Markets: Tullow’s empty well hits share price

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TULLOW Oil was the biggest blue chip faller on Tuesday after it revealed its appraisal well in French Guiana failed to strike it lucky.

The firm said the wider area “still offers excellent potential for multiple exploration successes”, but investors had clearly been hoping for more and the shares sank 6 per cent to 1,292p.

The FTSE 100 Index ended the session slightly in the red, down 2.2 points at 5,869, after trading in a narrow range all day as investors waited on news of US negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff”.

Chris Beauchamp at IG said: “In such an environment, rumours usually flourish, and today has been no exception, with downgrade suggestions for Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. However, even this was insufficient to shake the FTSE from its torpor.”

Defensive stocks were in demand, with pharmaceutical giant Shire up more than 2 per cent at 1,855p and insurers Admiral and Aviva up 1.5 per cent at 1,148p and 355.5p respectively.

Tesco also made headway as investors positioned themselves for a potential surprise ahead of a trading update on Wednesday. Analysts are forecasting a return to sales declines as general merchandise continues to take a hit, but grocery market figures out yesterday showed Tesco experienced some modest gains in the 12 weeks to 25 November. Shares were up 4.2p to 326.7p.

Morrisons fell 1.9p to 264.3p after its market share dropped to 11.7 per cent, down from 12.3 per cent a year earlier.

Holiday firm Tui Travel made headway after reporting a better-than-expected rise in profits and solid forward booking figures. Its shares were 9.1p higher at 278.1p, helping the FTSE 250 to outperform the top flight with a modest rise.

NEW YORK: Wall Street finished slightly lower on Tuesday night in a quiet session as the back-and-forth wrangling over the “fiscal cliff” gave investors little reason to act.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 13.90 points, or 0.11 per cent, to end at 12,951.70 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dipped 2.42 points, or 0.17 per cent, to finish at 1,407.04.

The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 5.51 points, or 0.18 per cent, to close at 2,996.69.