By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch)--British stocks inched lower on Thursday, as shares in Royal Dutch Shell PLC dropped following reports of an oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico. Miners rose along with higher metals prices.
The FTSE 100 index shed 0.1% to 5,628.36.
Dropping to the bottom of the index, Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) lost 4% after the firm said late Wednesday that a light oil sheen had been observed in the central portion of the Gulf of Mexico, where the oil group operates. Shell said it has sent an oil-spill response vessel to the location and has requested flights to monitor the area. The source of the sheen is unknown.
BP PLC (BP) tracked Shell lower and shed 2%.
On the macroeconomic front, trade data for the U.K. showed that the nation's trade deficit widened in February to the highest level since September, as exports dropped.
"The U.K.'s scope for an export-led recovery took a further set back today, as the trade deficit widened unexpectedly," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, in a note. "The monthly data are very volatile, but it is also disappointing to see the three-month trend--which acts as a more reliable guide to the trade pattern--also deteriorating."
Miners traded higher and followed most metals north. Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) added 3.2%, Fresnillo PLC gained 3.1%, BHP Billiton PLC (BHP) rose 1.9% and Kazakhmys PLC advanced 1.8%.
Also supporting the U.K. index, GKN PLC added 4.4% after Credit Suisse lifted the stock to outperform from neutral.
Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC took on 1.8%. The power-systems firm said it won a contract to supply power and propulsion systems for the two latest vessels in the U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program.
Temperature-control supplier Aggreko PLC climbed 2.5% as it said it started the year on a very strong note and underlying group revenue jumped 21% in first quarter.