Ryanair leans on FTSE

Airline stocks were under pressure in London today after warnings of losses from budget carrier Ryanair.

Airline stocks were under pressure in London today after warnings of losses from budget carrier Ryanair.

The Dublin-based company’s 85% fall in first quarter profits weighed down rivals easyJet and British Airways, while higher crude oil prices added to concerns over fuel bills.

A poor opening on Wall Street after disappointing corporate news added to the downward momentum as the the FTSE 100 Index closed 40 points lower at 5312.6.

British Airways was among the leading fallers – off almost 5% or 12.25p at 234.5p as Ryanair said it could make a full-year loss of up to 60 million euros (£47.3m) if oil prices remained high and fares fell by 5%. EasyJet took even greater damage in the FTSE 250, shedding 26.75p to 308.75p, or 8%.

In the top flight, Halifax Bank of Scotland was the worst performer with a 22.75p dip to 287.5p, reflecting nerves ahead of results later this week.

Speculation over the weekend suggested HBOS could lose top spot in the mortgage market, while half-year profits are expected to be more than 50% lower at around £1.3 billion. Analysts said Thursday’s figures were likely to uncover more big write-downs and slowing revenue growth.

Among other banks, Royal Bank of Scotland was also lower, off 8.75p to 206.25p, amid speculation it might call off the sale of its insurance division. RBS sold its 50% share in the Tesco Personal Finance joint venture for £950 million this afternoon.

Fashion chain Next, which is due to publish a trading update this week, fell 4% or 40p to 994p. Marks & Spencer dipped 9.75p to 250p after ING began coverage of the stock with a sell rating and a 200p target price.

Miners boosted by stronger metals prices ensured the Footsie limited its losses, with Antofagasta up 36p at 540p and Kazakhmys 60p higher at 1363p as the sector accounted for the top eight risers.

The firmer oil prices of above 124 US dollars a barrel meanwhile helped BP and Royal Dutch Shell, up 2p to 519.5p and 16p to 1818p respectively, ahead of results this week.

The biggest rise in the FTSE 250 Index came from technology firm Detica, which jumped 17% or 64.75p to 437p after BAE Systems announced a 440p a share takeover deal for the firm, which specialises in intelligence-based products for national security.

But pubs groups had a trickier session after figures from the British Beer and Pub Association said beer sales had fallen to their lowest level since the 1930s.

Enterprise Inns shed 15p to 302.75p in the top flight, while All Bar One owner Mitchells & Butlers dropped 10%, or 25.25p to 239.5p – the worst performer in the FTSE 250.

The Footsie’s four biggest risers were Antofagasta up 36p at 540p, Vedanta Resources ahead 88p at 1852p, Kazakhmys up 60p at 1363p, and Eurasian Natural Resources ahead 40p at 920p.

The four biggest fallers were HBOS down 22.75p at 287.5p, Rexam off 24.75p at 352p, Friends Provident down 4.5p at 81.9p, and Barclays, which ended the day 17.75p lower at 338.75p.

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