FTSE ends last day of the year down

Profit-takers caused the London market to fall back today, yet failed to lessen the shine of a better-than-expected year for the FTSE 100 Index.

Profit-takers caused the London market to fall back today, yet failed to lessen the shine of a better-than-expected year for the FTSE 100 Index.

The Footsie closed at 5618.8 – down 19.5 points from te previous session’s four-and-a-half year high of 5638.3 but up 16.7% for the year.

And despite the slide, the top flight was still above the important 5600 mark - giving hope to investors that it could progress beyond 6000 next year. The FTSE 250 Index also fell back from its record high yesterday to close at 8794.3.

Today’s sell-off came as investors banked profits in stocks which had rallied in recent weeks.

BAE Systems topped the blue chip fallers board as it shed 6.25p to 381.75p after reaching an all-time high in the previous session.

The recent gains followed news that the UK Government had agreed to update the Royal Saudi Air Force with up to 72 Eurofighter Typhoons, which BAE make at its base in Lancashire.

Hilton Group was also in negative territory after making strong gains yesterday ahead of the sale of its hotels division to its US cousin Hilton Hotels Corporation.

Shares in Hilton fell 5.25p to 363.5p today as investors banked profits following last night’s £3.3 billion deal which sees the famous hotels brand reunited after 41 years apart.

Rival hotels firm InterContinental Hotels was also caught in the sell-off, with the share price slipping 3p to 839.5p.

Other recent risers included drug maker Shire Pharmaceuticals, but it closed 9p down at 744p after topping the risers board yesterday.

And housebuilder Persimmon lost 12p to 1258p having performed better than any other top flight stock in 2005 with a rise of more than 80%.

High street retailer Marks & Spencer was another darling of the City towards the end of a year as its share price rose 47% over 2005. But today it closed down 5p at 505p.

Oil heavyweights BP and Royal Dutch Shell provided a further drag on the FTSE 100 Index – down 4p to 619p and 3p to 1858p respectively.

But there was better news for mining stocks which gave the Footsie some buoyancy. Antofagasta topped the leaders board up 39p to 1869p, while Kazakhmys was up 3.5p to 773.5p and BHP Billiton cheered 5.5p to 949.5p.

It rounded off a good year for the mining sector, which was the best performing sector in London in 2005 with gains of more than 50%.

Real estate firms were also in favour today, with British Land up 4.5p to 1066p, Land Securities ahead 12p to 1663p and Hammerson 1.5p better off at 1022p.

The day’s biggest blue chip risers were Antofagasta up 39p to 1869p, ITV ahead a penny to 112.5p, Land Securities up 12p to 1663p, and BHP Billiton ahead 5.5p to 949.5p.

The heaviest fallers were BAE Systems off 6.25p to 381.75p, Sainsbury’s down 5p to 315.25p, Hilton Group down 5.25p to 363.5p, and Liberty International 13.5p lower at 980.5p.

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