FTSE slips as earnings news dominates

The FTSE pushed downwards at the close for the Easter break despite a strong start boosted by a positive round of US results last night.

The FTSE 100 closed down 3.96 points or 0.1 per cent at 6,018.30, having jumped 2.1 per cent over the day to close back above the 6,000 level for the first time since the start of March.

“Today’s trading session has the feel of the city of London packing its bags for various trips around the country and abroad ahead of four bank holidays in close succession rather than investors stock picking,” said City Index market strategist Joshua Raymond.

“Trading has been somewhat quiet today and the lower volumes in the market expected over the coming trading sessions could add a dose of volatility to indices next week and cloud true market sentiment a little.”

Investors digested a mixed bag of corporate results throughout the day, led on the upside by software maker Autonomy, which surged 7.4 per cent to 1,620p after revealing a forecast-beating quarterly performance.

Banks and miners performed well, with Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group each closing more than one per cent up, and with precious metals miner Fresnillo ending up 2.2 per cent higher at 1,648p.

Among other gainers were oilfield support services provider John Wood Group, which closed 3.8 per cent higher at 706p; metals technology specialist Johnson Matthey, which gained 2.3 per cent to finish at 1,924p, and stockbroker
Hargreaves Lansdown, which saw a 2.3 per cent rise today after publishing a heartening interim management statement yesterday. It closed at 634p.

The telecoms sector lagged, led by Vodafone, which ended 4.3 per cent down at 169.05p to become the day’s biggest faller.

“Dutch peer Royal KPN cut its 2011 forecast, and even positive results from US partner Verizon, who managed to beat expectations posting Q1 earnings of $0.51 cents a share, failed to stem its losses,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

Oil prices rose, with US crude trading above $112 (£68.40) a barrel and Brent crude above $124 a barrel, which caused a downward trend on travel-focused stocks.

“Firm oil prices have also undermined the leisure sector with Intercontinental Hotel Group and Carnival Cruise lines slipping back, though TUI Travel managed to buck that trend after being tipped by Deutsche Bank,” Hewson said.

US results were similarly mixed. Morgan Stanley saw profits tumble by half, but saw its shares rise 2.9 per cent as investors saw it generated stronger-than-expected fixed-income trading revenue.

General Electric reported an 80 per cent rise in profit, but its shares fell two per cent as it failed to match investors’ high expectations.