FTSE closes on losing note

The FTSE 100 Index ended the last session before Christmas on a losing note today amid more bleak news for the retail sector.

The FTSE 100 Index ended the last session before Christmas on a losing note today amid more bleak news for the retail sector.

Volumes were thin in the final day of trading before next Monday but concerns over the prospects of many on the high street deepened when music, games and DVD retailer Zavvi called in administrators.

Falling oil prices also depressed blue-chip stocks as well as declines for Asian and US markets – leaving the Footsie 39.4 points lower at 4216.6 at the close.

Blue-chips failed to gain any sort of momentum as more gloomy data on the US economy and the country’s ailing housing market hit Wall Street, dragging down Japan’s Nikkei 225 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng.

In London, retailers were again in the spotlight after Zavvi became the third high street chain to crash in 24 hours, following the Officers Club chain and Whittard of Chelsea into administration.

In the top flight, B&Q owner Kingfisher lost 3.4p to 130.2p and Argos firm Home Retail Group was 4.25p worse off at 205p, although fashion chain Next overturned earlier losses to finish 4p up at 1084p. Marks & Spencer was unchanged at 213.25p.

Retailers in the second tier also saw mixed trading, with Debenhams up 1p to 24p and Currys owner DSG International steady at 17p. Kesa Electricals – which owns Comet – was 1.75p up at 85.25p after losses earlier.

In the wave of Zavvi’s collapse, rival HMV rose 6p to 101p – or 6% – as markets cheered the woes of a major competitor. Game Group was unchanged at 120p.

In the top flight, the latest dire economic news saw oil slip to 38 US dollars a barrel on fears over a lack of demand. This knocked back BP 8.75p to 496p, Royal Dutch Shell 43p to 1654p and prospector Cairn Energy 33p to 1891p.

Drugs giant AstraZeneca also saw shares come under pressure after fears of potential delays in an application to US regulators over its Seroquel treatment. Astra fell more than 3%, or 84p to 2627p.

Dairy Milk confectionery firm Cadbury was also a faller despite agreeing to sell its Australian drinks business to Japanese brewer Asahi for £550m (€578m) - one of the few pieces of corporate news around in a largely barren session. Shares in the firm lost 1.5p to 590p.

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