FRIDAY MARKET CLOSE: Subdued start to new year for stocks

The London market began the new year in a subdued mood as data showed growth in the manufacturing sector slowed to a three-month low in December.

Glasgow-based engineering firm Weir Group was one of the biggest blue-chip risers
Glasgow-based engineering firm Weir Group was one of the biggest blue-chip risers

With many traders still on holiday, volumes were thin, as were other economic figures, and the FTSE 100 Index ended the day down 18.29 points at 6,547.8.

Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “With a veritable raft of geopolitical uncertainties on the table for 2015, some upbeat economic data really would help galvanise sentiment, but it’s now a case of waiting until next week.”

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Glasgow-based engineering firm Weir Group, which has suffered recent falls due to sliding oil prices, was one of the biggest blue-chip risers, adding 32p to end the session at 1,883p.

Elsewhere, Lloyds Banking Group edged up 0.33p to 76.15p after analysts at Investec upgraded the state-backed lender from “hold” to “buy”. The firmer price will help the UK government in its plan for a gradual disposal of part of its 25 per cent stake in the bank over the next six months – as long as the shares are not below the break-even price of 73.6p.

Sainsbury’s was under pressure ahead of its Christmas trading update due next week, which is expected to show another fall in sales. The grocer’s shares closed down 3.3p at 243.4p, while larger rival Tesco, which also delivers a festive trading statement, dipped 1p to 188p. Morrisons, which will wait until 13 January to tell investors how it fared, also lost 1p to end the day at 183.2p.

Housebuilding stocks, which found favour during the shortened trading session on Hogmanay, suffered a reversal in fortunes and made up some of the biggest top-flight fallers. Barratt Developments dropped 10.5p, or 2.2 per cent, to 460.5p, while Taylor Wimpey closed at 134.9p, down 2.9p or 2.1 per cent.