FTSE up slightly

FTSE up slightly

The FTSE 100 Index made headway by noon today despite broker downgrades for blue-chip heavyweights BP, Prudential, Marks & Spencer and BT.

The quartet featured prominently on the fallers board but failed to disrupt a solid session for the London market as the top flight lifted 16.8 points to 5674.7.

Traders were encouraged by the prospect of more action by the US Federal Reserve to prevent the American economy from slipping back into recession.

Dismal unemployment figures on Friday have been seen by markets as the green light for the Fed to try and rejuvenate the US economy with more quantitative easing at its next meeting in early November.

Prudential shares led the fallers after JP Morgan Cazenove downgraded the stock from neutral to underweight, prompting the stock to fall 14p to 622.5p.

Bernstein Research also downgraded BT and cut its target price following a decent run for the stock, which stood 1.9p lower at 147.1p.

Other fallers included oil giant BP, which dropped 3.9p to 431.95p after Royal Bank of Scotland said investors should expect an initially conservative approach to dividends should the payouts return early next year.

Retailer Marks & Spencer fell 4.8p to 406.2p after HSBC worried about the trading outlook and said much of the good news found in last week's stronger than expected trading update was already factored into the share price.

In a quiet session for corporate news, shares in easyJet were higher after it announced a deal to end its long-running row with founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou and secure its use of the "easy" brand.

It will pay Haji-Ioannou 0.25% of its revenues each year, fixed at £3.9m (€4.46m) and £4.95m (€5.66m) for the first two years, plus another £300,000 (€343,228) annually.

Shares opened 4% higher but later retreated to stand 2.1p higher at 453.7p, a gain of 0.5%.

Other risers in the FTSE 250 Index included bookmakers Ladbrokes after it said operating profits more than doubled in the third quarter.

It benefited from the tail-end of the World Cup and a more favourable run of results at the start of the English football season. Shares were 3.7p higher at 141.7p.

Wickes owner Travis Perkins fell 1% after it reported a 6% rise in turnover but said growth rates had slowed at its builders' merchant business in recent weeks. Shares were 11.5p lower at 852.5p.

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