FTSE out of steam

The London market ran out of steam today as British Airways and the operator of the UK’s biggest coal-fired power station both sustained heavy losses.

The London market ran out of steam today as British Airways and the operator of the UK’s biggest coal-fired power station both sustained heavy losses.

Early gains for the FTSE 100 Index raised hopes of a new six-year closing high, but this quickly faded after lacklustre economic data in the US weighed on Wall Street. By the close, the Footsie stood 45.5 points lower at 6269.3.

British Airways shares were down almost 3% as industrial relations again haunted the blue-chip stock, which closed 13.5p lower at 523p.

BA still needs to resolve its pension deficit and today confirmed that strike action relating to separate issues brought by cabin crew staff had forced it to cancel all passenger flights out of Heathrow for two days next week.

Analysts fear that the dispute could cost BA up to £15m (€22.8m) a day.

For power station Drax, shares were dragged lower after broker Citigroup cut its price target because of the recent fall in gas prices. The stock fell 27p to 719.5p, a fall of almost 4%.

The news failed to derail other power firms, as British Gas owner Centrica rose 2p to 372.5p – one of only a handful of stocks to make progress.

Telecoms firm Cable & Wireless was also up 1.5p at 166p after it was reported that a brokerage was about to issue a positive note on the company.

Property firms featured on the risers board for a second successive session, amid expectations of strong annual results from the sector next month.

British Land led the way with a gain of 9p to 1621p, while Hammerson was up 3p to 1503p.

Legal & General was pegged back after better-than-expected fourth quarter sales figures had earlier sent its share price up by 2%.

The stock closed 1p lower at 160.5p, even though Friends Provident remained in positive territory – up 1p at 227p – and Standard Life gained 2p to 302.5p after L&G chief executive Tim Breedon spoke positively about prospects for the market.

Meanwhile, Marston’s was ahead after it announced the acquisition of Eldridge Pope for £155.1m (€235.6m). The company, formerly known as Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries, stood 1.25p higher at 431.5p, although this was some way short of the 3% seen in the immediate aftermath of the deal.

Analysts feared that the pub owner may have overpaid for the company.

However, consolidation in the sector was well received by other operators as JD Wetherspoon extended gains from yesterday with a rise of 19.5p to 719.5p and Greene King rose 1p to 1080p ahead of a trading update later this month.

The biggest Footsie risers were Sage Group up 3.25p at 275p, 3i Group ahead 12p at 1095p, Pearson up 7.5p at 817.5p and Cable & Wireless ahead 1.5p at 166p.

The biggest fallers were Drax Group down 27p at 719.5p, Vedanta Resources off 40p at 1150p, British Airways down 13.5p at 523p and Experian Group off 15p at 581p.

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