FTSE pulled down by poor showing from energy stocks

Britain’s leading share index slipped yesterday, weighed down by weakness in heavyweight energy stocks after recent gains, with investors also looking ahead to futures and options expiries.

At the close, the FTSE 100 index was down 4.71 points or 0.1 per cent at 5,940.72, having shed 0.2 per cent in the previous session following five successive days of gains - the longest winning streak since last summer.

Volume was slightly better than of late, at 117 per cent of the 90-day daily average, as investors positioned for the expiries.

Banking group Lloyds posted the biggest rise of the day, up 2.8 per cent. However taxpayer-owned RBS was down 1.6 per cent.

Integrated oils were the biggest drag on the blue chip index, reversing some of the gains made in previous sessions as Brent crude fell back after recent strength.

BP shed 1.3 per cent. The company said it was investigating possible impropriety after a whistleblower sent a letter making “serious” allegations to chief executive Bob Dudley.

Miners however, which were Wednesday’s biggest casualties, enjoyed a rebound, tracking a recovery in copper prices, with Rio Tinto up 1.9 per cent.

Among individual stocks, Shire was the top blue chip faller, down 3.2 percent, as the drugmaker moved to bolster its position as a supplier of specialist drugs by buying US biotech firm FerroKin BioSciences for up to $325m.

Shire earlier surprised investors by pulling its US application to sell Fabry disease drug Replagal because of signals from regulators that it would need to conduct further clinical trials before winning approval.

Tesco shed 0.9 per cent after it said the head of its UK business Richard Brasher is quitting, leaving question marks over its strategy following its recent profit warning.

Fellow supermarkets also took a hit, with Morrisons shedding 0.5 per cent of its value and Sainsbury’s losing 0.7 per cent.

Elsewhere in the stores sector, Marks & Spencer gained 1.2 per cent while its fellow clothing retailer Next was a top FTSE 100 gainer, up 2.6 per cent ahead of full-year results due on March 22 after UBS repeating its “buy” rating on the stock in a preview.

“Aided by share buybacks, we believe this will be another year of double-digit growth in EPS,” UBS said in a note.

Cruises operator Carnival also moved higher, adding 1.6 per cent, with Silverwind Securities issuing a “buy” note on stock on a technicals basis.

“Carnival is seen as being in a strongest bull trend within our model and the stock is now testing above a downtrend channel that has been in place since late January 2011 and will also shortly test its 20 week exponential moving average line which is found at 2,035 pence,” Silverwind said.

Outside the FTSE 100 computer game retailer Game Group saw its shares add 64.3 per cent following reports that a private equity firm was interested in a bid for the struggling chain.

Commenting on the quiet market Mike Mason, a trader at Sucden Financial Private Clients, said: “The first quarterly futures and options expiries of the New Year on Friday should add a little spice to markets that, despite recent encouraging data on both sides of the pond, can best be described as docile.”