FTSE loses gains as Wall St stalls

Source:FT.com Author:Michael Hunter & Nei Date:03/25/14 Click:

London equities closed with small losses on Friday, after a lacklustre morning on Wall Street took the shine off the market.

Housebuilders were drawn into the late sell-off on renewed concern about the prospects for UK home sales and the recovery in the financial services sector faltered.

The FTSE 100 ended the session 0.1 per cent weaker, a loss of 7 points.

The index had made headway for most of the day, after sentiment received a boost after the US House of Representatives and the Bush administration reached agreement on a $150bn fiscal stimulus package aimed at staving off a US recession.

But US markets failed to sustain their positive response to the developments. As European traders closed their positions for the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was stuck in neutral gear, flat at 12,379.3.

After the turbulence of the last few sessions - in part sparked by the fraudulent activities of Société Générale trader Jérôme Kerviel, who lost the French bank EU4.9bn the London banking sector could not end the week on a firmer footing.

Banking stocks failed to extend their recovery into a second successive session, as investors moved out of the sector after its strong showing the day before. Barclays fell 0.7 per cent to 500p and Alliance & Leicester lost 5.9 per cent to 736p. Royal Bank of Scotland was 2.3 per cent weaker at 391p.

The biggest drag on the underperforming FTSE 250, which finished ½ per cent lower at 9,738.5, came from the housebuilding sector. Analysis from Cazenove predicting gloomy mortgage approvals data, due on January 30 and discussed on FT Alphaville's Markets Live ,weighed on sentiment.

Berkeley Group fell 7.9 per cent to £10.00, Barratt Development lost 4.3 per cent to 460.9p and Bovis Homes was 3.6 per cent weaker at 634p.

Back on the FTSE 100, blue-chip housebuilders joined the trend. Persimmon was the biggest single faller on the blue-chip benchmark, down 6.9 per cent to 826p. Its peer Taylor Wimpey lost 5.5 per cent to 193.4p.

Friends Provident ticked 0.5 per cent higher at 164.9p on news it was moving closer to announcing a break-up and will unveil the results of a strategic review next week. Friends is also expected to sell or demerge its 53 per cent stake in F&C, the fund management group.

Miners remained a bright spot, benefiting from strong metals prices. Gold hit a new record high on Friday as expectations of further US rate cuts hit the dollar. Platinum was also pushed to record levels on strong demand for the metal, used in catalytic converters.

Antofagasta rose 3.1 per cent to 652p, Vedanta Resources climbed 7.2 per cent to £18.29 and Kazakhmys added 5.2 per cent to £11.64.

Carlsberg, the Danish brewer, and Heineken, its Dutch peer, announced an agreed joint cash bid for Scottish & Newcastle of 800p a share, valuing Britain's biggest brewer at £7.8bn. S&N shares gained 2.2per cent to 783p.

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