Decline for FTSE

Much-needed gains for retailers Marks & Spencer and Next failed to halt a London market slide today as weaker mining stocks weighed on trading.

Much-needed gains for retailers Marks & Spencer and Next failed to halt a London market slide today as weaker mining stocks weighed on trading.

Miners provided eight of the FTSE 100 Index's top 10 fallers, with the likes of Kazakhmys down 7% and Anglo American off more than 6%.

Better sales figures from high street bellwether John Lewis tempted buyers back into the retailing sector, but the commodity impact saw the Footsie close down 42.6 points at 5454.8.

Trading volumes were thin, with little in the way of corporate or economic news to drive buying interest.

Leading the downward pressure was Kazakhmys, which fell 89p to 1173p, followed by Eurasian Natural Resources, which was 67p lower at 969p. Rival Anglo American lost 188p to finish at 2735p.

With oil prices touching a four month low near just above US$112 a barrel, BP slipped 11.5p to 515.5p, with Royal Dutch Shell easing 40p to 1763p.

Analysts latched on to weekly sales figures from the John Lewis Partnership, which said sales at its department stores grew 9.3% while supermarket chain Waitrose saw a more subdued rise of 0.8%.

Electricals and fashion were star performers for the high street business, causing shares in a number of retailers to rise.

One of the biggest gains in the sector came from Carphone Warehouse, which lifted 3.9p to 201.5p, with fashion chain Next ahead 28p at 1037p and B&Q firm Kingfisher 3.2p stronger at 130.1p.

Marks & Spencer also rose 10.25p to 276p, even though analysts said the lacklustre performance by Waitrose was likely to have been mirrored in the M&S food halls.

Comet firm Kesa Electricals and Currys owner DSG International were both higher in the FTSE 250 - ahead 8p at 168.5p and 0.5p at 53p respectively.

The other notable rise came from British Airways as investors welcomed the prospect of BA, Iberia and American Airlines co-operating commercially on flights between the United States, Latin American and Europe.

BA ended a see-saw session yesterday slightly lower, but with oil prices falling the shares were 7.25p ahead to 261p today.

Meanwhile, companies with significant exposure to North America benefited from the stronger US dollar. FirstGroup added 23.5p to 581.5p and building materials firm Wolseley cheered 28p to 438.75p.

Back in the second tier, shares in recruitment firm Michael Page International slid 5% or 17.5p to 317.5p after the company said it was no longer in discussions with rival Adecco about a possible £1.3bn (€1.64bn) takeover.

Adecco has not yet decided whether to walk away, but one analyst said the chances of a deal were slim.

The Footsie's four biggest risers were Wolseley up 28p to 438.75p, Ferrexpo up 10p to 245p, FirstGroup up 23.5p to 581.5p and Marks & Spencer which ended the day up 10.25p at 276p.

The four biggest fallers were Kazakhmys, down 89p to 1173p, Eurasian Natural Resources, which was 67p lower at 969p, Anglo American down 188p at 2735p and Xstrata which closed 172p down at 1878p.

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