FTSE loses ground after recent gains

The London market saw its recent gains trimmed today by a poor response to results from elite stocks such as media giant Reuters and British Gas owner Centrica.

The London market saw its recent gains trimmed today by a poor response to results from elite stocks such as media giant Reuters and British Gas owner Centrica.

Reuters was hit the hardest – down 10% or 45.75p to 405.5p – after disappointing investors with its outlook for the current financial year, and Centrica lost ground as worries over the cost of wholesale gas persisted.

With aerospace and defence giant BAE Systems also misfiring, the FTSE 100 Index weakened 22.6 points to 5849.8 by mid-morning.

Centrica was in second place on the fallers board, easing 8p to 288.25p on the day that it announced an 11% rise in profits to £1.5bn (€2.2bn).

With high wholesale gas prices suggesting there is no quick fix to losses at British Gas over the past six months, investors banked profits after the stock was driven higher in recent weeks on speculation that Russian energy giant Gazprom will bid.

BAE Systems fell 8.25p to 439p because investors had been hoping for a more bullish outlook, although profits were in line with expectations following a 16% rise.

A cushion was provided to the market by the banking sector as investors anticipated good news from lenders ahead of a flurry of results. Royal Bank of Scotland rose 35p to 1853p and Halifax and Bank of Scotland owner HBOS ticked 7.5p higher to 1047.5p.

Outside the top flight, cosmetics retailer Body Shop advanced 8% or 20p to 267p after beauty house L’Oreal said it was mulling a cash bid.

And an improving sales trend at Laura Ashley lifted its shares by 6% or 1p to 16.5p, fuelling hopes that the once-mighty retailer has turned a corner after several false dawns.

News that Colt Telecom is planning to replace debts with £300m (€440m) of new equity prompted many investors to withdraw from the stock. Colt shares fell 6% or 3.75p to 61.75p.

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