US news brings FTSE slump

Takeover speculation surrounding Foster's brewer Scottish & Newcastle and broadcaster ITV failed to stop the Footsie heading into reverse today.

The FTSE 100 Index lost 50.7 points to close at 6418.7 despite breaking through the 6,500 barrier in the previous session. The caution came after it emerged the US economy had slowed by more than expected.

S&N was the exception, gaining more than 6% on the day, as rumours pointed to Carlsberg as a potential suitor after it changed its share structure in a way that would allow greater scope for acquisitions. The stock moved ahead 39.5p to 625.5p.

And broadcaster ITV followed S&N up the risers' board, ahead 2.5p at 118.4p, as investors speculated over the future of Sky's stake in the company.

Traders bought into the stock on the grounds that Sky may be forced to sell its stake in the company, as the Office of Fair Trading announced that the deal raised "significant competition concerns". BSkyB shares were unchanged at 569p.

But heavily weighted miners dragged on the blue-chip index after a slide in copper prices. BHP Billiton lost 20p to 1125p, Vedanta Resources was 34p lower at 1374p and Kazakhmys slipped 23p to 1139p.

Oil stocks were also struggling as BP dropped 9.5p to 561.5p, BG Group declined 11p to 724.5p and Royal Dutch Shell slipped 23p to 1767p.

Royal Bank of Scotland slid more than 1%, or 30p, to 1940p, after it revealed it intended to make a hostile bid for Dutch bank ABN Amro. It said it would press ahead with an offer for the group, despite ABN's earlier backing of a £45.7bn (€66.98bn) deal with Barclays.

Barclays, up more than 2% in mid-session, slipped back to close 7p higher at 725.5p.

Publishing group Pearson finished 3.5p down at 860p despite a trading update which showed a solid performance since the start of the year. The Penguin and Financial Times owner said it was on track to meet its overall revenues growth target of between 4% and 5% during 2007.

In the second tier, bus and rail group National Express dipped 4p to 1236p after it acquired Spanish transport firm Continental Auto for £450m (€659.7m) and reported good growth during the first three months of the year.


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