FTSE down amid oil price fears

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The FTSE 100 Index was 22.5 points lower at 5913.3

Persistent fears over the impact of sky-high oil prices have kept the London market on the back foot despite another round of solid earnings figures.

The ongoing crisis in Libya and fears that the unrest might spread to Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has caused the price of Brent crude to reach 115 US dollars a barrel.

And with key unemployment figures due in the United States later in the week, nervous investors were given added reason to take their money off the table.

At one stage the FTSE 100 Index was 60 points lower before recovering a little to stand 22.5 points lower at 5913.3.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei finished more than 2% down as fears of a further global economic slowdown caused by the surge in oil prices meant major exporters such as Toshiba, Sony and Toyota came under pressure.

London’s blue-chip fallers board was topped by leisure group Whitbread after it revealed a weaker trend for sales growth in recent weeks. Whitbread explained it was facing tougher comparatives with a year earlier, but the Costa, Premier Inn and Beefeater owner still dropped 3% or 63p to 1671p.

The latest boost from the corporate results season came from Asian-facing bank Standard Chartered and broadcaster ITV after both delivered full-year results in line with expectations.

Standard, which reported a 19% rise in annual profits and said it had made a record start to 2011, saw shares rally 61.5p to 1679.5p, a gain of 4%.

At the end of a result season in which the sector has spared investors any more nasty surprises, Lloyds Banking Group lifted 1p to 62.7p and HSBC added 2.2p to 660.2p, although RBS retreated 0.25p to 44.1p.

At ITV, which said its transformation plan gathered momentum following a near-tripling in full-year profits, shares jumped 6% or 5.6p to 91.1p.

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