LONDON -- The London market struggled to make much headway for most of the session in either direction. Doubts about whether the U.S. has really seen the top of the latest rate hiking cycle is acting as a major drag on Wall Street, which in turn is weighing on the U.K. market.

The

FTSE 100

eventually closed 14.9 points higher, or 0.2%, at 6465.4, while the

Techmark

ended near unchanged at 3,658.44.

Freeserve

(FREE)

remained firmly in the spotlight. The stock fell a hefty 27.5p, or 7.6%, to 336.5 after its broker

Credit Suisse First Boston

says it expects pre-tax losses of

61 million in 2001, which is more than double its previous estimate of

27 million.

The session's negativity on tech stocks extended to

ARM Holdings

(ARMHY)

, despite good second-quarter results announced Tuesday and the company being rated a buy by both

Goldman Sachs

and

Merrill Lynch

. The company fell 2.5p, or 0.3%, to 780. Banks had a steady session ahead of the earnings season that kicks off Thursday when big fish

HSBC

(HBC)

and relative minnow

Northern Rock

report second-quarter results.

Few expect any surprises, especially from HSBC. "I think it's going to be pretty much as expected," said

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's

William de Winton. "The market has discounted a lot of the bad news and is now hunkering down before the fix." HSBC, which announced Wednesday a venture with

Deutsche Bank

(DTBKY)

,

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

and financial information provider

Bridge

to develop an electronic bond-trading platform in Asia, closed up 8.5p, or 1.2%, at 843.5 ($12.57).

Elsewhere in the sector,

Standard Chartered

rose 10.5p, or 1.1%, to 944.5 after Morgan Stanley reiterated the stock as a strong buy. The broker says, "with minimal domestic assets, Standard Chartered might be the 'only growth stock' we cover," and upped its price target to

10.50.

Oil stocks had a good session on the back of firmer crude prices after OPEC president Ali Rodrigues indicated that there would be no immediate deliberate raising of output by cartel members.

BP Amoco

(BPA)

gained 16.5p, or 2.8%, to 599 and

Shell

(SC) - Get Report

put on 3p, or 0.2%, to 542.

Most of Europe's other major bourses ended lower, with the

CAC 40

in Paris closing down 19.4, or 0.3%, at 6,495.1. Late in the German trading session, the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was down 33.8, or 0.5%, at 7,373.1 and the Neuer Markt's tech-heavy

Nemax 50

index was off 93.2, or 1.5%, at 6,262.9.

France Telecom

(FTE)

erased early gains to close down 2.90 euros, or 1.9%, at 151.00 ($139.80) amid the successful stock market debut of the company's Internet portal

Wanadoo

and news it would buy out

Deutsche Telekom's

(DT) - Get Report

stake in Italian mobile operator

Wind

for 2.08 billion euros.

DT fell 0.31 euros, or 0.5%, to 60.68 amid reports that Chairman Ron Sommer was seeking approval to launch a formal bid for U.S. wireless operator

VoiceStream

(VSTR)

.

Big German technology shares were also lower, with

Epcos

(EPC) - Get Report

0.30 euros lower, or 0.3%, at 120.00 and

Siemens

(SMWAY)

off 4.39 euros, or 2.5%, at 175.61. Amid jitters a day before reporting second-quarter results, software maker

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

dropped 4.39 euros, or 2.4%, to 220.00.

Carmakers bucked the Dax's general downward trend, as

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

rose 2.47 euros, or 4.3%, to 60.11 and

Volkswagen

(VLKAY)

climbed 1.47 euros, or 3.4%, to 44.27.