REPORTS of an impasse between US politician over how to tackle the fiscal cliff, saw a stand-off by traders on the world markets today.
The FTSE 100 Index eased back from the 6000 barrier, with progress on hold as comments from President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner cooled recent expectations that a deal was on the cards.
In London, the FTSE 100 Index was down 3.2 points at 5958.3, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened slightly lower after it appeared the Republicans were making their own plans to avoid steep automatic tax hikes and spending cuts.
In the currency markets the pound was up against the US dollar at 1.62, amid fears US politicians will miss their fiscal cliff deadline in 11 days, and it was also up against the euro at 1.23.
The mood on the markets was not helped by disappointing retail sales figures for November, with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reporting flat volumes, rather than the 0.4% increase pencilled in by analysts.
In the supermarket sector, Tesco was 1.65p lower at 338.6p and Sainsbury’s dropped 0.3p to 352.9p as the ONS noted a 0.1% drop in food sales.
In thin pre-Christmas trading, P&O Cruises owner Carnival was the worst performing stock in the top flight, with a decline of 154p to 2391p after it reported bookings were behind the previous year, following the Costa Concordia cruise liner tragedy in January.
The biggest FTSE 100 risers were ITV up 3.2p to 107p, Intercontinental Hotels ahead 51p to 1710p, Weir 51p higher at 1863p and Aggreko up 42p to 1742p.
The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Carnival down 154p to 2391p, Evraz off 11.4p to 267p, Randgold 140p lower at 5965p and United Utilities down 14p to 674p.