FRIDAY MARKET CLOSE: Artillery strike frightens the market

NEWS that Ukranian artillery had fired on Russian troops shattered the calm on London’s trading floors and ended what had looked like a decent rally.

The FTSE 100 Index was cruising into the weekend more than 40 points higher when the reports caused an afternoon retrenchment. It closed just 3.82 points higher at 6,689.08.

Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC, said: “A feeling of complacency had been creeping back into investor psychology this week with a general feeling that perhaps the declines at the start of the month were overdone. The encounter in Ukraine was a hefty reminder that geopolitics cannot be ignored.”

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Property groups British Land and Land Securities were the two biggest risers, up 3 per cent each at 730.5p and 1,098p respectively. It was the second straight session on the risers’ board for the duo following positive broker comments on the sector.

Australian mining giant BHP Billiton gave the diggers a boost as it said it was mulling a divestment of some of its assets in a bid to become a more streamlined business. BHP itself was up 24.5p at 2,050p, while rival Rio Tinto added 30p at 3,406p.

But a fall in the gold price meant precious metals miner Fresnillo didn’t join the party, with shares down 2 per cent at 1,005p. And commodities conglomerate Glencore gave up early gains to close 1.85p lower at 358.8p.

In the FTSE 250, takeaway website group Just Eat lost some of the big gains it saw earlier this week when it posted a near sevenfold increase in underlying half-year profits. The strong results had seen shares climb by nearly a fifth by the close on Thursday but the stock dropped off in the latest session as traders took profits, falling 3 per cent or 8p, to 254p.