GlaxoSmithKline and British American Tobacco under pressure as FTSE falls

BRITAIN’S top share index closed slightly lower yesterday, snapping a five-day winning streak, as weakness from defensive stocks countered gains from banks ahead of more results from the financial sector later in the week.

The FTSE 100 closed down 6.10 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 5,352.07, having closed up 0.6 per cent on Friday for its highest closing level in a month as it posted its best weekly performance since July.

“It’s been fairly quiet on the earnings front and we're getting to the tail end of that now,” said Stephen Pope, chief global market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald.

“So we start thinking more about what’s going on in the broader economic scenario [but] there’s not been a lot of data to work with today,” he said.

Defensive stocks came under pressure, with GlaxoSmithKline a top blue chip faller, shedding 2.6 percent.

Two US drug safety reviewers have recommended that Glaxo’s diabetes drug Avandia be pulled from the market after concluding it is more dangerous to the heart than a rival medicine.

Peer AstraZeneca fell 0.7 per cent, while other weak defensively-perceived issues included British American Tobacco, off 1.1 per cent, drinks group Diageo, down 1 per cent, and food retailer Tesco, 1.2 percent weaker.

General retailers were also on the back foot, with Marks & Spencer slipping 2.5 per cent as Bernstein Research cut its target price, while Next, Kingfisher and Home Retail Group fell 1.4 to 2.9 per cent.

Energy stocks retreated in tandem with crude prices, with Royal Dutch Shell, BG Group, and Cairn Energy, which has huge assets in India, off 0.3 to 0.9 per cent.