May 31--Gains by heavyweight miners had helped the Footsie put in a strong performance in May but the sector took a tumble on the last day of the month, dragging the benchmark index lower after three sessions of gains.
Blue chip miners such as Anglo American, down 87.5p at 1457.5p, and Rio Tinto, off 131.5p at 3057p, suffered as worries resurfaced about the economic health of top metals consumer China.
But another hit to sentiment came after engineering group Fenner, which makes giant conveyor belts used by the industry, issued a profit warning.
Fenner said its annual profits would be 10-15pc below the current market consensus expectations of pounds sterling 77.6m on the back of weakness in the US coal industry.
That was exacerbated by the firm's failure in a competitive tender for the supply of conveyor belts to an iron ore miner in western Australia, which it had previously expected to manufacture and deliver during the final quarter of the financial year.
Broker Numis Securities downgraded its rating for Fenner to add from hold saying in a note: 'These are clearly disappointing developments and demonstrate the continued challenging environment in its mining end markets.' Mid cap Fenner saw its shares drop 39.7p to 350p, but the FTSE 250 index managed to close the month strongly, 55.43 points higher at 16,010.25.
The FTSE 100 index closed down 26.78 points at 6,844.51, pausing for breath at the end of a hectic month, which saw it gain over 70 points, or 1pc, to leave it just over 80 points shy of its all-time closing peak of 6,930.6 hit on December 31, 1999.
Lloyds (0.45p to 77.86p) narrowly avoided a slump after UKFI – which manages the state's banking assets – accidentally sent out a press release saying it was selling 7.5pc of the bank. This turned out to be an old email from March's stake sale resent in error during a test (presumably failed) of UKFI's communications capabilities.
Thankfully for Lloyds investors, the email wasn't reported during market hours. 'UKFI is not selling any of the Government's shares in Lloyds Banking Group today,' a spokesman said, adding that an 'urgent review' is underway to determine what happened.
Among the blue chip fallers, DIY retailer Kingfisher remained under pressure after a disappointing first quarter trading update on Thursday, losing another 5p to 392p as Barclays downgraded its rating for the B&Q owner to equal weight from overweight.
A broker downgrade after recent results also weighed on food ingredients firm Tate & Lyle, down 9p to 692.5p with Credit Suisse cutting its recommendation to underperform from neutral after a 'slow start to the year' for the Sucralose sweeteners group.
But on the upside, medical equipment firm Smith & Nephew continued to find support on bid speculation as UBS added the stock to its 'M&A Watch List'.
UBS said it assumes a one-in-three chance of S&N being acquired by one of its competitors in the next two years and derived a 'putative takeover (price) in excess of 1300p, a possibly conservative estimate.' S&N shares added 17p at 1046p.
US peer Stryker was forced to deny reports earlier this week that it was working on a bid for S&N although its boss confirmed later that the company had in fact been in the early stages of considering a transaction but was not ready to make an offer.
In other takeover chatter, small cap oil explorer Salamander Energy jumped 10.5p to 148.25p as more news emerged about a potential bid for the Asia-focused group.
Traders said Spanish energy group Cepsa is finalising a near pounds sterling 570m bid for the company, valuing it at around 160p a share. Salamander put itself up for sale earlier this month. Discount stores firm Poundland also found gains, adding 0.75p to 343.25p, after broker Oriel Securities started coverage of the stock with a buy rating.
The broker highlighted the retailer as one of the strongest players in the discount arena and tipped it to gobble up rivals as the sector consolidates. Rival B&M is also gearing up for a float that could value it at close to pounds sterling 3bn.
Broadcasting group Cellcast Group, which operates the Babestation adult channel, edged up 0.15p to 0.88p after announcing a joint venture with gaming group Euro TV.
Solid fuel supplier and logistics group Hargreaves Services also suffered after an update, dropping 52.5p to 778.5p after saying results from its Production division will be below expectations this year due to 'challenging trading conditions' in coke markets.
Jonathon Hopkins is news editor of thisismoney.co.uk
(c)2014 Daily Mail (London, )
Visit the Daily Mail (London, ) at www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html
Distributed by MCT Information Services