Blue-chip gas and electricity provider SSE sent shockwaves through the energy sector yesterday after pledging to freeze household bills until January 2016.
The move sent rival and British Gas parent Centrica into the red amid calls by Energy Secretary Ed Davey for other firms to consider doing the same.
The wider FTSE 100 Index pared back early session gains, closing 0.4 points higher at 6605.3, having initially made headway on hopes that China will introduce pro-growth measures to bolster its slowing economy. In currency markets, the pound gained a cent to just over 1.20 euros, with the single currency weaker after European policymakers yesterday signalled the potential for further monetary easing to avoid deflation. Sterling held firm at 1.66 US dollars as the pound's strength showed no sign of easing.
Insurers led gains after the investments arm of Standard Life unveiled a deal to buy Ignis Asset Management from Phoenix Group and Legal & General won a £3 billion bulk annuity contract with the ICI pension fund.
Standard's shares rose 26.2p to 400p and L&G lifted 5.3p to 214.8p, while Aviva was 8.7p higher at 489.8p.
The £4.2 billion sale of another tranche of the Government's holding in Lloyds Banking Group triggered a big fall in the company's share price. The stock slipped back below the 75.5p sale price secured from institutional investors for 24 per cent of the Treasury's remaining shares in the bank. Lloyds was down 3.9p to 75.2p, a fall of 5 per cent after the sale cut the Government's ownership to just under 25 per cent from 33 per cent previously.