FTSE falls as earnings and Greece weigh

LONDON Thu Nov 8, 2012 5:43pm GMT

A man walks through the lobby of the London Stock Exchange August 5, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

A man walks through the lobby of the London Stock Exchange August 5, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

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LONDON (Reuters) - The FTSE 100 fell on Thursday, as mixed earnings reports combined with concerns about the euro zone's economy and debt troubless to weigh on sentiment.

Tate & Lyle and Land Securities were among fallers in heavy volumes after releasing disappointing earnings updates. Land Securities had gained 25 percent year to date, with Tate & Lyle adding 9 percent in October.

"These are stocks that were untouchable, they were absolutely rock solid and they were smashing through indicators to go short. Finally with a sell-off starting yesterday, it was these stocks which seemed to drop quite sharpish," Ed Woolfitt, Head of Trading at Galvan, said.

"It would have been longer-term runners and well-performing companies that finally buckled, and if institutions took the profits out then that would cause the swing. I think it began as profit taking, then profit taking turned to fear."

The FTSE 100 index closed down 15.58 points, or 0.3 percent, at 5,776.05, reversing earlier gains and pulled down by cyclical stocks sensitive to risk sentiment, such as energy, banks and mining.

Concerns over the state of the euro zone resurfaced after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi described the outlook as "a picture of weaker economies," and traders cited fears that 31.5 billion euros of aid for Greece, frozen since June, may be delayed further.

Tate & Lyle fell 0.5 percent as the sweeteners and starches maker reported only a slight rise in first-half earnings, reflecting the cost of re-opening a factory and tough trading in Europe.

Volume in Tate & Lyle was heavy at more than double its 90-day daily average.

Land Securities fell 2 percent after lacklustre first-half results, with net asset value per share up 0.1 percent.

Food retailer WM Morrison, Britain's No. 4 grocer, was down 1.5 percent after a weak sales update.

Beyond earnings, Security firm G4S was among the biggest fallers on the index, losing 3.1 percent after it missed out on contracts from the UK government to run prisons.

"It is disappointing ... as this represents a contract where the business has a track record and will have had good insight into how to price the bid effectively and deliver return," investment bank Espirito Santo said in a note.

"To us, it would suggest that the business has incurred some reputational damage with the UK Government following the London Olympic contract failure."

The only real risers in the index were those typically perceived as more defensive during times of economic uncertainty, with consumer staples gaining, led by BAT, which gained 1.3 percent.

"It's not exactly a risk-on day, and it's been quite volatile. I think it's just a bit of a natural rotation," Mike van Dulken, Head of Research at Accendo Markets, said.

"These guys (such as BAT) have good dividend yields. People are still concerned about the outlook, so there some demand for the kind of stocks that could hold up well."

Early focus had been on central bank interest rate decisions, with both the Bank of England and European Central Bank keeping rates unchanged as expected.

Of more interest to some in the market was the Bank's decision to hold off from extending its quantitative easing programme, which has supported stocks and other assets, although the FTSE's reaction was only slight.

(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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