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BP agrees a record settlement with US authorities

Oil giant BP was in the spotlight on the London market today as it agreed a record 4.5 billion dollar (£2.8 billion) settlement with US authorities for claims relating to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The group also pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges, but said it hoped today's deal showed it had "accepted responsibility for our actions".

Continued uncertainty over economic prospects in Europe and United States kept the FTSE 100 Index under pressure, down 44.3 points at 5677.8.

Worse-than-expected jobless claims figures following the disruption caused by superstorm Sandy combined with ongoing fears that President Obama will be unable to strike an agreement to avoid America's fiscal cliff on January 1.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wall Street was down another 0.5% down following a 1% decline on Wednesday night.

The latest figures from Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, showed the eurozone economy contracted by 0.1% in the July to September period. Following on from the 0.2% decline recorded in the second quarter, the figure officially puts the region back into recession.

There was at least some encouragement from separate figures showing Germany's economy slowed by less than expected in the quarter.

Retailers suffered more big share price losses after the Office for National Statistics reported a drop of 0.8% in sales volumes for October. This was much bigger than the 0.2% decline predicted by City analysts.

The figures saw the pound fall to a two-week low against the euro, at 1.24 euros, although sterling lifted to 1.59 US dollars.

Today's retail sales blow also triggered a fall of 2% for retail bellwether Marks & Spencer.

Its shares dropped 7.8p to 370.6p, while B&Q owner Kingfisher was off 7.6p to 275.4p and Sainsbury's fell 5.8p to 333p after also dropping yesterday in the wake of half-year results.

Outside the top flight. fashion brand Ted Baker bucked the gloomy trend by reporting good UK trading and continued growth in the business overseas. Shares were up 9p to 970p in the wake of the update, which showed it increased sales by 22.1% year-on-year in the 13 weeks to November 13.

BP dropped 0.4p to 425.4p after the agreement announcement just before the market close, but the stock had been higher earlier in the session as investors saw the deal removing some of the uncertainty hanging over the stock since the disaster.

The biggest FTSE 100 faller was South West Water parent Pennon, down 6% or 41.5p to 628.5p, after it warned over profits at its embattled waste and recycling arm Viridor for the second time since August.

Centrica shares were down 1.8p at 316.5p, even though the company said it remained on track to meet City forecasts for profits of around £1.4 billion this year.

This will include £575 million from its residential energy supply division after it benefited from colder than normal weather at the start of the year.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Evraz up 8.1p to 225.5p, Royal Bank of Scotland ahead 4.5p to 282.2p, Xstrata 10.3p higher at 958p and Kazakhmys up 6p to 667p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Pennon Group down 41.5p to 628.5p, Wood Group off 49.5p to 790.5p, Resolution 9.5p lower at 230p and Amec down 36p to 1020p.

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