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June 26, 2006    

London markets mixed on continued low trade volumes

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by Elaine Frei

Trade volumes remained low in the London equities markets on Monday, with a mere 2.5 billion shares trading hands. The FTSE 100 closed down 0.2 percent to 5,681.2, while the FTSE 250 added 0.02 percent to 9,197.1.

The mining sector was mixed. Anglo American was up 1.4 percent to £21.38 and Xstrata added 0.9 percent to £19.55 on talk that the two might merge. The rumors seem to have been spurred by an offer from Phelps Dodge to purchase Canadian miners Falconbridge and Inco. On the other hand, Corus dropped 0.5 percent to 428½p due to profit-taking.

Retailer Marks & Spencer gained 2.1 percent to 578p ahead of its first quarter trade update, which is upcoming on July 11. Analysts think that the report will be good enough to trigger earnings upgrades.

SABMiller was down 3.8 percent to 932p on currency weakness in regions where it sells its products. The brewer generates around 25 percent of its earnings in South Africa, where the rand is weak, and also has strong sales in Columbia where the peso has been struggling.

In the pharmaceuticals sector, Shire Pharmaceuticals added 2.1 percent to 770½p after it was said that Swiss biotech firm Serono could be interested in bidding for the drug maker.

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