FTSE claws back some of its losses

London’s leading share index remained in the red today despite a late session boost from Wall Street.

London’s leading share index remained in the red today despite a late session boost from Wall Street.

The FTSE 100 Index clawed back hefty losses of more than 100 points at one stage to stand close to its opening mark, down 18.6 points at 4152.7.

It was offered some support by gains on the Dow Jones Average in America, which rose nearly 1% in spite of a shaky start to trading.

Falling commodity stocks held the FTSE back, with oil easing back towards the $50 a barrel mark – reaching a low of $50.15 at one point, although it later pulled back a little.

A subdued end to US trading overnight on worse than expected GDP figures had dampened the mood.

A raft of economic data also came out today across the Atlantic, with jobless claims down but not by as much as analysts expected.

UK figures showing an unchanged 0.5% fall in third-quarter output held no nasty surprises for investors, although consumer spending fell for the second quarter in a row for the first time since 1992.

BP and its Anglo-Dutch rival Royal Dutch Shell were among the heavyweight casualties of the session. BP was 7.75p lower at 512.75p, while Shell lost 29p to 1620p. Oil and gas services firm Petrofac was down 6.75p to 336.5p.

Rio Tinto also shipped further losses in the wake of the collapse of its takeover by BHP Billiton, down 17p to 1567p.

One of the leading FTSE fallers however was Halifax Bank of Scotland, down 7% or 6.5p to 90.5p as market attention turned to the extent of its exposure to the faltering housebuilding sector.

Utilities had a tricky session after United Utilities failed to impress with interim results. Analysts at Collins Stewart worried about increasing cost pressure on the business as shares fell 26p to 618p.

Elsewhere, National Grid lost 29p to 645p and International Power was 5.25p lighter at 238.25p

The leading riser was platinum specialist Johnson Matthey, up 15% or 109.5p to 832p, after it said an expected fall in second half profits should be in line with market expectations.

It was closely followed by caterer Compass, which rose 24p to 2781.5p – a gain of 9% – after the company posted a sharp rise in profits and said it was well placed for further growth in 2009.

Mining firm Antofagasta was another gainer, adding 28p to 429.25p, despite predictions of a 16% fall in its underlying earnings during the third quarter from Credit Suisse due to lower metal prices and higher costs.

Sector peer BHP Billiton advanced as investors gave the thumbs-up to its decision to abandon the Rio Tinto takeover deal, ahead by 104p to 1155p.

The biggest risers were Johnson Matthey ahead by 109.5p at 832p, BHP Billiton up by 104p to 1155p, Compass up 24p to 281.5p and Vedanta Resources up 44p to 553p.

The biggest fallers were Wolseley down 19.5p at 269.25, HBOS off 6.5p to 90.5p, Standard Chartered down 55.5p to 784.5p and Tullow Oil down 29p to 470.5p.

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