FTSE downbeat with 20.8 fall

A string of corporate updates failed to lift the London market into positive territory today after a downbeat performance on Wall Street.

A string of corporate updates failed to lift the London market into positive territory today after a downbeat performance on Wall Street.

By mid-morning, the FTSE 100 Index was 20.8 points lower at 4537.6 during a busy day for corporate news.

Last night, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 29 points down after Coca Cola, drug wholesaler McKesson Corp and cosmetics group Avon all warned on profits.

The bad news offset bullish comments by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who said the US economy was picking up after a soft summer patch.

In London, market watchers were expecting the Bank of England to leave interest rates on hold at 4.75%, with a further rise likely in November.

Catering group Compass was the heaviest faller after it warned a number of factors would reduce operating profits by 30% in the current financial year. Shares weakened 72.25p to 247.5p.

Royal Bank of Scotland was next on the list of fallers, off 43p to 1554p, after Spanish bank Santander Central Hispano pledged to give up its two boardroom seats at RBS if it lands Abbey National.

ITV was third in the fallers, losing 2.75p to 102.25p, despite posting a 42% increase in half-year profits after seeing advertising revenues jump to their best level since the dotcom boom.

BAE Systems was also in the red, down 1.5p to 210.25p, after announcing interim pre-tax profits before goodwill and one-off items slightly ahead of expectations.

In contrast, InterContinental Hotels was leading the Footsie pack with a 10.5p gain to 589.5p after announcing a 55% rise in profits and announcing it was putting a further 76 hotels on the market.

And Enterprise Inns was buoyed by comments from the OFT in which it appeared to accept the structure of the tenanted pub industry, pushing shares 10p higher to 590p.

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