FTSE 100 flat on worries over retail sales data

The blue chip index was flat in early trade, having closed modestly down on Wednesday, as investors were cautious ahead of the release of UK retail sales data.

Gold producer African Barrick Gold was the top FTSE 250 riser, up almost 10 per cent on speculation parent company Barrick Gold could sell its 74 per cent stake in the company to China Gold.

Fellow miner Avocet Mining was up almost five per cent.

Pharma company Hikma rose by 5.8 per cent on the news that its revenue for the first half of the year climbed by 25 per cent.

On the fallers, Finnish miner Talvivaara fell by 4.4 per cent as investors reacted negatively to its second-quarter results. It reported an operating loss in the second quarter of €10.9m (£8.5m), as a result of weak nickel prices.

Construction firm Balfour Beatty also led the fallers, down 2.46 per cent. This comes despite strong pre-tax profits reported yesterday, helped by its work on the Olympic Park.

Trinity Mirror was also a big faller, shedding more than four per cent in early trading.

UK financials all shouldered modest losses, with the exception of Lloyds Banking Group, which added 1.02 per cent. HSBC lost 0.16 per cent, RBS was down 0.71 per cent and Barclays down 0.33 per cent. Beleaguered Standard Chartered fell by 0.35 per cent.

In Asia, the Nikkei closed 1.88 per cent up, while the Hang Seng showed modest losses of almost 0.5 per cent during trading.

The Dow Jones closed broadly flat yesterday at 0.02 per cent down.