China continues to show off its influence over the London market as some of the big miners took a heavy dent on the first day when most trading desks were full after the festive celebrations.
A slowdown Chinese manufacturing data meant five of the top 10 fallers came from the mining sector.
Silver producer Fresnillo led the fallers, down 36p to 735.5p, followed by copper miner Antofagasta, down 34p to 787p. Randgold Resources fell 138p to 3,820p, Rio Tinto 104p to 3,266p and Anglo American 22p to 1,275p.
J Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer both had a wobble ahead of their results later this week, as the markets can’t quite make up their minds as to whether it was a successful Christmas or not.
For J Sainsbury, down 6.2p to 369.6p, the smart money is on the supermarket reporting its first fall in like-for-like sales for 36 quarters. While M&S, down 3.7p 440.3p, has failed to convince anyone that its Christmas clothing sales will be anything other than poor, helped only by its food offering faring well.
However, despite the miners and retailers dropping, the FTSE 100 closed up 0.06 points at 6,730.7 thanks, in part, to the storming recovery by insurance giant RSA.
Investors in the company have faced a hair-raising ride over the past few months, with three profit warnings, a chief executive who fell on his sword, and £200m unaccounted for out of the company’s Irish offices.
But there appears to be a little light at the end of the tunnel after a leaked early copy of an independent report by PwC suggested the problem was an “isolated” incident and no further write-downs will be needed. Shares closed up an impressive 5.75p at 98.4p.
Elsewhere, the pub group Punch Taverns, up 1p at 12.75p, said its non-core estate of smaller pubs that make it less money are doing better than expected and will be sold off at a slower rate than previously thought. Punch wants to sell 1,106 pubs by 2019 and raise about £309m. But profits in these pubs slid by only 5 per cent, less than expected.
RM2 International, a pallet developer, manufacturer and supplier, which boasts city grandees Paul Walsh and Sir Stuart Rose on its board, rose 9p to 97p.