Banking shares still volatile on FTSE

Trading in banking shares continued to be volatile today after a sharp about-turn for shares in Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Trading in banking shares continued to be volatile today after a sharp about-turn for shares in Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Lloyds Banking Group clung to positive territory with a rise of 5.5p to 50.5p, but the rest of the sector retreated after a positive first hour of trading.

A steadier performance on Wall Street last night, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average back above the 8,000 barrier, helped the FTSE 100 Index to gain 50.6 points at 4110.5 by mid-morning.

RBS had been up by 16% but later stood 0.4p lower at 12.1p, while Barclays dived 6.7p to 59.4p, a fall of 10% on its opening mark and well down on earlier in the session.

The biggest corporate news of the session came from BT Group after it warned of a £340m (€360m) one-off charge from its under-performing Global Services division. Shares slumped 12% or 14.4p to 108.5p as the stock returned to the 20-year low seen in October.

Morrisons was also lower despite posting healthy Christmas trading figures, as analysts turned their attention to uncertain trading prospects in 2009. Shares were off 3% or 8p at 256.25p, while rival Tesco was down 4p at 347.1p.

Low-cost airline easyJet made progress in the FTSE 250 Index after it reported better-than-expected passenger numbers for the first quarter. Shares jumped 12% or 31p to 286p as easyJet said a strong euro helped push total revenues up 32% to £550m (€581m).

The carrier was beaten to the top of the risers board by pub firms Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns after a trading update from Enterprise calmed nerves in the sector.

The better-than-expected statement lifted Enterprise by 24% or 7.75p to 39.5p, while Punch gained 7.25p to 39.5p. Mitchells & Butlers was up 6.75p at 166.75p.

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