FTSE stays steady

Whitbread and retailer Carpetright suffered share price falls today after failing to shake off worries over a New Year spending squeeze.

FTSE stays steady

Whitbread and retailer Carpetright suffered share price falls today after failing to shake off worries over a New Year spending squeeze.

Despite posting figures in line with expectations, Costa and Premier Inn owner Whitbread dropped 3% and Carpetright fell 4% amid ongoing concerns over prospects for consumer demand in 2011.

Oil giant BP delivered the biggest blue-chip gain after selling more assets, but the wider FTSE 100 Index was unchanged at 5861.2 after rising to its highest level in more than a month last night.

And Asian markets were mixed as investors remained wary over Chinese interest rate policy after a recent surge in inflation to 5.1% in November.

Whitbread topped the FTSE 100 fallers board after another strong performance from coffee shop chain Costa was offset by a deterioration in sales trends at the company’s Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurants business.

It remains on course for strong profit growth in this financial year, but shares still dropped 56p to 1734p.

In the FTSE 250 Index, flooring firm Carpetright fell 32.5p to 763.5p after it reported a 28% drop in half-year profits to £10m (€11.7m) and said it did not expect a pick up in trading conditions in 2011.

Shares dropped even though analysts said today’s interim results were in line with market expectations.

Back in the top flight, BP climbed 2% – or 9.85p to 468.25p – after it entered into an agreement to sell almost all of its exploration and production assets in Pakistan to United Energy Group.

Other risers included rail and bus group Go-Ahead, which climbed 6p to 1279p, after it said procurement savings in its rail business meant it was running marginally ahead of profit expectations.

Investors were also reassured by an update from Wickes owner Travis Perkins, which lifted 30p to 1002p after exceeding the forecasts of broker Seymour Pierce with a 6.5% increase in group revenues.

Meanwhile, gambling firm Betfair continued its poor run of form on the stock market after it revealed revenues would be hit by the big freeze.

In its first set of results as a public-listed company, Betfair said cancelled race meetings in the current quarter would moderate growth rates, despite a strong overall trend led by its core sport of football.

The firm’s shares fell by 11% – down 138p at 1043p – and have now declined by around 34% since it floated on the stock market in October.

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