Stock markets were once again hit by concerns over rising tensions between Syria and the West on Wednesday morning, as surging oil prices
look to pose a threat to global economic growth.
West Texas crude futures were trading at a two-year high of $112.24 a barrel this morning while Brent crude jumped to a six-month high of $117.34 on fears that the crisis in Syria could disrupt oil supplies from the Middle East.
According to analysts at Societe Generale, Brent may jump as high at $150 a barrel if supplies are disrupted.
UN weapons inspectors are expected to return to a site in Damascus near where the suspected chemical weapons attack happened last week, leading to the deaths of well over a thousand Syrians.
US Vice President Joe Biden said on Tuesday there is "no doubt" that the Syrian government used chemical weapons and it must be held accountable. White House spokesman Jay Carney meanwhile said: "There must be a response [...] What form that response will take is what the President is assessing now."
Syria's government has so far denied the use of chemical weapons and said the US military will fail if it launches an attack against the country. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has been reported as saying that the government wouldn't step down and its defences would "surprise" those wanting to step in.
"A conflict on this scale (involving Western powers plus Israel versus Iran/Syria and possibly Russia) could easily engulf the whole of the Middle East region which remains in a mess (Egypt in a dire situation with violence flaring up against the care-taker government daily, Libya's oilfields disrupted by protestors/rebels and sectarian violence in Iraq)," said Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital.
"This therefore has the potential to trigger a huge disruption to oil supply which will undoubtedly be felt in Western economies."
FTSE 100: Investors applaud turnaround at G4S
First-half results from security solutions group G4S came in below expectations this morning but the firm's plans to sell off assets and issue new shares
to strengthen its balance sheet were welcomed by the market.
Oil stocks were making gains this morning as crude prices continued to climb on developments in Syria. Tullow Oil, Shell, BG and BP were among the best performers this morning.
Rising oil prices however were having an adverse effect on airline stocks on concerns of the cost of jet fuel. IAG and easyJet were firmly in the red.
Meggitt, the aerospace, defence and energy group, fell after unveiling plans to acquire Piezotech, a US ceramic devices producer, for $41.2m.
A number of FTSE 100 stocks went ex-dividend today, meaning that new investors won't have access to the companies' latest payouts. These include: CRH, Glencore Xstrata, Legal & General, Tullow Oil and Wood Group.
FTSE 250: Kenmare, Polymetal lead fallers
Mining group Kenmare Resources was a heavy faller after swinging to a net loss of $10.2m in the first half, compared with a profit of $38.8m the prior year, as revenues slumped on lower prices and weaker market conditions.
Falling commodity prices also dented the first-half results of precious metals producer Polymetal, which also dropped sharply this morning. The group recorded a net loss of $255m, down from a $157m net profit in the first half of 2012.
While the wider mining sector was broadly lower, shares in African Barrick Gold were making gains after some kind words from Nomura. The broker hiked its target price for the stock by over 60%, saying that despite the group's strong outperformance over the past month it still sees substantial upside.
African Barrick Gold was even making gains despite going ex-dividend today. Other ex-div stocks today include: AZ Electronic Materials, Henderson Group, Stagecoach, St James's Place, Ultra Electronics and Vesuvius.
FTSE 100 - Risers
G4S (GFS) 253.30p +3.26%
BG Group (BG.) 1,243.50p +2.77%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 220.10p +2.37%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 2,224.50p +2.18%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 2,132.00p +1.89%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 1,033.00p +1.47%
BP (BP.) 451.70p +1.03%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,381.00p +0.58%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 684.50p +0.51%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,130.00p +0.47%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 282.00p -6.16%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,178.00p -4.54%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 186.50p -3.92%
Schroders (SDR) 2,268.00p -3.24%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,082.00p -2.87%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,084.00p -2.61%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 1,770.00p -2.48%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,052.00p -2.43%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 864.50p -2.26%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,215.00p -2.25%
FTSE 250 - Risers
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 176.90p +3.88%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 229.30p +2.78%
Alent (ALNT) 355.40p +2.75%
Soco International (SIA) 385.90p +2.50%
EnQuest (ENQ) 125.00p +2.46%
Premier Oil (PMO) 364.00p +2.45%
Pennon Group (PNN) 694.00p +1.91%
IG Group Holdings (IGG) 564.00p +1.62%
esure Group (ESUR) 240.20p +1.18%
Drax Group (DRX) 694.00p +1.09%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 27.00p -8.63%
Polymetal International (POLY) 682.00p -7.96%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 2,094.00p -5.85%
NMC Health (NMC) 320.00p -4.53%
Henderson Group (HGG) 166.90p -4.19%
Countrywide (CWD) 566.50p -3.98%
Regus (RGU) 178.20p -3.68%
St James's Place (STJ) 584.50p -3.63%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 253.90p -3.39%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 131.50p -3.38%