Financials drag down FTSE

Shares in Halifax Bank of Scotland dived 10% today after full-year results disappointed analysts and the group said it would moderate mortgage lending.

Shares in Halifax Bank of Scotland dived 10% today after full-year results disappointed analysts and the group said it would moderate mortgage lending.

A host of sector rivals were also in the red by mid-morning, leaving the FTSE 100 Index 41.2 points lower at 6046.2.

The mood was also deflated by the sight of oil prices at more than 102 US dollars a barrel, sparking renewed fears over economic growth.

In London, banks dominated the Footsie’s fallers board. HBOS led the way, losing 71.5p to 633.5p after its underlying pre-tax profits came in 3% higher at £5.71bn (€7.54bn), but lower than market estimates of £5.76bn (€7.6bn). Alliance & Leicester was next, falling by more than 2%, or 14p, to 586p.

Also losing ground was Royal Bank of Scotland ahead of its results tomorrow. Shares were 9.75p worse off at 403.75p.

Among the risers was housebuilder Persimmon, after second tier rival Barratt posted a cautiously optimistic outlook for 2008. Shares in the companies were up 9.95p to 770p and 12.25p to 436p respectively.

Royal & Sun Alliance rose 0.4p to 142.3p after it cheered investors with profits at the top end of expectations. The group, which revealed plans to change its name to RSA, also said it was confident about prospects.

Results were also responsible for the two companies at the top of the risers board in the FTSE 250 Index.

Financial services group Henderson set the pace with a gain of 17%, or 16.25p to 112.5p, after brokers upgraded forecasts in the wake of solid full-year figures, which included a 30% rise in operating profits.

And construction firm Kier’s announcement of a 23% improvement in half-year profits was rewarded with a 6% jump for its share price, up 96p at 1502p.

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