FTSE takes heavy hit in early trading

The FTSE 100 Index shed more than 2% today as banks and heavyweight stocks including Vodafone dragged the top tier into the red.

The FTSE 100 Index shed more than 2% today as banks and heavyweight stocks including Vodafone dragged the top tier into the red.

Profit taking after a recent strong run and a raft of stocks going ex-dividend - meaning new investors will not take part in the next dividend payout - combined to send the Footsie plunging 90.7 points to 4386.

The most encouraging news yet on the UK economy failed to halt the decline, with investors paying little attention to figures revealing growth in the key services sector for the first time in a year.

Vodafone was one of those hit by its move to go ex-dividend, down 5.75p to 113.05p – a fall that was said to be wiping 11 points off the index.

Most of the top FTSE 100 fallers went ex-div today, joining bank stocks and miners on the list of share losers.

Barclays lost another 5%, or 14.5p to 259p, as the fall-out from yesterday’s news of a stake-sale by a major Middle Eastern investor showed no sign of easing.

Lower metal prices after a recent bull run saw miners also fall into the red, led by Eurasian Natural Resources down 41.5p to 637.5p and Vedanta Resources off 97p to 1622p as investors took profits.

Morrisons was one of those seeing share rises in another strong day for the supermarket sector, with the chain up 5.25p to 249.25p ahead of its trading update tomorrow.

Utility group Northumbrian Water was in the spotlight in the FTSE 250 after reporting a 10% drop in annual profits.

Shares in the group – which saw profits hit by last year’s energy price rises and lower usage by firms in the recession – fell 2.5p to 246p.

Elsewhere, online gaming site Sportingbet failed to hold on to early gains seen after it reported a 34% hike in third quarter earnings.

The stock opened more than 2% ahead, but later slipped 0.75p into the red to 63.25p.

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