FTSE jittery despite euro talks

World markets struggled to make progress today after another meeting on the eurozone debt crisis failed to ease traders' nerves.

FTSE jittery despite euro talks

World markets struggled to make progress today after another meeting on the eurozone debt crisis failed to ease traders' nerves.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged their commitment to keeping all 17 countries including Greece in the eurozone but the meeting produced nothing substantial enough to allay market fears.

The FTSE 100 Index dropped 37.4 points at 5612.3, while the Cac-40 in France and the Dax in Germany were also lower, while Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat as the London market closed.

The pound was up against the dollar at 1.54 as the greenback weakened following recent gains. But it was down against the euro at 1.21.

The renewed nerves around the eurozone hit the banking sector, with Royal Bank of Scotland falling 2% or 0.4p to 20.1p, Barclays dropping 4% or 8.3p to 178.1p, Lloyds Banking Group off 0.9p at 26.2p and HSBC shedding 6.8p to 491.4p.

Retail stocks proved largely resilient despite fresh gloom for the sector after supermarket chain Morrisons revealed lacklustre underlying sales growth of 0.7% over the key Christmas trading period.

This represented a slowdown on its stellar form of late, but its shares still rose 0.2p to 311.5p following early falls.

It was a mixed picture for rivals Tesco and Sainsbury's, who are also due to update the market this week. Sainsbury's made slight gains of 1.2p to 300p but Tesco fell 0.5p to 390.5p, amid expectations it will post one of its weakest Christmas trading updates in several years.

Marks & Spencer was also among the fallers, down 2.2p at 308.5p.

In the FTSE 250 Index, shares in JD Sports Fashion jumped 6% after it confirmed a deal to buy the bulk of ailing retailer Blacks Leisure including its 290 stores.

The stock rose 40p to 700p, although retail analyst Freddie George of Seymour Pierce stockbrokers had earlier in the day questioned the merits of a deal that will leave the company with an estate of 800 UK stores.

Pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline was among the top fallers in the FTSE 100 Index despite it saying it hoped its new lung drug Relovair would be sent for regulatory approval in mid-2012. Shares were down 62p at 1435p, or 4%.

Back in the second flight, housebuilder Persimmon was among the biggest risers after it said underlying profits were likely to rise by 50% in the 2011, towards the top end of City expectations of between £130m (€157.4m) and £148m (€179.2m). Shares rose 25.5p to 506.5p.

This sparked gains for others in the sector with Bovis up 21.8p at 429.8p and Redrow ahead 5.3p at 122.3p.

The biggest Footsie risers were National Grid up 14.5p at 624p, Burberry ahead 28p at 1278p, Aggreko up 42p at 2131p, and Evraz ahead 7.2p at 393p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Essar Energy down 8.7p at 162p, Man group off 5.4p at 107.3p, Barclays down 8.3p at 178.1p, and GlaxoSmithKline off 62p at 1435p.

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