ITV drags down FTSE

Commercial broadcaster ITV led declines on the London market today amid fears over advertising revenues in another turbulent day for blue chip stocks.

Commercial broadcaster ITV led declines on the London market today amid fears over advertising revenues in another turbulent day for blue chip stocks.

The group’s shares shed 7%, or 4.6p to 63.3p, after a pessimistic note from broker UBS suggested it could be hit hard if consumer spending slowed dramatically.

The wider market managed to close in positive territory – up 9.2 points at 5702.1 – but it started the session 107 points in the red and swung between losses and gains in the final few hours of trading.

Stronger mining, oil and banking stocks helped turn the initial deficit into gains, with Halifax Bank of Scotland one of the top share risers.

HBOS rose 20p to 560p, or 4%, as confidence continued to return to the stock after the battering at the hands of speculators earlier this month.

Barclays was also higher with a rise of 3.25p to 453p.

Life assurer Friends Provident was another strong performer, jumping 3% after private equity firm JC Flowers tabled a new takeover approach.

While the board of Friends rejected the offer, investors were hopeful of a new proposal as shares rose 3.5p to 123.6p.

Other heavyweight moves on the risers board included oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and BP, which lifted 37p to 1696p and 9p to 512p respectively, while Antofagasta also fared well, up 25.5p to 701p.

And pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca gained 36p to 1884p after positive research findings relating to its cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor.

One of the biggest drags on the market came from mobile phone giant Vodafone, which dipped almost 4%, or 6.1p, to 150.9p after a downgrade from Morgan Stanley.

British Airways remained under pressure after it cancelled more flights in response to ongoing difficulties at Heathrow Terminal 5 after its opening last week. Shares were off 5.75p to 234.25p, as analysts at Collins Stewart calculated the potential financial impact at between £20m and £50m.

Tesco was another faller after the grocery giant said it would pause for breath for three months after opening 31 outlets in its US convenience store chain, Fresh & Easy, in 66 days so far this year.

Shares dipped 3% or 11.25p to 379p.

The current caution towards retail stocks meant Next fell 22p to 1139p and Marks & Spencer slid 9p to 387.25p. The latter stock is under pressure on another front following further hostile comments from shareholders this weekend about the company’s plan to promote chief executive Sir Stuart Rose to the post of chairman.

Elsewhere, buy-to-let lender Paragon rose 2.5p to 97.5p despite warning that funding levels were likely to be 50% lower in the six months to the end of March. It added that staff numbers were set to reduce by a third to offset the business slump.

The biggest Footsie risers were Antofagasta up 25.5p to 701p, HBOS up 20p at 560p, Friends Provident up 3.5p at 123.6p and Hammerson ahead 30p at 1114p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were ITV down 4.6p at 63.3p, Old Mutual off 4.7p at 110.5p, London Stock Exchange down 51p at 1208p and Vodafone down 6.1p at 150.9p.

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