Market Report: BP slips after US chief called to testify in trial

It was a case of good-news-bad-news for BP yesterday. Overnight came the declaration from a federal judge in the US that accident-prone BP was not negligent in the Prudhoe Bay oil spill in Alaska. The decision on the 2009 accident was seen as a minor victory for the British giant as it battles to repair its reputation from the Gulf of Mexico disaster. However, that was followed soon after by the announcement that its top US executive, Lamar McKay, will be subpoenaed to testify in a February trial over liability for the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

The news, perhaps not altogether unexpected, reminded any investors who needed reminding that the shadow of that crisis still hangs heavy over the company. Its shares, which otherwise might have been expected to rise on the Alaska judgment, fell 3.95p to 455.75.

TV's upmarket drama Downton Abbey was beaten by the BBC's EastEnders in the Christmas Day ratings war, but thathasn't done much harm to the commercial broadcaster as it still won a strong share of peak-time viewing. Shares in ITV jumped as much 3 per cent, before settling up 1.1p or 1.6 per cent at 65.5p, making it one of the biggest risers on the FTSE-100 index on the first day back after the Christmas break.

The chatter in advertising circles is that ITV's December performance won't be as bad as previously feared, lifting hopes for 2012. Last month, ITV warned its December ad revenue could slide as much as 10 per cent year on year against tough comparisons.

Consumers' willingness to splash out in the final days before Christmas and during the sales helped to boost the retail sector. Anecdotal reports suggest that the unseasonably mild weather has also helped, with talk that footfall is up as much as 20 per cent in some areas. Tesco leapt 8.8p to 399.8p while FTSE-100 counterparts Sainsbury's climbed 0.9p to 296.1p and Marks & Spencer pushed up 1.6pto 308.6p.

That feelgood factor also cheered FTSE-250 retailers, notably Argos owner Home Retail Group surging 3.95p to 86.8p, and Debenhams lifting 0.85p to 57.45p. But not every retailer was on the up. Supergroup, behind the fashion brand Superdry, slumped more than 8 per cent, down 44.3p to 486.7p. Market-makers speculated that Christmas may have been less than stellar for Supergroup ahead of its next trading update on 11 January, although it is a notoriously volatile stock.

The most talked-about stocks of the day were the internet gaming firms as traders welcomed the US Department of Justice's decision to soften its stance on online gambling. FTSE-250 firm Bwin.Party surged by 29.7p, or more than a fifth, to 160p while smaller rival 888 Holdings leapt 3.25p or 9 per cent to 39.25p.

The FTSE-100 index had an up-and-down day amid thin trading. Theindex briefly dipped below 5500 in early trading after weakness in the Asian markets. Then it recovered strongly, thanks to a better-than-expected Italian bond auction that eased fears about the eurozone. But weak US data late in the day sent the Footsie down a modest 5.30 points to close at 5507.40. The CAC-40 in Paris and Dax in Germany also gave upearlier gains.

"I'm surprised the market has stayed above 5500, which is a reasonably critical level, so that's a good sign," said one trader. "People probably want to keep their P&Ls [profit and loss accounts] up."

Equities desks have one eye on their bonuses which will be finalised afterthe year-end, though payouts will beslim after a lacklustre 2011, duringwhich the FTSE is on course to fall around 6 per cent.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see the market drift down again towards 5200 in the new year," added the trader. "I think we'll be back down there soon because we need complete confidence about what is happening in the eurozone. Until we get that, we'll 'range-trade'." That's a reference to how the FTSE has been trading in a range between 5000 and 5700 since August.

Christmas is traditionally the time when some of us start planning our summer vacation but the sun didn't shine on embattled travel firm Thomas Cook, off 0.82p at 14.2p. The debt-laden group has sold a Dutch property for €18m in cash to the Fotex Group. However, that is less than the €20.8m in gross assets attributed to the Dutch site in Thomas Cook's accounts in September. The disposal is part of Thomas Cook's efforts to offload up to £200m of non-core assets as it urgently looks to reduce liabilities after a string of profit warnings. The shares are down 92 per cent on the year.

It's always worth watching what fund managers think about other fund managers, so ears pricked up at news that US giant Black Rock has cut its stake in Jupiter Asset Management below 10 per cent. However, Jupiter shrugged off the sell-off, rising 1.9p to 216.9p.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst with experienc...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Sales Team Leader - Wakefield, West Yorkshire

£21000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged b...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders