FTSE holds steady

Next and Home Retail Group saw further share falls today, but the wider market trod water ahead of results from US bank JP Morgan Chase.

Next and Home Retail Group saw further share falls today, but the wider market trod water ahead of results from US bank JP Morgan Chase.

The FTSE 100 Index edged 17.1 points higher to 5515.2 as investors waited for JP Morgan’s fourth quarter and full year figures later today, which kicks off a keenly-anticipated bank reporting season.

US President Barack Obama yesterday timed the announcement of a stringent new tax on banks to coincide with the start of bank results, with expectations for bumper figures and bonuses to match.

British banks Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC are thought to be exposed to the new levy to clawback US bail out cash, with reports they could face a combined $10bn (€6.9bn) bill over 10 years.

But RBS shook off concerns over the tax liability as its shares rose 4%, or 1.44p to 37.44p.

Financial Times owner Pearson was also another strong riser, ahead 18p at 905.5p after it said Interactive Data Corp – 61% owned by the group – was reviewing “strategic alternatives” as speculation mounts that the New York-listed financial market data provider will be sold.

The top share fallers board was headed by hedge fund giant Man Group with a 5% decline, down 16.8p to 297.6p after it said the amount of money it manages declined 4% in the third quarter.

Retailers Next and Argos owner Home Retail Group were also on the back foot once more after a punishing week amid concerns over the trading outlook.

Next fell 41p to 1967p, while Home Retail dropped 5.3p to 260.5p.

In the FTSE 250, defence firm Qinetiq was suffering hefty falls – down 12% or 19p to 143.9p – after issuing its second profit warning in two months.

Housebuilder Bovis Homes was also in the red, off 12.3p at 441.8p, as it forecast a “subdued” property market in 2010.

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