TUESDAY MARKET CLOSE: First quarter ends with a whimper

The prospect of a US-Iran deal saw the price of a barrel of Brent crude fall. Picture: AP
The prospect of a US-Iran deal saw the price of a barrel of Brent crude fall. Picture: AP
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Upgraded economic growth figures for the closing three months of 2014 were not enough to prevent the London market ending the last trading session of the first quarter on a downbeat note.

A slide in the oil price weighed amid the growing prospect of a US deal with Iran that will free up more of the commodity into the world market, while a bout of profit-taking saw the top-flight index fall sharply on the last day of a broadly positive quarter for stocks.

The FTSE 100 Index closed down 118.39 points at 6,773.04, although it was still up more than 3 per cent on its level at the start of 2015.

Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “Economic data reported for the UK was generally strong on Tuesday but it wasn’t enough to hold up equity benchmarks which came in for some end-of-quarter repositioning and profit-taking. Price drops in resource companies were exaggerated by light holiday volumes.”

The prospect of a US-Iran deal saw the price of a barrel of Brent crude fall to around $55, putting pressure on oil firms. Royal Dutch Shell fell 51p, or 2.4 per cent, to 2,099p while BP was down 9.4p at 436.7p.

Among the miners, Antofagasta eased 7p to 732.5p after dismissing speculation it was in merger talks with Canada’s Teck Resources.

Home improvements retailer Kingfisher topped the blue-chip risers’ board after unveiling an efficiency drive that will lead to the closure of 60 B&Q stores in the UK and Ireland over the next two years. Shares in the group, which also owns Screwfix, improved 15.8p, or 4.3 per cent, to close at 380.6p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Anglo American, down 48p or 4.5 per cent at 1,012p, Imperial Tobacco – 105p lower at 2,963p – and British American Tobacco down 106p at 3,488.5p.