Sliding oil price drags the London market lower
The FTSE 100 Index closed down 25.74 points to 7,383.9 points.
London’s top-flight index edged lower on Monday as energy stocks took a hit after the price of oil slipped ahead of a fast-approaching meeting of global producers.
The FTSE 100 Index closed down 25.74 points to 7,383.9 points, with BP and Royal Dutch Shell B sinking by 5.1p to 496.2p and 24p to 2,361p respectively.
Brent crude dropped 0.4% to 63.45 US dollars (£47.58) a barrel as traders looked ahead to Thursday’s Opec meeting in Vienna, which could result in an agreement between the world’s largest producers to extend output caps.
David Madden, market analyst of CMC Markets UK, said: “Some dealers feel a lot of that is already priced in and are exiting their long positions ahead of the meeting in Vienna.
“The US shale producers will be paying close attention to Opec’s decision as a surge in the energy market could prompt higher production in the shale sector – which could counteract Opec’s decision.”
Across Europe, the French Cac 40 and German Dax ended the day down about 0.5% each.
On the currency markets, the pound failed to hold onto gains earlier in the session, drifting marginally lower against the greenback at 1.333.
Sterling was 0.1% higher versus the euro at 1.119.
In UK stocks, banking giants Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group dragged on the market as investors braced for the Bank of England stress test results on Tuesday.
RBS was the biggest faller out of the trio, dropping 3.2p to 267.6p, while Lloyds and Barclays sunk by 0.6p to 65.5p and 1.9p to 187.5p respectively.
British Airways owner IAG surged after the Press Association reported the group had snapped up the Gatwick take-off and landing slots being sold by the administrators of failed airline Monarch.
PA understands the group has secured the majority of the ill-fated carrier’s slots at Britain’s second-busiest airport after tabling a significant bid that trumped rival airlines.
It has been reported Monarch’s slots at Gatwick and Luton are worth in the region of £60 million, with the most valuable at the West Sussex airport.
Shares in IAG rose more than 1%, or 7.5p, to 603.5p while no-frills carrier easyJet climbed 20p to 1,385p.
Education publisher Pearson sunk 14.5p to 693.5p after it revealed plans to offload its language teaching unit Wall Street English to private equity firms Baring and Citic Capital for 300 million dollars (£225 million).
Wall Street English operates 70 teaching centres in China, nine in Italy and has 321 franchised centres across 27 territories.
The move comes after Pearson said in February it is exploring strategic options to shift away from large-scale direct delivery services as it looks to bulk up its balance sheet.
It said the deal will see a 100 million dollar (£74 million) improvement in its net debt position as about 150 million dollars (£112 million) of operating cash will be retained in the disposed business.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were GlaxoSmithKline up 23p at 1,320.5p, GKN up 5p at 311.1p, Intertek Group up 80p at 5,230p and easyJet up 20p at 1,385p.
The biggest fallers were Micro Focus International down 98p at 2,557p, Antofagasta down 33.5p at 945p, Anglo American down 30.5p at 1,430p and Johnson Matthey down 64p at 3,019p.