Shell and BP struggle on subdued oil prices

Flat oil prices dragged oil giants Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) and BP (BP.) lower.

Due in part to their significant weighting on the index, the FTSE 100 slipped 0.5% into the red.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil stood at $53.40 and $56 per barrel, respectively.

Gold glittered at $1,237 per ounce and copper remained unmoved at $6,040 per tonne.

In the US, investors remained optimistic as the S&P 500 and Dow Jones continued their winning streak.

The Nikkei 225 closed 0.5% lower on a stronger yen. The market was worried about the effect of the currency on its export sector.

The Hang Seng and SSE Composite indices were up 0.5% as they brushed off weakness in Asia's largest market.


Shares in rare diseases specialist Shire (SHP) nudged higher ahead of the publication of full year numbers at midday, which are expected to be positive.

Pharmaceutical colossus AstraZeneca (AZN) declined 0.5% to £45.10 as its shares traded ex-dividend.

Private equity firm 3i (III) invited bids for lingerie brand Agent Provocateur due to lacklustre sales. However, it failed to move the share price as it is only a relatively small investment in the firm's wider portfolio.


Troubled Defence firm Cobham (COB) continued its downward spiral after issuing its fifth profit warning in just over a year.

Trading profit for 2016 was guided at £225m compared with previously trimmed guidance of £245m given in January. There were writedowns of over £750m, which included £150m on its troubled Boeing US KC-46 tanker contract.

The company reported it will be difficult to meet 2017 expectations.

Power station operator Drax (DRX) fell 5% to 360p as it reported full year earnings down 17% at £140m, amid challenging commodity markets.

Dividends declined in line with a policy of paying out half of earnings. The results were towards the lower end of analyst expectations.

Specialty property insurer Lancashire (LRE) was safe as houses as full year results demonstrated its resilience despite turbulent conditions in 2016. Return on equity for the 12-month period was flat at 13.5%, which chief executive Alex Maloney described as 'an exceptional outcome'.


Optimisation software firm EG Solutions (EGS) jumped 24.3% to 66.4p on a £692,000 contract award in the public sector, the first through its partnership with cloud services business GCI.

Home furnishings and womenswear retailer Laura Ashley (ALY) struggled as first half results revealed like-for-like sales down 3.5%. It also warned pre-tax profit for the full year will fall short of expectations.

Israeli simulation training software firm SimiGon (SIM) retreated 3.7% to 19.5p as it warns results will be below expectations as a result of previously unrecognised costs and contract delays.