London equity markets opened slightly lower on Tuesday as oil giant BP weighed on shares after its fourth quarter earnings failed to impress.  BP said fourth quarter production was 2% lower, causing the shares to fall 2.1% to 651½p in early trade.  Fellow oil and gas groups also headed lower on the announcement with BG Group down 0.9% to 630½p and Premier Oil down 0.6% to 879p. Royal Dutch Shell, which reported its full-year numbers on Thursday, slipped 0.1% to £19.39.  The FTSE 100 was down 2.8 points, 0.1% at 5,769.7 in early trade while the mid-cap FTSE 250 added 9.1 points, or 0.1% to 9,297.4.  ON the upside, UK insurer Aviva gained 1.9% to 741p on a positive outlook for 2006. The group reported a 16% rise in Aviva International total sales to £14.4bn for the year.  Additionally, Yell Group firmed 1.2% to 547½p as it reported better-than expected results for 2005.

With the prospects of interest rate cuts from the BOE looming, the Gilt was bid up for the day to 104.52, with the yield down one basis point to 4.172%.