Despite oil prices soaring after two tankers appeared to be attacked in the Gulf of Oman, the FTSE 100 only managed to tick up by less than a single point on Thursday.
Closing up 0.95 points to 7,368.57, investors in the blue chip index remained cautious, waiting for news from the tankers – but also watching for signals in the endless war of words between China and the US.
France and Germany were also quiet, with the Paris-based Cac flat and the Frankfurt-based Dax up 0.44%.
But oil was the big mover of the day, with a barrel of Brent Crude jumping 2.6% to 61.53 US dollars – moving up from five-month lows. At points in the day, it rose by as much as 4%.
Sterling dipped against the dollar once again, with a pound falling 0.08% to be worth 1.2679 dollars. Against the euro, it was very slightly up 0.05% to 1.1246 euros.
Some analysts suggested that the slight dip in the pound against the dollar could have been due to Boris Johnson coming top in Thursday’s Conservative Party leadership poll.
Fiona Cincotta at City Index said: “Pound traders are less than thrilled at the prospect of Boris Johnson taking the helm, particularly after Parliament blocked an attempt by Labour to prevent a no-deal Brexit.”
She added: “Oil remained elevated, gaining up to 4% at its high, as investors reacted to attacks on vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
“The attacks are the second this month close to this strategic shipping route for oil. Around 30% of the world’s oil passes along this route, so oil prices will be particularly sensitive to disruptions in the region.
“Should these waters become unsafe, a worst-case scenario would have a serious impact on oil supply.”
But despite the oil gains, big name oil businesses failed to capitalise, with Shell and BP remaining unmoved.
Connor Capbel at Spreadex explained: “The UK oil stocks weren’t as receptive to Brent Crude’s 3%-plus rise as their US counterparts. Instead BP slipped 0.1%, with Shell giving up its early growth to remain unchanged.”
In company news, supermarket giant Tesco said UK sales growth slowed in the three months to May 25, with like-for-like sales up just 0.4%.
Shares in early trading initially fell, but closed up 0.9% at 229.5p.
Investors in Majestic Wines were less impressed, as the company sunk to an £8.5 million loss for the year, thanks to extra costs associated with its plans to shut down and sell all its stores and focus just in online retail.
Shares closed down 8.75% to 290.17p.
Morrisons’ investors cheered the news that the company had extended its online offering via Amazon, with shares in the supermarket closing up 2.15% at 199.45p.
A hedge fund run by veteran activist investor Nelson Peltz bought a 6% stake worth around £736 million in plumbing group Ferguson.
It helped Ferguson shares jump 5.9% to 5,622p – making it the biggest riser in the FTSE 100.
At the bottom end, housebuilder Persimmon was the biggest faller, dropping 4.49% to 1,955p, as it went ex-dividend, meaning anyone buying shares from Thursday would not be entitled to the company’s dividend for this year.
WPP also went ex-dividend, sending shares down 4.38% to 957.6p.