The London market struggled to find direction today as sentiment was weighed down by ongoing fears of a bail out for Ireland’s troubled economy.
The FTSE 100 Index opened in the red as concerns grew that Ireland may soon be forced to apply to Europe for emergency funds, but later clawed its way into positive territory – up 6 points to 5802.9 – as investors looked to a higher start to trading on Wall Street.
A rise in US stock futures signalled tentative gains on the Dow Jones Industrial Average ahead of the latest data on US retail sales and America’s manufacturing industry.
The Dow closed down by nearly 100 points on Friday on the Irish funding concerns and due to possible moves to cool Chinese growth.
These issues remained firmly in the spotlight today, despite Irish ministers dismissing the speculation.
Among stocks, miner BHP Billiton reclaimed early losses after last night’s decision to pull its $39bn (€28.5bn) hostile bid for Potash Corporation after failing to secure the Canadian government’s approval.
Shares in BHP rose 18p to 2380.5p as investors digested the news.
Lonmin was another miner in focus today after the group – the world’s third-biggest platinum producer – posted results revealing a swing back to full year profits, sending shares up 53p to 1820p.
Engineering firm Invensys was top of the Footsie risers, up 7%, after its chief executive was quoted in a newspaper saying that a deal with Chinese rail group CSR was possible.
Shares lifted 22.1p to 340.9p despite the group denying offer talks.
In the second tier, Sportingbet rose 5% or 3.2p to 61.6p after it confirmed it was in discussions following reports at the weekend it was looking at a merger with Swedish rival Unibet to create a £600m (€707m) group.
Pork producer Cranswick was another seeing share gains – up 40p to 826p – after the FTSE 250 firm’s first half figures cheered investors, with Panmure Gordon also upping its rating on the group.
But housebuilders were hit in the FTSE 250 following a gloomy report from property website Rightmove that revealed asking prices fell by 3.2% in the four weeks to November 6.
Taylor Wimpey was the biggest faller in the sector, down 0.8p to 25.2p, followed by Barratt Developments, off 2.1p to 77.3p.
Persimmon, which released a trading update, was also under pressure with a 2.8p fall to 357.4p.
It said it failed to see the traditional autumn pick-up, although assured that sales had remained stable.