Strong performances by energy and pharmaceutical stocks were countered by weak banks and miners yesterday as the FTSE gained just 0.2% to close at 5,200. Much of the market's impetus came from BP, which, while halving third-quarter profits, beat analysts' expectations and registered a rise of 4.8%. Royal Dutch Shell and BG Group rose 1.7% and 0.8% respectively. Among pharmaceuticals, GSK climbed 2.2%, AstraZeneca rose 2% and Shire added 0.5%. Miners, however, were hit by weak metals prices. And financials weighed heavily on the index, with the part-nationalised banks faring particularly badly; RBS was down 8.1% and Lloyds fell 6.1% on worries about intervention from EU competition authorities.
In Europe, the Paris CAC fell one point to 3,743; and the German Xetra Dax was seven points lower at 5,635.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average managed a rise of 0.1% to 9,882; but the S&P 500 closed down 0.3% at 1,063; and the Nasdaq Composite closed 1% lower at 2,116.
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Overnight in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 1.4% to 10,075; while the broader Topix index lost 0.8% to 888. In China, the Shanghai Composite closed up 0.3% at 3,031; and the CSI 300 index gained 0.4% to close at 3,329.
Brent spot was trading at $76.68 early today, and in New York, crude oil was at $79.14. Spot gold was trading at $1,039 an ounce; silver was at $16.67 and platinum was at $1,319.
In the forex markets this morning, sterling was trading against the US dollar at 1.6359 and against the euro at 1.1039. The dollar was trading at 0.6748 against the euro and 91.18 against the Japanese yen.
And today, the EU has agreed to the break up of nationalised bank Northern Rock, with the sale of its 'good' assets, while the 'bad assets' remain in public hands. Potential buyers include Virgin Money, which recently applied to the Financial Services Authority for a banking licence, and which wanted to buy the bank when it was first bailed out by the taxpayer.
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