FRIDAY MARKET CLOSE: Election worries mount for utilities

Labour vowed to maintain energy price freeze. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Labour vowed to maintain energy price freeze. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Labour’s confirmation that it would press ahead with an energy price freeze if it wins May’s general election sent a chill through the utilities sector.

Perth-based SSE slipped 29p to 1,462p and Scottish Gas owner Centrica was 3.5p lower at 237.9p, helping to push the FTSE 100 into the red. The index was 20.49 points adrift at 6,740.58.

Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “The lower close on Friday meant that the FTSE 100 index suffered its worse weekly loss so far in 2015. It is now around 250 points lower than the record high of 6,974.26 on hit earlier in March.”

With the price of crude showing no signs of picking up and the International Energy Agency saying what recovery there has been is built on shaky foundations, Tullow Oil endured yet another torrid session on its last day as a top flight stock. It claimed the spot as biggest faller, down more than 3 per cent at 298.3p. BG Group was also down more than 3 per cent, at 812.6p.

Heavyweights Royal Dutch Shell and BP were also down, with Shell off 47.5p at 2,005.5p and BP 7.6p lower at 418.2p. The miners also remained under pressure, BHP Billiton down 46p to 1,389.5p and Glencore off 8.4p to 277.4p.

Elsewhere, a downgrade by French bank Credit Suisse hit drinks firm Diageo’s shares. Scotland’s biggest whisky distiller was 18p lower at 1,864p.

But Premier Inn owner Whitbread was 75p stronger at 5,335p after it was raised to buy by brokers at Deutsche Bank. They also set a new target price of 6,000p on the stock, which is now trading near to a record high.

In the FTSE 250 Index, shares in JD Wetherspoon were 4 per cent lower after half-year underlying profits dropped 1 per cent to £37.5 million due to supermarket competition and a hike in pay and bonuses for pub staff. Shares fell 31.5p to 780p.