Oil stocks drag Footsie down

Oil stocks weighed heavily on the London market today despite efforts by the likes of PartyGaming to lift the mood.

Oil stocks weighed heavily on the London market today despite efforts by the likes of PartyGaming to lift the mood.

Heavyweights BP and Royal Dutch Shell – which together make up around a fifth of the FTSE 100 Index – both lost more than 1% of their market value.

This contributed to the Footsie falling 22.1 points to 5509.0 by mid-morning as it followed other global markets into the red.

BP, the UK’s biggest stock, weakened 9.5p to 641.5p amid reports of a major share sale. Rival Shell followed it lower, slipping 22p to 1893p.

Investors also focused on a 55-point retreat on Wall Street, followed by losses on markets across Europe.

Other blue-chips losing ground included catering giant Compass – off 3p to 211p after a US committee called for a further investigation into allegations over buying practices.

But the lacklustre mood failed to put punters off online gaming giant PartyGaming, which climbed almost 5% or 6.25p to 142.5p as brokers upgraded their forecasts after it revealed yesterday that the addition of new games had helped it rake in more profits than expected over the summer. This progress followed gains of 16% by PartyGaming yesterday.

Elsewhere, positive words on the housing market helped banking group Bradford & Bingley and upmarket developer Berkeley to advance.

Berkeley said demand for new homes was stable over the summer on the back of historically low interest rates and strong employment, helping its shares to tick 3p higher to 1009.5p.

Mortgage specialist B&B rose 5% or 18.25p higher to 402p after reporting a “significant improvement” in lending completions in the past six months.

But retailer French Connection slumped 5%, losing 15p to 260p after it rushed out a profits warning after sales continued to disappoint in the run up to Christmas.

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