Banking stocks lead FTSE

Banking stocks led the London market into the red today after Egg owner Prudential warned of a “marked deterioration” in market trends.

Banking stocks led the London market into the red today after Egg owner Prudential warned of a “marked deterioration” in market trends.

The FTSE 100 Index sank 21.3 points lower to 6129.1 by mid-morning as it struggled to maintain its highest levels since February 2001 set earlier in the week.

Among the stocks in retreat were the banks which came under pressure following the warning from Prudential, although the Pru itself managed to gain 5.5p to 635p.

The Pru warned that borrowing levels were down and added that the number of Egg customers employing debt management companies in the last quarter increased by 40% on the previous quarter.

Alliance & Leicester was one of the worst hit with a 17p loss to 1112p, while HSBC was down 10p to 1003.5p, Northern Rock dipped 12p to 1190p and Bradford & Bingley slipped 5.5p to 467.5p.

The improvement at the Pru, which posted third quarter figures today, came on an indifferent day for the insurance sector as Royal & Sun Alliance dipped quarter of a penny to 150p while Friends Provident and Legal & General maintained their opening prices of 193.25p and 143.25p respectively.

Elsewhere, blue chip steel maker Corus was down 7.25p to 479.75p amid reports that Indian conglomerate Tata was set to make a takeover offer below analysts’ earlier expectations.

Mothercare shares fell 2% as the retailer reported a weaker quarterly sales growth rate for its UK business. While chief executive Ben Gordon remained happy with the performance, shares were off 7.5p to 350.75p.

But shares in Informa Group jumped 10% after an approach by Springer Science & Business Media. Informa said discussions were “highly preliminary” but it was enough to spark interest from investors as the stock lifted 49.25p to 548p.

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