London’s top shares only just avoided slipping into the red on Tuesday as geopolitical tensions continued to weigh on the markets.
The FTSE 100 gained 5.74 points, or 0.08%, to close at 7,422.43.
It fared better than European peers, with the German Dax closing 0.38% lower and the French Cac down 0.13%.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “Geopolitical tensions weighed on the markets on Tuesday after the US imposed new sanctions on Iran. Stocks across the UK, Europe and Asia took a dive, with investors switching their attention once again to gold as a safe-haven asset.”
Oil prices ticked up, as markets anticipated that US crude stocks would be lower.
A barrel of Brent crude oil was trading at 65.32 US dollars, up 0.9%.
Meanwhile, the pound inched lower, dropping 0.04% against the euro to 1.117 and 0.15% versus the US dollar to 1.272.
Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index, said: “Pound traders are staying focused on the Conservative leadership race. Boris Johnson yesterday, firmly reiterated his plan to remove the UK from the EU deal or no deal. The only reason the pound didn’t fall further was thanks to the rising opposition that Boris is encountering.”
In company news, struggling Carpetright revealed the extent of the pain the retailer has faced since going through a major restructuring.
Bosses at the chain saw sales plummet 13.4% to £386.4 million, although pre-tax losses improved, from £69.8 million to £24.8 million in the year to April 27.
The market responded positively to the news as management said “substantive” progress had been made. Shares were up 0.75p, or 4.25%, to 18.4p.
About 170 jobs are being axed at De La Rue just over a year after the firm lost the contract to print the new blue British passports.
Trade union Unite blamed the job losses at De La Rue’s Gateshead factory on the Government’s decision in April last year to award the passport contact to Franco-Dutch company Gemalto.
Shares were down 4p to 301p at the close.
Annual sales at human resources firm Mind Gym jumped 14% over the past year, after it saw an increase in demand from major companies for corporate training in the wake of the Me Too scandal.
The company’s stock was up 3p to 123.5p.
Civil engineering firm Costain said it had secured a five-year deal to be the sole provider of maintenance services across United Utilities’ water network. The contract will be worth roughly £35 million per year and has the option to extend to 10 years.
Shares jumped 4.5p to 307p.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were 3i Group up 35.5p to 1,098.5p, Smurfit Kappa up 74p to 2,400p, DS Smith up 10.4p to 356.2p, and Antofagasta up 18.2p to 912.2p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were International Consolidated Arlines Group down 12.5p to 439.5p, NMC Health down 54p to 2,364p, Easyjet down 18.2p to 860.6p and Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust down 9.5p to 524p.