At one time the FT-SE share index was up 11.8 points. By the close it was off 0.3 at 3,164.1.
A variety of names were in the frame. Siebe, the engineering group, was one candidate. Another was British Petroleum.
Rights rumours have swirled around Siebe in the past. Interim profits are not due to be announced until December. The shares have been strong and climbed to a new high yesterday, up 11p at 565p.
Last year Siebe, one of the few engineering groups to shrug off the impact of the recession, produced pounds 185.1m. In the year to March pounds 220m is expected, with perhaps pounds 260m in the following year.
Any cash call will probably provide funds for a US acquisition. Siebe is known to be keen to expand its transatlantic operations. In June, Barry Stephen, chairman and chief executive, said the group, which generated pounds 100m cash in its previous financial year, had no need for raise cash. 'We're not going to issue paper to dress up our balance sheet', he said.
British Petroleum, reporting tomorrow, has often been linked with rights rumours and its interim results are expected to come out at pounds 250m. BP was unchanged at 352.5p. Another rights candidate is British Aerospace, up 10p to 444p.
A weak New York performance and growing uncertainty about the shape of this month's Budget were other inhibiting influences.
Once again there was keen interest in retailers. Boots, reporting tomorrow, encountered nervous selling, falling 5.5p to 512.5p. Kleinwort Benson believes the interim figure will be pounds 200m against pounds 186.5m. It says: 'The shares look cheap given Boots' earnings growth potential.' Kleinwort expects pounds 456m for the year.
Amber Day's poor performance left the shares 2p lower at 49p.
Investment presentations arrested the Wellcome decline. The shares rose 15p to 690p. Since last week's results they have fallen 113p.
Imperial Chemical Industries rose 8p to 725p despite the steady flow of sell recommendations. Hoare Govett repeated its sell advice and Kleinwort warned that the shares are likely to underperform ahead of the year's results.
A Barclays de Zoete Wedd downgrading clipped GKN 3p to 475p but Lucas Industries remained firm, up 2p at 172p. Takeover rumours are never far from the group. Vague talk of investment meetings being arranged was also an influence.
Financial shares remained in demand. S G Warburg rose 9p to a 939p peak with talk of a share split accompanying next week's figures. ShareLink, maiden results next week, surged 19p to 434p. The shares were floated at 250p in July.
Williams Holdings held at 333p. Brian McGowan, who quits the board at the end of the year, is raising cash by exercising options.
Thorn EMI rose 23p to 987p with talk of US buying and a possible BT bid helping sentiment. Telephone shares remained strong with BT, helped by Cellnet figures, up 4p at 469.5p.
George Wimpey fell 6p to 167p. Credit Lyonnais Laing cut its profit forecast from pounds 51m to pounds 47m.
SelecTV jumped 8.5p to 33.5p following the award, with the Daily Mail & General Trust, of the London cable television channel. Ferranti held at 1.75p as PDFM sold another nine million shares. It still has 13.71 per cent.
Microvitec, the computer group, rose 4.5p to 32.5p following its link with Acorn Computers, up 1p at 98p. The idea is that Microvitec will provide a colour monitor for Acorn's RISC processors.
Comac, suspended at 90p, reached 95p. The newcomer Cleveland Trust, a property group, closed at 114p against a 100p placing.
Euro Disney had another difficult session, descending to a new low of 555p, down 20p. The troubles at Air France and the expected poor trading before the planned spring restructuring did the damage. The shares were floated at 713p four years ago. Their peak was 1,657p.
Forward, an electronics group, continued going backwards. Interim results are due soon. The shares fell 17p to 223p, a two-day retreat of 29p.
Rexmore rose 11p to 82p following interim results. John Siddall, the Manchester stockbroker, is keen on the shares. The analyst Audrey Carroll expects gearing to be eliminated by the year end and looks for profits of pounds 1.4m with a 2.5p dividend.
Betterware, the direct selling group suffering the attentions of bear raiders, could receive a boost today.
Andrew Cohen, chief executive, disclosed after the market closed that he had acquired 400,000 shares from another director at 196p, bringing his stake to 21.96 per cent. The shares were up 1p at 197p.
Earlier this year the Cohen family sold shares at 230p.
The FT-SE 100 index failed to hold early gains, closing at 3,164.1 points, down 0.3. But the FT-SE 250 rose 1.8 points to 3,522.3. Turnover was 664.4 million shares from 28,905 bargains. The account ends on 12 November with settlement on 22 November.
Pittencrieff continued its remarkable progress. At one time the shares were up 49p and they closed 37p stronger at 473p. The oil group's quoted US communications group continues to fuel the action. In New York the price reached dollars 40 a share, with talk continuing to flow of a dollars 50 takeover bid being lined up. Pittencrieff's assets per share now top 700p.
The possibility of Greene King bidding again for Morland, the Thames Valley brewer, is raised by Julie Bower, analyst at Credit Lyonnais Laing. Greene King has held on to its near-30 per cent stake in Morland following last year's unsuccessful offer. It is free to bid again and could be tempted to buy Whitbread's remaining 12 per cent of Morland, unchanged at 515p.