The latest round of takeover action on the London market was not enough to lift the FTSE 100 Index into the black yesterday .
Although investors cheered insurance giant Aviva's proposed £1.1 billion takeover of 108-year-old motoring organisation the RAC, the FTSE 100 Index lost early gains to end the day 14.8 points lower at 4996.1.
Aviva's shares lifted nearly two per cent or 13p to 6751/2p, making it one of the day's best performers. Broadcaster ITV also put in a stellar performance after posting annual profits well ahead of expectations.
But pressure from rallying oil prices and negative momentum across the Atlantic cast a shadow over stocks.
A string of Footsie stocks suffered heavy losses after going ex-dividend, meaning new investors no longer qualify for dividend payouts. British American Tobacco was at the top of the fallers list, off 37p to 931p, while Royal Bank of Scotland lost 54p to 1729p and Reuters weakened 113/4p to 4161/2p.
Among those in the black, ITV was the top performer as it said higher than anticipated cost savings from the merger between Granada and Carlton led to a 57 per cent rise in pretax profits in its first annual results as a unified company. The stock rose 51/4p to 1243/4p.
It was followed by investment fund manager Man Group, also rising four per cent or 55p to 1470p.
The high oil prices helped Cairn Energy shake off the disappointment of its impending ejection from the Footsie, lifting its shares by 24p to 1228p. A barrel of benchmark light crude traded at $54.80 by the end of trading.
Mining stocks were driven higher by ongoing takeover activity and an index of commodity prices which jumped to a 24-year high.
Rio Tinto bounced 14p to 1839p on speculation it might gatecrash the race for Australian miner WMC Resources, which agreed a takeover with BHP Billiton yesterday. BHP shares were two per cent or 13p higher at 753p.
Outside the top flight, the RAC lifted another 681/2p to 949p, adding to gains of 19 per cent yesterday when it first said it was the subject of a takeover approach.
The Restaurant Group, owner of the Garfunkel's restaurant chain, was another riser after serving up record results. The stock lifted 61/4p to 123p.
And engineering group Balfour Beatty rose 23/4p to 3211/4p after saying it had won more than £360 million of new deals and posting annual results at the top end of expectations.
The highest Footsie risers were ITV up 51/4p to 1243/4p, Man Group rising 55p to 1470p, Aviva up 181/2p to 681p and mmO2 rising 21/2p to 1251/2p.
The heaviest fallers were BAT off 37p to 931p, Royal Bank of Scotland down 54p to 1729p, Reuters off 113/4p to 4161/2p and GUS down 21p to 909p.