A WARNING of significantly lower fourth-quarter profits from oil firm Royal Dutch Shell sent shares lower, but the wider topflight gained ground following buoyant Christmas retail figures. It was an uncomfortable start to the tenure of new chief executive Ben van Beurden , who admitted the performance was "not what I expect from Shell", only two weeks after succeeding Peter Voser . Shares fell one per cent on the update, but the wider FTSE 100 Index was 13.9 points ahead at 6829.3, thanks to retail sales figures that were far above expectations, reported above. The FTSE 100 is edging close to the 6840.3 figure that was the highest reached last year. That was the best end-of-day number for the top-flight since an all-time high reached on December 30, 1999 . In New York , the Dow Jones Industrial Average was ahead after a mixed bag of economic data, with factory output up for a fifth straight month but a slowdown in construction last month. In London , progress was held back by falls from heavyweight stock Shell, which said a range of factors and writedowns were expected to see fourthquarter earnings fall 70 per cent and full-year earnings drop 38 per cent. Shell blamed higher exploration costs and ongoing woes in refining for the poor end to its year. Its shares dropped 26.5p to 2279.5p, while rival BP recovered from heavy early session losses to stand 1.6p higher at 491p. Bookmaker William Hill led the top-tier fallers' board after its trading update revealed a [pounds]13m hit from the sector's hammering last week when the top seven Premier League football teams all secured victories for the first time. The group reported robust fourth-quarter figures and said it expects to post a slightly improved operating profit of [pounds]334m for last year, up from [pounds]330.6m in 2012, but shares fell three per cent, or 12.6p, to 360.1p. AIM
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