Mining stocks dig hole for FTSE

Mining stocks dragged the FTSE 100 Index down today as record results from industry giant BHP Billiton failed to cheer investors.

Mining stocks dragged the FTSE 100 Index down today as record results from industry giant BHP Billiton failed to cheer investors.

BHP lost almost 4% and left a string of its rivals lower as profit-takers moved in after news of an 85.5% surge in annual net profits to $6.5bn (€5.3bn).

Losses in the mining sector contributed to the Footsie ending the day 25 points lower at 5275.2, its second consecutive session in the red.

BHP Billiton was the second heaviest faller – off 31p to 804p. Although the results were in line with expectations, one analyst said hopes had already been lifted by strong results from other mining firms.

The stock was followed by Rio Tinto, down 69p to 1967p, and Anglo American losing 38p to 1374p.

But they were all beaten to the top of the Footsie fallers board by retailer Dixons after investors lost the right to the latest dividend payout. Dixons was 7p lower at 152p.

Despite the negative mood, British Gas owner Centrica moved higher after rumours circulated of a potential bid for the blue-chip group.

The stock lifted 4% or 9.25p to 252.75p and was the second most heavily traded company in the FTSE 100 Index as dealers speculated that a bid may be in the offing, possibly from the Scandinavian firm Norsk Hydro.

The rest of the energy sector was buoyed by the Centrica news, with Scottish Power ahead 10p to 498.25p, International Power 3.75p stronger at 230p, United Utilities rising 7.5p to 638p and National Grid up 6p to 520.5p.

Other risers included Shire Pharmaceuticals, up 11.5p to 686p after Canadian authorities allowed its hyperactivity drug Adderall XR back on to the market.

Oil giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell failed to move far from their opening mark despite US inventory data showing stockpiles of crude oil rose last week, defying expectations of a fall. BP edged half a penny higher to 623.5p while Shell moved 8p lower to 1831p.

Outside the top flight, logistics group Brambles Industries cheered 2.5p to 331.25p after posting a 23% rise in underlying profits despite a weaker performance from its waste business Cleanaway.

Elsewhere, retailer Peacock rose by 11% or 31p to 315p after it said it had received a takeover approach. It did not reveal the suitor, but one analyst believed the party – thought to be a private equity group – would have to pay up to 375p a share for the Peacocks-to-bonmarche chain.

Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries rose 13p to 1140p after announcing a £13.7m (€20.1m) offer for smaller operator English Country Inns.

The highest Footsie risers today were Centrica lifting 9.25p to 252.75p, Scottish Power up 10p to 498.25p, Wolseley rising 22p to 1142p and Smith & Nephew up 10p to 532p.

The heaviest fallers were Dixons off 7p to 152p, BHP Billiton down 31p to 804p, Rio Tinto off 69p to 1967p and Pearson down 19.5p to 673.5p.

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