London’s blue-chip share index failed to hold on to gains today as losses on Wall Street wiped out early progress.
Initial optimism over the world economy helped the FTSE 100 index more than 30 points higher at one stage, but sentiment soon switched after trading opened in the US.
Despite a busy day for UK corporate news, the Footsie finished 5.7 points lower at 5314 – dragged lower as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 60 points.
Nervousness surrounding tomorrow’s second-quarter US growth figures hit the Dow hard, while it was also weighed down by mixed earnings from the likes of consumer giant Colgate-Palmolive.
After a recent strong rally, the pound eased back a little today, slipping just below $1.56 and down to €1.19.
Better-than-expected results from publisher Reed Elsevier, drugs firm AstraZeneca and engineer Rolls-Royce provided much of the focus among Footsie stocks.
Reed led the market higher with a 4%, or 20p gain, to 552p as it noted an improved trading performance and stabilising advertising markets.
AstraZeneca followed close behind after lifting its full-year earnings guidance and gaining a boost for heart drug Brilinta from US regulators. Shares cheered 86.5p to 3289p.
Meanwhile defence giant BAE Systems added 3.1p to 320.1p as it said it expected to maintain growth this year despite pressure on the budgets of its major customers.
Elsewhere in the sector, Rolls-Royce said it expected “modestly higher” annual results, driven by a strong performance at its marine business, although it failed to maintain earlier advances, closing 2p lower at 585.5p.
Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell added 6p to 1713p as the Anglo-Dutch company lifted profits 34% after a strong second quarter and faster-than-expected progress on cost-cutting plans.
The leading Footsie faller was aluminium drinks can maker Rexam, after Credit Suisse brokers cut their rating on the firm, leaving shares 11.1p lower at 316.5p or 3%.
Shares in satellite broadcaster BSkyB were 9p down at 711p despite a 10% rise in operating profits to £855m (€1.02bn) and 90,000 new customers in the final quarter of its financial year.
In the FTSE 250, shares in troubled social housing firm Connaught jumped almost 15%, or 4.5p to 35.5p, as the company said it had arranged a £15m (€18m) short-term overdraft facility from lenders to ease immediate funding concerns.
Another strong gainer in the second tier was gaming group Rank, which posted its own double-digit gains after reporting the first growth in customer visits to its Mecca Bingo halls in more than a decade. Shares cheered 7.8p to 117p.
Both firms were surpassed by PartyGaming, up 20% or 52.5p to 309.5p as the firm announced a merger with bwin to create the world’s largest online gaming business.
The biggest Footsie risers were Reed Elsevier ahead 20p at 552p, BT Group up 4.9p to 144.8p, BP up 11p to 413.5p and AstraZeneca up 86.5p to 3289p.
The biggest Footsie fallers were Rexam down 11.1p to 316.5p, Invensys off 7.5p to 271.6p, Tullow Oil down 33p to 1252p and BG Group down 26.5p to 1013p.