StockMarketWire.com - The FTSE blue-chip index briefly nipped up to fresh all-time highs before easing towards midday. Falls among resources stocks weighed as oil issues followed crude lower. In-the-spotlight HSBC (HSBA) sagged, too. All eyes remained on the unfolding Greece-EU debt saga.

To midday, FTSE 100 was down 24.62 points, or 0.36%, at 6890.58, having briefly sortied up to 6943.61 and eclipsing December 1999's all-time closing high around 6930. FTSE 250 was down 39.97, or 0.23%, to 17,082.6. At 11.45am, WTI crude was down 2.01% to $49.79/bbl. Brent fell 1.46% to $59.43/bbl.

HSBC (HSBA) slipped 5.49% to 572p as its FY pretax profit fell 17% to $18.68bn due to lower business disposal and reclassification gains and the cost of fines and other settlements. Oil stocks softened. Tullow Oil (TLW) shed 4.53% to 388.85p. Miners fell in numbers as concerns again surfaced about China's economic health. Anglo American (AAL) lost 3.29% to 1205.5p.

Gains among financials were insufficient to offset falls elsewhere. Investment specialists were led higher by Schroders (SDR), up 1.54% to 3067.5p, while banks generally fell in line behind Lloyds (LLOY), up 1.28% to 78.98p. Insurers trailed Prudential (PRU), up 1.03% to 1620.5p.

In the news, Antofagasta (ANTO) was down 2.55% to 734.25p as it lowered its cash cost outlook for 2015 but said production guidance was unchanged. Balfour Beatty (BBY) rose 0.12% to 244p as its JV Gammon Construction won a HK$3.2bn residential development contract in Hong Kong. Associated British Foods (ABF), up 1.04% to 3067.5p, expects a small fall in FY adjusted EPS.

BIGGER MOVERS

Quindell's (QPP) shares rose 27.3% to 96.75p, suggesting few investors placed store in today's announcement about a possible sale of its professional services division, otherwise the share price would have spiked higher. It claimed indicative sale terms to suitor Slater & Gordon were at a 'significant premium' to Quindell's closing price on Friday.

A 'heads of agreement' deal to sell a technology licence to Compass Resources sent shares in intellectual property owner Alexander Mining (AXM) up 27.27% to 0.7p. The latter has developed a way to extract metals from certain types of rock.

Tower Resources (TRP) and Premier Oil (PMO) have received notification from Lion Petroleum that the Badada-1 will be plugged and abandoned as a dry hole. Tower fell 36.47% to 0.27p, while Premier shed 5.05% to 168.35p.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Confederation of British Industry said its index of UK retailers plunged 38.0 points to 1.0 in February, from January's 39.0. The market had expected a print of 42.0.

Germany's Ifo business climate index rose to 106.8 in February, from 106.7 in January. The market expected a reading of 107.4.

Greece is presenting a list of reforms to lenders today with a view to securing a 172bn euros bailout extension until June. This list must be approved by international creditors to obtain the extension, without which the Mediterranean country's bailout will expire on Saturday. There were concerns the plan could run into resistance.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Oracle Coalfields (ORCP) has received confirmation from Directorate, Coal Mines Development, Government of Sindh, Pakistan that the Mining Lease of subsidiary Sindh Carbon Energy Ltd in Block VI of the Thar coalfield has been restored. Its shares rose 12.5% to 0.9p.

Rosslyn Data Technologies (RDT) said US subsidiary Rosslyn Analytics Inc has agreed with E&I Cooperative Services (E&I) to provide cloud-based spend analytics services to its 3000 members in the US via its E&I Consulting Group division. RDT's shares rose 10.77% to 18p.

Gulfsands Petroleum (GPX), up 5.56% to 38p, has completed drilling operations on the Douar Ouled Balkhair 1 gas exploration well in Morocco with the well confirmed as a gas discovery. Elsewhere, APR Energy (APR) shed 6.92% to 279.25p as it warned it was in talks with lenders over a breach of loan covenants because of the suspension of its Libya operations in January.

Michelmersh Brick (MBH), up 2.14% to 71.5p, has completed a £2.2m expansion project to raise output capacity by 6m bricks, or 20%, at Freshfield Lane. In other news, Unite Group (UTG) has improved its FY pretax profit to £108.4m, from £79.3m a year earlier, and raised its total total dividend to 11.2p a share, from 4.8p. Its shares fell 0.29% to 522.5p.

Other shares on the move following news flow included Bovis Homes (BVS), DS Smith (SMDS) and Bunzl (BNZL).




Story provided by StockMarketWire.com