Reports of an impasse between US politicians over how to tackle the fiscal cliff led to a stand-off in the world markets today.
The FTSE 100 Index eased back from the 6,000 barrier, with progress on hold as comments from President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner cooled recent expectations that a deal was on the cards.
In London, the FTSE 100 Index was down 3.2 points at 5,958.3.
In the supermarket sector, Tesco was 1.65p lower at 338.6p and Sainsbury’s dropped 0.3p to 352.9p as the Office for National Statistics noted a 0.1% drop in food sales.
In thin pre-Christmas trading, P&O Cruises owner Carnival was the worst performing stock in the top flight, with a decline of 154p to £23.91 after it reported bookings were behind the previous year following the Costa Concordia cruise liner tragedy in January.
Elsewhere, shares in Johnnie Walker owner Diageo crept 10p higher to 1,848.5p after broker JPMorgan Cazenove raised its price target on the stock, while oil and gas engineering firm Weir Group was near the top of the risers board – jumping 3% or 51p to £18.63 – after broker Investec praised the company’s acquisition of pressure control provider Mathena.
The biggest FTSE 100 risers included ITV up 3.2p to 107p, Intercontinental Hotels ahead 51p to £17.10 and Aggreko up 42p to £17.42.
Among the biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Evraz off 11.4p to 267p, Randgold 140p lower at £59.65 and United Utilities down 14p to 674p.
Steven McKay, of investment manager and financial planning specialist Brewin Dolphin in Aberdeen, noted that fallers included Stagecoach, which lost 0.8% to 311.75p, Faroe Petroleum slipped 1.5% to 135.125p and Cairn Energy shed 1.7% to close at 261.75p.
Risers included Aberdeen Asset Management, which added 1.9% to 365.2p, while Bridge Energy added 5.5% to 105.5p.