Retail nerves hit FTSE

Nervy FTSE investors sold off retail shares today as fears grew about the sector’s performance in the run-up to Christmas.

Nervy FTSE investors sold off retail shares today as fears grew about the sector’s performance in the run-up to Christmas.

The worries emerged during a depressed session for world markets, with the FTSE 100 Index down 79.4 points at 6317.6 by mid-morning after exchanges in the United States and Asia tumbled on Friday and early today.

The potential for inflationary pressures to derail further interest rate cuts in the United States caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to slide by more than 1% ahead of the weekend.

Retailers were among the biggest fallers in London, amid signs of disappointing pre-Christmas trading on the high street. Seymour Pierce stockbrokers added to the concerns by warning that fashion retailers and big-ticket firms were most at risk of the slowdown.

Argos owner Home Retail Group tumbled almost 6%, or 19.5p to 310.5p, while Next dipped 73p to 1604p and Currys owner DSG International fell 3.8p to 100.1p.

Marks & Spencer was off 17p to 552.5p, while FTSE 250 Index stock Debenhams fell 6p to 75.25p, a drop of 7%.

Defensive stocks attracted money during the troubled session, with National Grid up half a penny at 842.5p and Tate & Lyle 1p stronger at 425.25p.

Standard Life was another top flight faller, down 11.25p to 246.75p, after HSBC initiated coverage of the stock with a 300p target. It said it saw better value in the UK with Legal & General and Prudential.

Transport group Arriva also received the cold shoulder from investors, despite promising results in line with market expectations. Shares reflected the market’s weakness, falling 1% or 7.5p to 754p.

And Photo-Me International shares tumbled 12% after the photo booth firm reported lower first half profits and said it was unlikely to make a surplus in the second half. Shares fell 4.75p to 34.25p.

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