Leading shares edged higher in a fairly subdued trading day, with no help from Wall Street which was closed for the Martin Luther King holiday. But precious metal miners gained some lustre as gold and silver touched one month highs. So Randgold Resources rose 230p to £41.85 while Fresnillo jumped 44.5p to 776.5p and Russia's Polymetal International put on 31p to 570p. Base metal mining companies slipped lower after Chinese GDP figures were flat year on year, prompting concerns about a slowdown in the country, a key consumer of commodities. Rio Tinto fell 47p to £33.36 while BHP Billiton dipped 3.5p to 1886.5p. Elsewhere Weir added 90p to £22.27 after a buy note from analysts at Redburn, while BSkyB was 14p to 854p on renewed talk it might link up with Vodafone , 0.05p lower at 239.95p. The idea, which followed a similar suggestion from UBS last week, was that the two could present a united front against the growing competitive threat from BT , down 3.9p at 379.5p. Banking shares were weaker after a profit warning from Deutsche Bank . So Barclays led the FTSE 100 fallers, down 5.8p at 282.8p, while Royal Bank of Scotland - also hit by a downgrade from JP Morgan Cazenove - ended down 4.7p at 359p. Overall the FTSE 100 finished 7.43 points lower at 6836.73. If it had managed to end above 6840.27 it would have been the highest level since the record high set in December 1999 . But for the moment, it was not to be. Tesco dipped 1.5p to 329.6p following weekend reports it had taken a look at Mothercare , up 6% at 289p, six months ago and could rekindle its interest following the recent warning from the childrenswear retailer. Car insurer Admiral , which accelerated last week on industry hopes that recent declines in premium prices could be slowing down, slipped 6p to £14.01 as analysts at Berenberg issued a sell note. They said: The Confused.com/Towers Watson car insurance price index showed a smaller fall in prices in Q4 2013 than in previous quarters, leading to speculation that the motor insurance cycle may be turning and that we could soon start to see significant price increases. Unfortunately, we believe this view to be too optimistic. While the cycle may be flattening out, we see little pressure for large price increases, and certainly do not expect a return to rates seen in recent years. There is a risk of further price falls but even without these, many headwinds remain for UK motor insurers. There are specific reasons why we believe that Admiral will find the going more difficult than most. Admiral has been moving to become a more mainstream provider in recent years, reducing its focus on its most profitable segment of higher risk drivers. Its average premiums have therefore faced greater downward pressure than has the market as a whole. With the rise in vehicle numbers and in average premium rates now in the past, its expense ratios are under more pressure. Admiral has been more exposed than most in our view to the banning of referral fees and there are risks from other regulatory actions. Finally HR Owen was 15.5p higher at 162.5p after a positive update from the car dealer, which said a strong end to the year meant 2013 profits were likely to be ahead of expectations.
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