FTSE struggles as Egypt turmoil unsettles markets

The FTSE struggled to reclaim a morning of losses as political turmoil in Egypt unsettled investors.

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.31 per cent or 18.43 points at 5,862.94, with travel firms suffering most from selloffs.

Tour operator TUI Travel shed 2.62 per cent to close at 253p, while mid cap peer Thomas Cook lost 3.1 per cent and International Consolidated Airlines Group fell 1.8 per cent.

“The worst hit stocks have been in the travel sector with TUI Travel and Thomas Cook bearing the brunt as the travel companies cancel flights and re-book affected passengers to the affected destinations,” said Michael Hewson, market analyst at CMC Markets.

Energy firms limited the losses, however, as uncertainty over oil supply from Egypt caused a surge in demand and a heartening 53 per cent quarterly profit rise from Exxon Mobil, the world's largest company by market capitalisation, boosted the sector.

BG Group led the gainers, closing up 5.02 per cent to 1,401p. It also benefited from a broker upgrade by Chevreaux, which moved it to an "outperform" rating and a 1,600p price target.

Packaging company Rexam rose 2.09 per cent to 341.5p after it completed its beverage can contract negotiations and forecast 2011 operating profit of a similar level to 2010.

“Rexam was one of a small number of companies that enjoyed a strong showing and avoided the shadow of the escalating crisis in Egypt,” said Will Hedden, sales trader at IG Index.

Retailers also featured on the risers board, led by supermarkets Sainsbury's (up 2.8 per cent to 381.5p) and Tesco (up 1.16 per cent to 402.7p).

BP bucked the oil sector trend though – it closed down 0.4 per cent down at 484.85p as investors fretted over whether Russian shareholders in its TNK joint venture would withhold its $1.8bn (£1.13bn) dividend payment.

Pub landlord Greene King stayed on top of the FTSE risers, closing up 5.28 per cent at 472.2p after its trading update showed a healthy performance over the past eight weeks despite the poor weather.

And outsourcing group MITIE fell five per cent to 218.3p, despite releasing a positive IMS reporting good progress in the year to date and forecasting full-year earnings in line with management's expectations.

Wall Street had a better, day, bolstered by positive consumer spending and factory output data that pointed to a consistent recovery. Exxon’s results also provided early cheer.

The Nasdaq closed up 0.48 per cent or 12.86 points at 16,999.75; the Dow Jones industrial average closed 0.56 per cent or 65.89 points higher at 11,889.59; and the S&P 500 gained 0.72 per cent or 5.58 points to close at 780.09.