Markets: FTSE 100 slumps on Tuesday

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17:10 - The FTSE 100 (UKX) failed to ignite on Tuesday, as BP (BP.) weighed on sentiment after a sale of gas assets, while bank shares moved higher.

London's leading index declined 33.15 points to 5869.55. Wolseley (WOS) fell 3%, while Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) rose just over 3%.

On the AIM front, Manganese Bronze (MNGS) increased 27%.

Banks were favourite with the Interactive Investor users, as they were busy trading RBS and Barclays (BARC), followed closely by Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY).

"The current situation in Spain has been much in the news of late, and today's data has not helped to restore confidence, since it shows that the Spanish economy contracted in the first quarter of 2012, thus putting Madrid back in a technical recession. Bond yields for Spain have edged back from their recent high around 5.5%, but concerns remain that Madrid may yet be unable to sustain its austerity measures" said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG Index.

"It certainly seems that the eurozone's potential problems are the main drivers of fear this afternoon, with American indices remaining closer to recent highs. Spain continues to struggle with its spending cuts, and with Portugal and Ireland still far from perfect health, the conditions exist for a resurgence of the eurozone crisis, which has lain dormant for a few weeks now", he added.

At a glance...


Gold: $1,686.23

WTI crude oil: $106.80


GBP/USD: 1.5970

GBP/EUR: 1.1976

EUR/USD: 1.3336

All changes from 09:00 BST.

16:50 - US markets struggled on Tuesday following reports which announced the decline of consumer confidence in March.

The Dow Jones slipped six points to 13234 and the S&P 500 fell 0.17 points to 1416.

The Nasdaq bucked the trend and increased three points to 3126.

16:40 - Operator of clean energy projects Greenko () announced that the investment in the group's wind business by GE Energy Financial Services has been drawn through the Wind Power Projects in Mauritius.

Rather than gaining equity shares in Greenko Wind Project Private Limited, a subsidiary of the group, GE, has acquired Wind Power Projects, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the group, for $25 million (£15.6 million).

Anil Chalamalasetty, chief executive and managing director of Greenko said: "GE's interest in Greenko's wind platform is designed to leverage group shareholders' equity and maximise our ability to deliver superior returns.

"This investment from a leader in the global energy marketplace, further validates our differentiated wind strategy and adds to our financial strength as we develop and grow this large and valuable part of our portfolio."

16:30 - QinetiQ (QQ.) has reached an agreement with the trustees of its UK defined benefit pension scheme for the triennial actuarial funding valuation and other measures "designed to reduce the funding deficit and improve the security of the scheme".

Measure include an immediate one-off payment by QinetiQ of £40 million into the scheme, a new asset-backed funding structure, secured on certain QinetiQ UK property, which will provide a yield of approximately £2.5 million cash per annum for 20 years to the scheme and a 20-year deed under which the company will assume the ongoing liability for the scheme in defined circumstances such as the insolvency of participating employers.

The actuarial impact of the change in index is estimated to be a reduction in the funding deficit of approximately £109 million.

16:20 - Game Group (GMG) has appointed PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to act as administrators for the group, with the immediate closure of 277 stores in the UK and Ireland.

This decision was "taken after careful consideration and ceaseless interrogation of every possible alternative" according to the company's statement on Monday.

For the full story, read: Game announces store closures.

16:00 - Online game entertainment provider 888 (888) reported positive results for the year ended 31 December, as revenue increased 26% to $331.1 million (£207.3 million).

EBITDA increased 94% to $55.6 million and business-to-business revenue rose 28% to $284.2 million. By the end of the year, 888 had 10.6 million registered customer accounts, which represented an increase of 22%. The firm successfully launched in Italy.

888 also announced the appointment of Brian Mattingley as chief executive officer with immediate effect. Mattingley has been chairman of the company since March 2006.

15:40 - Housebuilder Bellway (BWY) posted a positive set of interim results, with revenues and pre-tax profits increasing by 12.4% and 69.2% respectively.

The company sold 2,455 units at an average selling prive of £182,753. Private sales rose 14% in the period, but social housing sales were down. Other sales were £9.9 million. The dividend was up 62%, albeit from a low base.

On the negative side, broker Canaccord Genuity pointed out that the order book was only up 4%, but visitors were up 11%. Additionally, the outlook referred to "uncertainties in the wider economy" and stated that the company was investing in land "cautiously". It had a 'hold' recommendation on the stock.

15:20 - Babcock International's (BAB) trading environment for the financial year ending 31 March has been "positive", with the financial performance consistent with the board's expectations.

The company's order book increased to about £12.5 billion, excluding the Dounreay PBO contract. The contract for the Dounreay Parent Body Organisation (PBO) will not become operational until early April 2012 and so is still included in the bid pipeline.

The bid pipeline stood at approximately £12 billion, including Dounreay, and has risen from £10 billion on 31 January 2012, reflecting "the acceleration in activity in our markets and the strength of our positions in those markets".

The company was also optimistic about the outlook, confirming that the key markets in which the group operated in remained "strong" and the current economic climate would "continue to create significant medium and long-term growth opportunities, both in the UK and overseas".

Babcock will announce full-year results on 15 May.

15:00 - The FTSE 100 (UKX) gave up its gains on Tuesday, as US data showed home prices in 20 major US metropolitan areas fell at a slower rate in January.

London's leading index slipped 11 points to 5891, with Compass Group (CPG) down 3%. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) led the pack, up just over 4%.

At a glance...


Gold: $1,695.58

WTI crude oil: $107.28


GBP/USD: 1.5974

GBP/EUR: 1.1983

EUR/USD: 1.3327

All changes from 09:00 BST.

14:45 - There was a tentative start to trading across to the Pond on Tuesday following the release of data which showed home prices falling for a fifth month in January.

The Dow Jones was 11 points higher at 13253, while the S&P 500 added a shade under one point at 1417 and the Nasdaq climbed five points to 3127.

14:30 - PZ Cussons (PZC) announced that all markets, except Nigeria, during the period from 25 January to 26 March were in line with management expectations.

Profitability in Nigeria was prevented by economic and social tensions in the country. Given the significance of Nigeria to the group, overall group performance will be below expectations. Despite higher levels of working capital, the group's balance sheet remained strong.

Over the next 12 months, a supply chain optimisation project is being implemented, which aims to reduce the overhead footprint of the group's manufacturing activities.

14:15 - 3D solutions company DDD Group (DDD) announced that LG's recently-launched Optimus 3D Max smartphone features DDD's TriDef 3D for 2D-to-3D video conversion.

TriDef 3D allows smartphones to convert all 2D photos and videos to 3D automatically for glasses-free 3D viewing.

Media taken by the Optimus 3D Max can also lever between 2D and 3D view using the 3D 'hot key' on the side of the phone.

14:00 - EnQuest's (ENQ) results for the 12 months to 31 December were strong as cash flow from operations totalled $656.3 million (£411.4 million), which resulted in net cash of $378.9 million at the end of the period.

EnQuest net 2P reserves at the start of 2012 were 115.2 million barrels of oil equivalent, a 30.2% increase since the start of 2011. Revenue in 2011 was $936 million, 52.3% higher than the pro-forma equivalent for 2010.

Amjad Bseisu, chief executive said: "Following EnQuest's nine-well programme and $361 million of capital expenditure in 2011, EnQuest anticipates investing around $1,000 million in 2012. Oil & Gas UK estimate that this level of investment potentially creates around 9,000 jobs, directly and indirectly."

13:45 - Bumi () announced an operating profit of $280 million (£176 million) in its full-year results for the year ended 31 December.

Revenue for the group was $1.4 billion, with increased levels of Indian and Japanese sales. Group cash was $680 million and underlying EBITDA was $427 million. Net debt stood at $222 million.

Nalin Rathod, chief executive of Bumi said: "We have met our production targets for the year, despite high levels of rainfall in the first quarter, which impacted output. Costs have been well maintained, with fuel being the major pressure point but this was more than offset by higher coal prices. We are implementing a number of new initiatives across the group to optimise productivity.

"In terms of our expansion plans I am pleased to report that we have made excellent progress and are on track to deliver 23 million tonnes of production from PT Berau and 75 million tonnes for PT Bumi in 2012, a significant increase."

13:30 - AIM listed pan-African agricultural company Agriterra (AGTA) reported that the development of the Ngamia structure in Block 10BB is the first prospect to be tested as part of a multi-well drilling campaign by Tullow Oil (TLW) in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Included in the development is the 29,465 square kilometre South Omo Block in Ethiopia within the same petroleum systems as Block 10BB. Agriterra has a 20% interest in South Omo.

Andrew Groves, chief executive of Agriterra, said this is significant news for the company as it will "maintain a 20% interest in the South Omo Block. Exploration programmes on the South Omo block are being conducted by Tullow and Africa Oil, as per our original farm-out agreement with Africa Oil, and with a discovery already made in the same petroleum system, the prospectivity of the South Omo Block only increases".

13:15 - The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey showed that the balance of retailers reporting higher year-on-year sales climbed to 0% in March from -2% in February and a 34-month low of -22% in January.

This was still below the overall average of +3% for 2011 and substantially below the +42% average seen in the second half of 2010. And despite the improvement in the headline balance in March, the CBI reported that a balance of 27% of retailers said sales were poor for the time of year in March.

"The CBI survey is still far from buoyant, and the suspicion remains that consumers will be cautious in their spending in the near term at least in the face of still-challenging conditions. Given that consumer spending accounts for some 63% of GDP on the expenditure side, this threatens to limit overall growth prospects," warned Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight.

13:00 - International Power (IPR) and GDF SUEZ announced that Paitron 3, the 815 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Indonesia, has started commercial operation.

Paitron 3 is located on Java Island and will be the first super-critical coal unit in Indonesia and the largest generating unit on the Java-Bali grid.

International Power owns 40.5% of Paiton Energy, which owns and operates the Paiton plants. Other shareholders in Paiton Energy are Mitsui & Co, The Tokyo Electric Power Company and PT Batu Hitam Perkasa.

12:45 - Compass Group (CPG) has had a good first half of the year as total revenue growth is expected to be approximately 8.5% and organic growth is set to rise by almost 5%.

The company said it has "...continued to see good levels of new business wins and a consistently high level of retention across the group".

Like-for-like revenue growth was positive, but lower than the levels of the first half of last year due to challenging economic conditions. The group enjoyed strong organic growth across all sectors in North America, while Europe was been mixed. The firm's businesses in Latin America, Russia, India, China and Turkey grew at double-digit rates.

Simon French, analyst at Panmure Gordon, believed Compass had a "good forecast" and for this reason retained a 'buy' recommendation.

12:30 - EMED Mining (EMED) said it will resume work at its Andalusian copper mine, Faroe Petroleum (FPM) showed a five-fold increase in revenue, while Red Rock Resources (RRR) announced a rights issue.

Read all this and more in Tuesday's AIM news: Commodities.

12:15 - Wolseley (WOS) delivered a "decent performance" for the half year to 31 January according to chief executive Ian Meakins, with revenue up 5% on a like-for-like basis to £6.8 billion.

Trading profit was 13% ahead of last year at £310 million, and underlying trading profit in the ongoing business was up 16% to £318 million. The company had a cash generation with adjusted net debt of £529 million, which was an improvement on the £404 million on 31 January 2011. Interim dividend increased by 33% to 20p per share, and earnings per share was 30% ahead of last year to 78p.

Andy Brown, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said that the half-year results were "solid" and "better than expected". However, its "outlook remains challenging". Brown retained a 'sell' recommendation on this stock.

12:00 - The FTSE 100 (UKX) continued to hold its head above water, adding five points to stand at 5907.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) surged almost 5% on reports that the government was planning to sell part of its stake in the bank to Abu Dhabi. At the other end of the spectrum, insurer Resolution () lost 3% after investors reacted negatively to plans to split the company's operations.

"After yesterday's stellar gains, markets have put on further advances, buoyed by hopes of yet more largesse from the world's central banks," said Ben Critchley, sales trader at IG Index.

"Once again we are through the looking glass, in a world where stocks rise on hopes that US economic data will weaken, since this then raises the probability that the [Federal Reserve] will launch QE3."

At a glance...


Gold: $1,693.19

WTI crude oil: $107.23


GBP/USD: 1.5970

GBP/EUR: 1.1955

EUR/USD: 1.3361

All changes from 09:00 BST.

11:40 - The UK government is in talks to sell a significant stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to Abu Dhabi.

The plans, first reported by the BBC, will see the government sell up to a third of its 82% stake in the bank following several months of negotiations with Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds.

For the full story, read: UK plans to sell RBS to Abu Dhabi "madness".

11:20 - Apple (AAPL) is to consider upping its investments in China.

The announcement came as chief executive Tim Cook visited Beijing to meet Chinese officials. "China is very important to us and we look forward to even greater investment and growth here," said Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based Apple spokesperson.

Apple currently has five stores in mainland China and one in Hong Kong, although some Apple products are offered through other resellers.

Cook's visit came as Apple is embroiled in legal battles in China over intellectual property rights and faces labour challenges with its Chinese suppliers.

Warren Buffet has 10 golden investment rules, but if you apply each one to Apple does it make the stock tempting? To find out, read: Do the Buffett rules justify a bite into Apple?

11:00 - Resolution () shares fell 7% today with the announcement that it is developing a plan to split the company in two.

This was despite posting better-than-expected end-of-year results.

Under the plan one branch would hold existing policies as a "closed book", while the other would be run as a standard life insurer that would be open to new customers. The company said it is still looking at other measures to lure investors such as mergers and acquisitions.

Resolution made an operating profit of £681 million in 2011, up from £275 million on 2010 and ahead of City predictions of £602 million.

10:40 - Total UK (TTA) has shut down oil and gas production from its Elgin platform in the North Sea following a gas leak on Sunday.

"The gas leak at the Elgin well head platform remains ongoing, and we are taking all possible measures to try to identify the source and cause of the leak and to bring it under control," Total UK said in a statement on Monday.

Read: Gas leak shuts Total North Sea platform, for more.

10:20 - Glencore International (GLEN), the FTSE 100-listed mining company, has acquired a controlling stake in South African concern Optimum Coal Holdings.

The miner purchased 36.56% of shares, on top of the 31.21% stake it already held, with its local Black Economic Empowerment partner, Cyril Rapmaphosa. Glencore must now offer to acquire the shares of all Optimum shareholders at a price of 38 South African rand (£3.41).

Tor Peterson, director of the coal/coke commodity department at Glencore, commented: "Optimum will add to our coal presence in South Africa and will be highly complementary to our joint venture Shanduka Coal and our investment in Umcebo. South Africa is an important producer to supply the growing Chinese and Indian markets, so we are delighted to add to our business in the country with our partner Cyril Ramaphosa."

10:00 - Afren (AFR) saw its pre-tax profits for the 2011 full year nearly triple following first oil on the Ebok field in Nigeria.

Looking ahead, Afren said that it was "firmly on track" to produce between 42,000 and 46,000 boepd in 2012. "We have a visible production trajectory to 100,000 boepd by 2017," added chief executive Osman Shahenshah.

For the full story, read: First oil at Ebok sees Afren profits triple.

09:40 - Copper mining company Kazakhmys (KAZ) announced that it made a $1.5 billion (£0.94 billion) of underlying profit for the year ended 31 December, with $465 million contribution from Eurasian Natural Resources ().

Based on underlying profit, Kazakhmys had earnings per share of $2.80. The company had net funds of $19 million at the year end, compared to net debt of $350 million at the end of 2010. Group EBITDA was $2.9 billion, benefiting from higher metals prices. The final dividend was confirmed as 20 cents per share and the full-year dividend increased by 27% from 2010 to 28 cents per share.

Analysts at Canaccord said that despite the "cost pressures the copper business is under," they retained a ‘buy’ recommendation on this stock.

09:20 - Rio Tinto (RIO) announced it has begun a review of its diamond business, which will include exploring options for possible divestment of its diamond interests.

Rio Tinto currently operates three diamond mines, including Argyle, in Australia; Diavik in Canada; and Murowa in Zimbabwe; as well as Bunder in India.

Harry Kenyon-Stanley, chief executive diamonds and minerals, said the "diamonds market outlook is very positive, with demand growing strongly and lack of new discoveries limiting supply. We have a valuable, high-quality diamonds business, but given its scale we are reviewing whether we can create more value through a different ownership structure."

09:00 - The FTSE 100 (UKX) started Tuesday on a strong footing, following gains made in the US and Asia overnight.

The blue-chip index climbed up 14 points to 5917.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) surged more than 5% on news that Britain had held talks to sell part of its stake in the bank to Abu Dhabi investors. Resolution () slipped more than 6%.

On the AIM front, shares in Managed Support Services () soared another 41%, while shares in Speymill () lost about a quarter of their value.

Range Resources (RRL) was the most actively traded stock on Interactive Investor.

In terms of economic data, the Confederation of British Industry will publish its monthly distributive trades survey at 10:00 BST.

"Clearly, fears over the eurozone stability remain as an elephant in the room," commented Shavaz Dhalla, financial trader at Spreadex.

"This anxiety could potentially materialise further if Spanish bond auctions due later this morning fail to deliver."

US markets

Markets across the Pond all gained more than 1% after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke signalled supportive monetary policy will remain even though the employment picture has begun to improve, reinforcing the view that further quantitative easing may be possible.

The Dow Jones surged 161 points to 13242. The Nasdaq climbed 54 points to 3122. The S&P 500 stood at a four-year high after rising 19 points to 1416.

Advancers outpaced decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by a ratio of slightly more than three to one.

Looking ahead, the S&P CaseShiller 20 index for January is due, followed by March's consumer confidence index.

At a glance...

Asian markets

Nikkei 225: 10255 ( 236)

Hang Seng: 21010 ( 341)

Shanghai Composite: 2347 ( three)


Gold: $1,687.60

WTI crude oil: $106.86


GBP/USD: 1.5953

GBP/EUR: 1.1962

EUR/USD: 1.3354

08:00 - The FTSE 100 (UKX) opens at 5902.70.