Stocks were subdued on both sides of the Atlantic today as investors took profits after Monday’s big gains.
The FTSE 100 Index was in the red throughout the session and eventually finished 0.6 points down at 5396.5 after its near-3% surge yesterday, driven by strong banking results.
America’s Dow Jones Industrial also saw choppy early trading following overnight gains as the latest results from the likes of Procter & Gamble disappointed. Flat US consumer spending in June and lower than expected factory orders added to economic nerves.
CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said: “Economic data continues to disappoint and this makes it inviting to book profits in the short term.”
The pound held its ground above £1.59 against the dollar, and traded at £1.20 against the euro.
In London, many banks gave back some of their gains today, but the slack was taken up by insurers after an improvement of 1% for Prudential and Standard Life.
Sentiment has been boosted by forecasts of higher first-half earnings from the sector this month.
Under-fire Prudential, which is expected to make its peace with investors by increasing its dividend, rose 5.5p to 572p, while Standard Life added 3.1p to 212.3p.
Aviva was also in the spotlight after it signed a five-year agreement with Santander for the distribution of its life protection products from next June. Shares – helped by a broker upgrade – added 3.6p to 376.5p.
Energy stocks were closely watched after the price of oil remained above $80 a barrel, triggering a rise of 14p to 1764.5p for Royal Dutch Shell.
BP, which is preparing for its “static kill” operation to permanently seal its ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico, added 2.55p to 415.65p.
The biggest Footsie risers were Centrica up 11.1p to 321p, British Airways up 5.1p to 236p, Standard Chartered up 41p to 1902.5p and British American Tobacco up 46p to 2234p.
The biggest Footsie fallers were ARM Holdings down 19.9p to 312.1p, Investec off 28.3p to 475.2p, Rolls-Royce down 16.5p to 570p, and Segro off 7.9p to 276.7p.