MONDAY MARKET CLOSE: UBS adds RSA to ‘most preferred’ list

Insurance firm RSA topped the blue-chip risers’ board yesterday after broker UBS added the shares to its “most preferred” list.

The beleaguered stock, which had lost a quarter of its value in the previous two months, was more than 6 per cent higher as there was also speculation that a review of its Irish operations due on Thursday will be relatively positive.

Eamonn Flanagan, an analyst at Shore Capital, said: “It is the outcome of that review that will dictate the stock performance.

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“For now, we reiterate our ‘hold’ recommendation but do suspect that group’s prospects and self-help options are healthier than the doomsters in the market may believe.”

RSA shares gained 5.75p at 97.9p, on a day when the wider FTSE 100 failed to make headway. The index closed just a fraction of a point higher at 6,730.73.

The heaviest fallers were the miners, rattled by the latest lacklustre figures to come out of China. Antofagasta and Fresnillo were both down more than 4 per cent, at 787p and 735.5p respectively.

Security giant G4S was also lower, falling 5.5p to 254.7p, following news of an “incident” at a prison it runs. The company said the incident at Oakwood prison had been “resolved successfully” but gave no details.

Some retailers were under pressure amid speculation over their Christmas results. Marks & Spencer’s shares declined 3.7p to 440.3p amid talk that clothing and homewares sales dropped over the festive trading quarter in spite of heavy discounting.

And Sainsbury’s, which publishes third-quarter figures on Wednesday, is expected to lose its record for underlying sales increases, with analysts pencilling in a decline after 35 quarters of growth in a row. Its shares slipped 6.2p to 367.8p.