FTSE sees negative trend

The FTSE 100 Index fell into negative territory today as trading fears in the leisure sector put blue-chips under pressure.

The FTSE 100 Index fell into negative territory today as trading fears in the leisure sector put blue-chips under pressure.

Pub groups were on the back foot after downbeat broker notes on Mitchells & Butlers, while restaurant stocks dived on profits warnings from small-cap firm Clapham House.

The wider Footsie fell 17.9 points to 6414.6 with miners also dragging on the index.

All Bar One owner Mitchells & Butlers was among the top share fallers, down 3%, or 19p, at 558p, after earnings forecast cuts from Merrill Lynch and Numis Securities.

Enterprise Inns was not far behind, off 13.5p at 518.5p, with Costa owner Whitbread also feeling the heat, down 26p at 1415p.

A warning over 2008 and 2009 profits from FTSE 250 firm Clapham House reverberated through the restaurant sector, sparking fears of a widespread consumer spending slowdown.

Clapham House fell 46%, or 114.75p to 134p, while fellow FTSE 250 firm Frankie & Benny’s owner Restaurant Group responded with a drop of 10% or 21.5p to 196.5p. Italian chain Prezzo also dipped 11%, or 6.5p to 53.5p.

Back in the top flight, mortgage bank Northern Rock was suffering more share price pain, down 5p at 113p. Reports suggested the Treasury was encouraging the crisis hit bank to look at offers from rivals to preferred bidder Virgin.

But Argos owner Home Retail Group was moving in the opposite direction, ahead 4%, or 13.25p to 360.25p after an upbeat note from Panmure Gordon.

Other retailers were also making gains to recover ground lost on Friday, with Next up 42p at 1782p and Marks & Spencer ahead 5p at 588.5p.

Elsewhere gaming group Rank soared 10% after it emerged Malaysian gambling group had built a 9.4% stake in the company. Rank shares lifted 10p to 110.5p.

Engineering group Morgan Crucible, however, dropped 24%, or 63.25p to 198.25p, after it warned of slowing sales.

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