LONDON -- Blame it on the rain, blame it on oil, or blame it on the
. Take your pick, but either way the
, which came out of the starting blocks on Monday in a perky mood, ended Friday a damp squib.
After briefly starting the session higher, the FTSE 100 just rolled over and died, drawing the curtain to the performance with an 88.50 point loss to 6600.70 -- a retreat of 1.46%. The
bravely tried to rally, but it was not to be. After spending most of the day in positive territory, the weak start by the U.S. saw the gains pared back in afternoon trade and the index closed down 15.76 points to 4009.44.
Among the most-hated stocks was
which led the losers throughout the day. After yesterday's sudden earnings warning shook the stock to the core, punters again voted with their feet and punished the counter with an 11.75p markdown to 156 ($2.24).
Oil shares lubricated the early decline on the back of a check to crude prices, which dropped by more than a $1 below their recent 10-year highs. But the rest of the market soon took up the theme and the bearish momentum continued relentlessly.
Among the major oils
slipped 9p to 653.75 and Shell
fell 6.5p to 609.5.
The reason was not hard to find: Earlier in the morning Saudi Arabia pledged to get prices down to the agreed $22-$28 price band by getting OPEC to agree production increases at its Sunday talk-fest in Vienna.
But don't expect oil shares to come off too sharply, for now anyway. Any output accord may come too late. Analysts say it takes at least 40 days for extra oil to come on stream from an increase in production. So any boost won't feed through until November, when things are starting to get cold in the U.S. and demand for heating oil is on the increase.
Elsewhere, the oil slick spread gloom throughout the market. Everyone shared in the misery with losses across the board, especially in the chemical, telecoms and tech sectors.
gave back some of its recent gains losing 16p to
11.74. Fellow IT services company
sheds 45p to
got in on the act, diving 7.75p at one point before ending unchanged at 315.
One of the few bright spots was mining house
which posted a 117p gain to
40.17, after announcing strong first-half results on the back of surging commodity and diamond sales. Other miners joined in the party.
closed higher by 34p at
Europe's other major stock markets also ended in negative territory Friday, as the
in Paris finished down 131.1, or 1.9%, at 6,703.4 and the late in the German session the
in Frankfurt was off 111.7, or 1.5%, at 7,261.7. The Neuer Markt's tech-heavy
index was 27.3 lower, or 0.4%, at 6,255.7.
rose following the announcement Tiscali plans to buy the Dutch Internet service provider in an all-stock deal for 5.9 billion euros. World Online closed up 1.05 euros, or 6.7%, at 16.85 ($14.69) and Tiscali finished up 0.99 euros, or 2.2%, at 46.86.
Continental telcos were lower, as
closed down 5.20 euros, or 3.6%, at 138.20,
finished down 0.57 euros, or 2.4%, at 23.33 and
was off 0.75 euros, or 1.6%, at 44.96.
was down 0.04 euros, or 0.1%, at 57.80, after asserting more control over the troubled Japanese carmaker