London’s FTSE 100 ends down after weak oil stocks weigh on the market

BRITAIN’S top share index ended slightly lower yesterday, as weakness in oil stocks outpaced firmer drugmakers, as the US House of Representatives approved a healthcare reform bill, and with miners also in demand.

The FTSE 100 ended down 5.58 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 5,644.54 after a volatile session which saw the index dip as low as 5,583.49. It closed at its highest level since June 25 2008 on Friday.

Energy stocks took the most points off the index, though pared some of their losses as the crude price came off lows from earlier in the day.

BG Group, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell were off 0.8 to 1.8 per cent. Cairn Energy, which will today report its full-year results, shed 1.4 per cent.

Banks were weaker as Greece and Dubai debt matters resurfaced. Barclays, Standard Chartered and HSBC dropped 0.3 to 1.1 per cent.

European Union leaders seemed at odds over how or whether to offer assistance to Athens, setting the scene for a tense summit on March 25-26 and fuelling doubts over whether euro zone states will agree to any support package.

Meanwhile, state-owned conglomerate Dubai World is expected to propose a $26bn debt restructuring plan to its creditors imminently, in a move seen as a test of the emirate’s ability to honour commitments.

“I think today as much as anything has been a pause for breath ahead of what should be a reasonably busy rest of the week, in terms of corporate announcements and then of course the Budget tomorrow,” said Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown.