Upbeat US figures fail to buoy FTSE

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The FTSE 100 Index shed 11 points to 5871.5

Upbeat economic data in the US has failed to cheer FTSE 100 investors as wavering metal prices saw mining stocks take a tumble.

Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.1% after the US Labour Department reported a drop in first-time claims for unemployment benefits during the last week.

In London, the Footsie shed 11 points to 5871.5 as miners filled the fallers’ board. Lonmin lost 37p at 1837p, Eurasian Natural Resources dropped 19p at 978.5p and Antofagasta stood 30p lower at 1530p.

BP slid nearly 2% as investor fears over the cost of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill resurfaced in the wake of legal action by the US government.

The energy giant, which faces penalties as high as 21 billion US dollars (£13.4 billion) if found fully liable for damages in the lawsuit, fell 8.2p to 468.4p as the stock reversed strong gains earlier this week.

Solid retail sales figures for November from the Office for National Statistics offered some encouragement, but investors were focused on the performance of BP following last night’s announcement from the US Justice department.

With BP already committed to a separate compensation fund of 20 billion US dollars (£17 billion), the City is concerned about the impact of higher costs on the likely restart of dividend payments at the start of next year.

Manoj Ladwa, senior trader at ETX Capital, said: “Just when it looked like BP had turned a corner and was beginning to move on from the Gulf oil spill, it is dealt another blow to its recovery efforts.”

The blue-chip risers board was topped by outsourcing firm Serco after it reassured investors that it remained on track to meet profits forecasts. With the company also confident in its medium to long-term prospects, shares rose 21.5p to 595p.

In the retail sector, shares in Laura Ashley jumped 7% as it said it was on track to beat forecasts after efforts to reshape its store portfolio offset slower sales growth in recent weeks. The stock was up 1.25p to 18.25p. Other risers included Taylor Wimpey, which lifted 0.8p to 28.1p following yesterday’s announcement that the refinancing of its debt facilities had been completed ahead of schedule.

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