Blue-chip drag down FTSE

London’s blue-chips finished the week in the red today after a downbeat opening on Wall Street sent the market lower.

London’s blue-chips finished the week in the red today after a downbeat opening on Wall Street sent the market lower.

Disappointing earnings figures from the likes of Google and Caterpillar saw sharp opening falls for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which retreated further from its previous close above the 14,000 barrier.

The FTSE 100 Index followed suit, giving back previous early gains to finish 55 points lower at 6585.2.

Despite the wider market weakness, takeover speculation surrounding Friends Provident sent the life insurer to the top of the Footsie risers’ board.

The life insurer made gains of more than 4%, or 7.6p, to 186.4p as rumours of a possible offer from French rival AXA or a private equity buyer lifted the stock.

Alongside Friends Provident, broker upgrades also helped stocks gain ground.

BAE Systems rose 6.75p to 428p on the back of a note from JP Morgan which highlighted the group’s strong prospects from US defence spending.

Positive broker sentiment also helped B&Q owner Kingfisher advance 0.75p to 222.75p after Deutsche Bank said private equity buyers could be prepared to pay 250p a share for the business, although the firm gave back larger earlier gains as the market faltered late in the session.

Meanwhile investors favoured the energy sector as British Energy moved on 4.5p to 527.5p despite the company’s earlier warnings of further production outages at its sites. International Power also cheered, up 2.75p to 435.75p.

Telecoms firm Cable & Wireless – which today faced protests from shareholders over its potentially lucrative executive bonus scheme at the company’s annual general meeting – was the Footsie’s leading faller. The new pay deal was voted through but the shares dropped more than 3%, or 6.8p, to 182p,

British Airways also lost ground after reports that security restrictions at UK airports would be maintained for the immediate future. BA, down 12.25p at 420p, wants the measures lifted to encourage passengers put off by long queues.

Meanwhile sugar and starch group Tate & Lyle – which warned on profits earlier this week – made further losses, bringing the company down more than 2%, or 13p, to 577p.

Another company set to miss forecasts, platinum miner Lonmin, fell 103p at 3685p.

In the FTSE 250, Debenhams was among the leading fallers after Icelandic investment group Baugur said it had “no current intention” to make a bid for the department store chain, despite building up a near-8% stake in the business. The stock was off 5.5p – nearly 4% – at 133p.

Elsewhere, cannabis-based drugs manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals was hit by delays to its key cannabis-based drug Sativex. Shares in the company plunged 27p to 65p – nearly 30% – after it said European regulators had asked for further studies to be carried out into the treatment.

The biggest Footsie risers were Friends Provident up 7.6p at 186.4p, BAE Systems ahead 6.75p at 428p, Antofagasta up 10.5p at 736p and Imperial Tobacco up 25p at 2278p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Cable & Wireless down 6.8p at 182p, Icap off 15.5p at 500.5p, British Airways down 12.25p at 420p and Lonmin off 103p at 3685p.

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