Leading shares drifted lower for much of the day amid mixed economic data from around the globe, but with an afternoon lurch downwards, they ended at their lowest level since the middle of December. Disappointing manufacturing figures from China were outweighed initially by more reasonable reports from Spain, Greece and the UK . But a worse than expected ISM survey from the US sent Wall Street tumbling in early trading and left the FTSE 100 down 44.78 points at 6465.66. Lloyds Banking Group was the biggest loser, down 3.31p at 79.99p after it revealed a further £1.8bn charge for mis-selling payment protection insurance. Barclays dropped 6.8p to 265.7p and Royal Bank of Scotland fell 6.7p to 333.3p. Vodafone lost 4.45p to 222.1p as India rejected an appeal by the major telecoms companies to delay an auction of new spectrum. Companies with emerging markets exposure were under pressure again, with Aberdeen Asset Management down 14.1p to 376.7p and Burberry 41p lower at £14.07. Mining shares were mostly weaker following the Chinese data, with Anglo American down 39p at £13.97 and Glencore Xstrata off 7.6p at 314.9p. But Randgold Resources was up 262p at £44.55 as it produced a record amount of gold in 2013, albeit earnings were hit by falls in precious metal prices. It said it would spend $60m on exploration, and was on the lookout for acquisitions. Analyst Hunter Hillcoat at Investec said: We continue to view Randgold as our preferred larger gold play, given superior production growth, a higher grades profile and greater operational diversity. Reckitt Benckiser rose 102p to £46.65 on suggestions it could be interested in Merck's consumer healthcare business. Merck is believed to have received offers for the business, which makes products such as Coppertone suntan lotion, and analysts at Bernstein said, according to Reuters: We believe the acquisition of Merck's over the counter/consumer healthcare business would...be very attractive to Reckitt. We estimate this would push Reckitt up from global number nine to number three in consumer healthcare and would result in Reckitt becoming the global leader in cough, cold and allergy. Rexam added 7p to 500p as the packaging group said it would sell most of its healthcare business to Montagu Private Equity for $805m in cash and return $740m (£450m) of the proceeds to shareholders. Diageo , which fell back last week after worries about growth in emerging markets, dipped another 8p to 1792.5p despite announcing that chief executive Ivan Menezes had bought $1m (£615,000) worth of shares on Friday. Finally Nostra Terra Oil and Gas rose 11% to 0.295p as it announced a $25m credit facility with Texas Capital Bank , with the proceeds intended for future drilling within the Chisholm Trail prospect, High Plains prospect, and others. Nostra Terra said it would shortly announce its working interest in the second well in the Chisholm Trail prospect, expected to be its largest working well yet. Analysts at SP Angel said: News that the Company has secured up to $25m in funding will go some way to providing a clearer path forward, but it also makes a rod for the management team. Once the company has started to draw from the facility, the need to meet the covenants (interest cover, cash flow, restricted cash balances, etc.) will kick in.
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