FTSE up slightly despite BA decline

Grim annual figures from British Airways plunged the stock into the red today as the airline's woes overshadowed more stable trading elsewhere.

Grim annual figures from British Airways plunged the stock into the red today as the airline's woes overshadowed more stable trading elsewhere.

BA shares slipped more than 8% at one stage after reporting a record full-year loss of £401m (€456m) and warning that there was no recovery in sight.

The blue-chip stock was later able to claw back some of the loss during a lacklustre session for the FTSE 100 Index, which closed 19.8 points higher at 4365.3 - representing a slight gain on the start of the week.

The positive session came as a relief for investors after a difficult session on Thursday saw it shed 3% in the wake of Standard & Poor's rating downgrade on UK government debt.

While BA finished 4% lower, or 6.1p at 156.7p, financials and miners were among those on a firmer footing.

Royal Bank of Scotland rose 1p to 40.9p after it appointed Standard Life boss Sandy Crombie as senior independent director, while fellow part-nationalised company Lloyds Banking Group cheered 1.9p to 68.6p.

Miners dominated the risers board as Eurasian Natural Resources rose 16p to 574p, Kazakhmys added 39p to 682.5p and Rio Tinto gained 112p to 2769p.

The improvement came after Goldman Sachs upgraded the sector and said a stronger Chinese economy could lead to a shortage of metals next year.

Cable & Wireless joined BA on the fallers board in a second day of losses after its full-year figures yesterday raised concerns it may not be able to sustain growth after recent turnaround efforts.

The group's shares fell another 4.8p to 137.2p.

The rout in the retail sector showed no signs of ending after investors were spooked by Marks & Spencer's poor results and news of a dividend cut.

M&S slipped another 1.5p to 284.25p, Argos owner Home Retail Group declined 6.25p to 229.75p and Primark firm Associated British Foods dipped 7p to 746.5p.

Outside the top flight, pubs group Marston's rose 8%, or 12.25p to 172p, after it reported an improvement in trading since February, although this was not enough to prevent it announcing a 21% fall in half-year profits.

Sector counterparts also benefited, with Greene King ahead 7p at 422p and Enterprise Inns up 5p at 154p.

Elsewhere, shares in Next Fifteen Communications fell 16% or 8.5p to 46p after the PR firm said it was no longer in takeover talks with two of its rivals.

In contrast, shares in property firm Brixton surged 24%, up 12p to 61.75p, after it said it was holding bid discussions with a small number of parties. Rival Segro - up 1.25p at 26.25p - has expressed interest in a deal.

The biggest Footsie risers were Fresnillo up 50p at 690p, Kazakhmys ahead 39p at 682.5p, Aviva up 18.5p at 339.25p and Icap ahead 21p at 388.25p.

The biggest fallers were British Airways down 6.1p at 156.7p, Invensys off 8.75p at 228.25p, Cable & Wireless down 4.8p at 137.2p and Liberty International off 10.5p at 348p.

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