WEDNESDAY MARKET CLOSE: Bearish Opec report hits big drillers

BP outlined plans for a restructuring costing 638 million over the next year. Picture: TSPL
BP outlined plans for a restructuring costing 638 million over the next year. Picture: TSPL
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A FRESH slide in the price of oil piled more pressure on investors yesterday after £36 billion was wiped from blue-chip shares in the previous session.

Brent crude stood at just over $64 a barrel - a drop of more than 40 per cent from its peak earlier in the year - after a monthly report by industry cartel Opec said demand next year was expected to fall to its lowest level in a decade.

The FTSE 100 Index, which slid 2 per cent on Tuesday, had been in positive territory for much of the session but the oil slump meant the top flight finished 29.43 points lower at 6,500.04 - its lowest level since the start of last month.

Energy stocks dominated the fallers board as exploration firm BG Group dived 26.4p to 872.4p and Royal Dutch Shell eased 56p to 2,098.5p.

BP was 6.35p lower at 399.6p as it also outlined plans for a restructuring costing $1bn (£638 million) over the next year.

The biggest rise in the FTSE 100 came from equipment hire firm Ashtead after the A-Plant and Sunbelt owner posted record second quarter profits of £266m and said it was on track to beat expectations for the full year.

Garry White, chief investment commentator at Charles Stanley, said: “The company also has a relatively high cost base – but this will be to its advantage as its markets recover. It means profits are highly geared to an improvement in market conditions.”

Shares surged by 9 per cent or 98p to 1,175p and have now risen by more than 50 per cent since the start of the year.

Outside the top flight, shares in transport operator Stagecoach were down 7 per cent after it warned of lower earnings from its regional UK bus operations and US business this year.

It believes its share of Virgin Rail operations should help make up the shortfall but shares still slumped 28.2p to 379.2p.