21 May 2007 - 13:27
  • News Code: 105184

LONDON - The FTSE 100 (.FTSE: Quote, Profile, Research of shares edged down on Monday, as oil stocks weighed but pub groups supported on hopes of possible property break-ups.

At 08:31 a.m., the FTSE 100 was 16.4 points, or 0.25 percent lower at 6,624.5, reversing gains achieved on Friday when shares rose to their highest close since September 2000.

 

But with little on the corporate and economic calendar at the start of a busy reporting week, traders said investors could struggle for direction as the session progresses.

 

In commodities, oil stocks reversed earlier gains, despite benchmark Brent crude (LCOc1: Quote, Profile, Research near £70 a barrel supported by supply concerns surrounding major producers Iran and Nigeria.

 

BP (BP.L: Quote, Profile, Research fell 0.1 percent, while rival Shell (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research dipped 0.5 percent, as traders cited profit taking.

 

On the upside, pub and restaurant group Mitchells & Butlers (MAB.L: Quote, Profile, Research climbed 1.1 percent to top the FTSE 100 leaderboard, after it said it was exploring the possibility of a 50-50 joint venture on the majority of its property assets.

 

Rival Punch Taverns (PUB.L: Quote, Profile, Research also tacked on 1.1 percent on the positive break-up sentiment, traders said.

 

"What a great week last week," said Howard Wheeldon, senior strategist at BGC Partners. "(But) the markets are looking fairly choppy for the moment -- I know the earnings figures are basically good -- but there are huge worries out there." 

"We are definitely seeing flatter levels of growth from the retail sector ... signs of a slowdown in house price growth ... we may be hovering toward a flatter line, the markets are due a pause."

 

In other stocks, life insurer Friends Provident (FP.L: Quote, Profile, Research gained 0.9 percent on continued market talk of a possible bid from French giant AXA (AXAF.PA: Quote, Profile, Research.

 

Among banking shares, ABN AMRO (AAH.AS: Quote, Profile, Research and Barclays (BARC.L: Quote, Profile, Research, which agreed to merge last month but are facing a potential rival bid, are considering the sale of ABN"s Brazilian unit to lift the price of the deal to fend off a rival bid, Dutch newspaper Financieele Dagblad reported. Barclays fell 0.4 percent and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: Quote, Profile, Research, which leads the rival bidding group, added 0.3 percent.

 

In the pharmaceuticals sector, drugmaker Shire (SHP.L: Quote, Profile, Research was up 0.5 percent after it said it had received an approvable letter from U.S. regulators for SPD465, its experimental treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults.

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues approvable letters when it is minded to approve an experimental medicine, but requires further information before giving full endorsement.

 

Among midcaps, storage company Big Yellow (BYG.L: Quote, Profile, Research tacked on 3.4 percent after it said its annual adjusted net asset value per share rose 47 percent and it expected good trading conditions to continue into the summer.

 

Soft drinks group Britvic (BVIC.L: Quote, Profile, Research tacked on 0.5 percent after it said it was confident about the firm"s full-year performance as it reported a 9.3 percent rise in first-half branded drinks revenues.

 

Britvic, which makes Robinsons Squashes, J2O and Fruit Shoot and has distribution rights for Pepsi in Britain, said total branded revenue rose to 353.6 million pounds ($697.4 million) in the 28 weeks to April 15 from 323.5 million a year ago.

 

PIN/REUTERS

News Code 105184

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