higher fuel bill this year, the results revealed it had exceeded its target for business savings.

Aerospace group Rolls-Royce was top of the pile, lifting 7.5p to 260p after it won an offshore engine maintenance deal from oil group Total and Merrill Lynch upgraded its price target on the stock to 300p.

Allied Domecq advanced a penny to 692p after it emerged that a group led by Constellation Brands, which had already approached it about a potential offer, had made an “indicative proposal” regarding a bid to rival Pernod Ricard’s £7.4 billion offer.

Energy group International Power was another riser, up 2.5p at 183p, as the City took a more positive view of yesterday’s figures which showed profits had doubled in the first three months of this year.

Among stocks pulling the Footsie lower, Shell and BP dipped 4p and 2p to 464.5p and 533p respectively after the price of oil fell to its lowest level for three months.

A wider fall in commodity prices hurt a clutch of miners with BHP Billiton down 19p at 625p and Rio Tinto off 38p at 1570p.

Financial services group Old Mutual was the top faller with a 5% or 6.5p loss to 122.75p after it confirmed it was in talks to take over Skandia – the biggest insurer in the Nordic region with a market value of £3.5 billion.

And the bad run of steel group Corus continued after its chief executive changed his forecasts for global demand, with Europe needing half as much of the metal as expected in 2005 and consumption in the US falling against earlier predictions that it would rise. Corus moved 4% or 2p lower to 40.5p.

Manchester United shares were up 0.75p at 300p, in line with Malcolm Glazer’s buy-out price.

The biggest Footsie risers were Rolls-Royce up 7.5p to 260p, BA ahead 6p at 260p, ITV gaining 2.5p to 117p and Capita adding 7p to 392.5p.

The largest fallers were Old Mutual down 6.5p to 122.75p, Corus shedding 2p to 40.5p, Antofagasta easing 33p to 1052p and BHP Billiton losing 19p to 625p.

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