FTSE finishes shy of 6000 mark

The FTSE 100 Index backed away from the 6000 mark today as miners suffered at the hands of weakening metal prices.

The FTSE 100 Index backed away from the 6000 mark today as miners suffered at the hands of weakening metal prices.

London’s leading shares started the day brightly and even crept beyond the landmark at one stage.

But the positive sentiment ebbed away by the close to leave the Footsie 10.5 points down at 5960.8 following yet more negative US economic news.

Jimmy Yates, at CMC Markets, said: “Month-end profit taking and caution over a raft of US economic data has been responsible for eroding the Footsie’s earlier gains and ensuring the earlier successful test of the psychological 6,000 mark was to be unsustainable.

“A softening of gold prices has left a number of the mining stocks trading a little weaker although shares in Hanson remain in positive territory on the back of takeover speculation that arose earlier in the week.”

Miners added weight to the market for most of the day, but many of the top performers ended in negative territory with Vedanta Resources topping the fallers board – down 30p at 1163p.

Anglo American slid 35p to 2233p and Lonmin weakened 39p to 2559p, while Rio Tinto failed to reverse the trend dropping 20p to 2527p.

Banks were on the front foot with Royal Bank of Scotland amongst the biggest achievers, up more than 1% – or 27p at 1839p. Barclays also rose, this time by 4.5p to 674p, while HSBC jumped a penny to 974.5p.

Scottish & Southern Energy was in buoyant mood after announcing it would increase the cost of domestic electricity bills by average 9.4% and gas by 12.2%. The stock bounced 1% – or 8p – to 1318p following the news of the New Year’s Day tariff hikes.

Meanwhile, logistics group Brambles, which had been amongst the front-runners yesterday following bid speculation, found itself on the fallers board. The shares fell 9p to 479p after an analyst pointed out no potential buyers had been linked to a sale.

British Airways followed it into negative territory after revealing its pensions deficit was set to double to £2.1bn (€3.1bn). The stock suffered a near 2% drop – or 7.5p – to 427p.

Most of the corporate action came outside the top flight, with Britvic and Emap moving in opposite directions after contrasting trading updates.

Britvic was in better shape as it said profits would be towards the top end of market expectations, helped by a summertime surge in sales of still drinks. Shares rose 11.75p to 231.75p, a gain of more than 5% as investors returned to the stock after profits warnings earlier this year.

But Emap fell almost 2% as it warned that trading continued to be tough with half-year underlying revenues off 2%. Shares were down 12p at 752p.

Elsewhere, Durex-to-Scholl company SSL International rose 5% – up 13p to 350p - as traders continued to speculate about a possible takeover approach.

And photographic retailer Jessops reported a 1.2% fall in like-for-like sales as it was hit by a surprise softening in its market over the last two months. The stock suffered as well, falling almost 7% – or 9p – to 129.5p.

The day’s biggest risers were Hanson up 27.5p to 773.5p, Prudential up 20p to 663.5p, Friends Provident up 3.5p to 193.5p and BT up 4.5p to 268p.

The day’s biggest fallers were Vedanta Resources down 30p to 1163p, Alliance & Leicester down 25p to 1086p, Wolseley down 24p to 1126p and Standard Chartered down 29p to 1368p.

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