TUESDAY MARKET CLOSE: Weak profit figures drag FTSE lower

London’s top flight closed lower for the second day in a row after weak earnings from Vodafone and Marks & Spencer proved a drag on the market.

Vodafone reported a drop in annual earnings and forecast a lower figure for the current year. Picture: PA

The hangover from Pfizer’s apparent failure to land rival AstraZeneca was also a factor in the lacklustre performance by the FTSE 100 Index, which dipped 42.55 points or 0.6 per cent to 6,802.

Brenda Kelly, chief market strategist at IG, said: “The market appears to have stalled yet again, with little apparent desire to revisit 6,900 any time soon. Neither macro data nor earnings have shown the ability to energise this market, and this leaves us wondering what can.”

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Vodafone was the biggest blue-chip faller after it reported a drop in annual earnings and forecast a lower figure for the current year. Shares were more than 5 per cent lower, down 11.9p at 205.3p.

M&S shares were 5p lower at 446p after it posted a third year in a row of declining profits, which will result in management and staff at the chain receiving no bonus this year.

However, rival Next was looking good by comparison, with its shares up 90p to 6,570p as the figures from M&S confirmed the competition remains weak.

Meanwhile, Astra shares steadied after the previous day’s heavy loss triggered by its refusal to engage with Pfizer over the US firm’s cash and shares offer valuing the company at £55 a share or £69.4 billion. Schroders, which holds a 2 per cent stake in Astra, said it was disappointed by the decision and urged management to continue talks. Astra shares were 21p higher at 4,308.5p.

Outside the top flight, home repair insurance business Homeserve gained more than 7 per cent as it sought to draw a line a past mis-selling scandal. Shares rose 23.2p to 340.3p as chief executive Richard Harpin said the company had made good progress in stabilising the UK business.