The London market slipped lower today after severe losses on Wall Street triggered a heavy sell off this morning.
Investors in London began the week in nervous fashion after the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2% on Friday in its biggest fall since 2003.
It sent the FTSE 100 Index 47.4 points lower this morning but an afternoon rally saw it claw back some of the losses to stand 11.5 points down at 5660.9 at the close.
Traders were helped by a more solid start to the week across the Atlantic as the Dow Jones recovered some of Friday’s losses.
A slight easing of oil prices helped sentiment after the cost of crude rose above 69 US dollars a barrel for the first time since the end of August on fears of supply disruptions in Iran and Nigeria.
The London market was also boosted by telecoms stocks which were buoyed by robust numbers from O2. Shares moved up half a penny to 199.75p after it told the City that it had signed up 1.75 million customers in the final three months of 2005.
Because the share price of O2 is supported by the £17.7 billion offer from Telefonica, a better signal of sentiment was provided by Vodafone, which gained 3p to 121p ahead of an update on its third-quarter performance tomorrow.
That made it one of the day’s top performers and it was closely followed by fellow telecoms group BT which lifted 3.5p to 207.25p, although Virgin Mobile was 0.5p lower at 371.5p in the FTSE 250 Index as investors await progress on talks with suitor NTL.
But despite gains in telecoms, and a 7p rise for oil giant Royal Dutch Shell to 1930p, the Footsie’s four-and-a-half-year high earlier in the month was a long way off as a number of sectors plunged into the red.
Top of the long list of losers in London were online poker firm PartyGaming - down 2.75p to 140p ahead of a trading update on Friday – while pallet supplier Brambles Industries weakened 8p to 417.25p.
Among the banks, Barclays drifted 1.5p to 596p even though it was named by heavyweight broker Merrill Lynch among its top picks in the sector.
Investors were alarmed at disappointing fourth-quarter earnings from Citigroup in the United States, leading them to sell off UK rivals with a large overseas presence.
HSBC fell 12p to 931p, Standard Chartered eased 23p to 1374p and Royal Bank of Scotland was on the slide – down 3p to 1733p.
Only Lloyds TSB escaped the sell-off, up 3.75p to 515p, as investors cheered the possible appointment of City grandee Sir Victor Blank as chairman of the bank after it was confirmed he would stand down as chairman of Trinity Mirror. Shares in the newspaper publisher slid 5.5p to 555p.
The top flight’s biggest risers were Schroders NV up 41.5p to 1003.5p, Schroders up 40.5p to 1065.5p, Vodafone 3p higher at 121p and BT up 3.5p to 207.25p.
The day’s heaviest fallers were PartyGaming down 2.75p to 140p, Brambles off 8p to 417.25p, SABmiller down 19p to 1122p and Standard Chartered down 23p to 1374p.