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March 31, 2010    

Enterprise Inns drops nearly 8 percent on broker downgrade

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by Elaine Frei
Enterprise Inns drops nearly 8 percent on broker downgrade

European equities markets were mixed Wednesday to end the first quarter of 2010.

The FTSE 100 added 0.13 percent to 5,679.64 in London, but the FTSE 250 was 0.2 percent lower to 10,165.28.

The travel and leisure sector was mostly lower, led by pubs operator Enterprise Inns (LSE: ETI), which dropped 7.62 percent on a broker downgrade from “hold” to “sell”, while Punch Taverns (LSE: PUB) was also down, falling 4.76 percent on the session.

Also in the travel and leisure sector, bus and rail transport operator FirstGroup (LSE: FGP) was down 4.16 percent after it warned that its profits will be affected by bad weather in the US and in the UK at the end of last year.

Most banks saw gains, led by Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY) with a gain of 2.3 percent, while most miners also advanced, led by Randgold Resources (LSE: RRS), which added 2.06 percent on the session.

The biggest gainer in London was Gartmore Group (LSE: GRT) as the investment manager gained 7.76 percent to top the winners list on the 250, but it only made back part of the more than 30 percent it lost yesterday.

British Sky Broadcasting Group (LSE: BSY) turned in the best performance on the 100, adding 3.44 percent after a rules change by Ofcom said the pay TV provider must offer its sports channels to other media groups at lower prices, a ruling the broadcaster said it would challenge.

Property investor and developer SEGRO (LSE: SGRO) was the biggest decliner on the 100, falling 2.83 percent, while outsourcer Connaught (LSE: CNT) fell 9.39 percent for the worst performance of the session on the 250 and in London generally.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was down 0.4 percent to 1,075.01 and the IBEX dropped 1 percent to 10,871.3, but the Dax added 0.17 percent to 6,152.77 and the CAC-40 gained 0.34 percent to 3,974.01.

Markets were lower in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Nikkei 225 was down 0.06 percent to 11,089.94 while the Topix index fell 0.08 percent to 978.81 and the Mothers market dropped 0.1 percent to 450.5.

The declines came after a government agency reported that February housing starts in Japan were 9.3 percent lower than the same month last year and that construction orders were 20 percent lower during the same month.

Banks were lower after Japan’s prime minister announced that his government will double the cap on deposits at Japan Post Bank to ¥20 million ($215,000), a move that is opposed by some on the basis that raising the cap will result in customers leaving commercial banks and credit unions in favor of the post bank.

Japan Post Bank is already the world’s biggest bank by deposits.

Mizuho Financial Group (TYO: 8411) was down 0.5 percent while Mitsubishi UFJ (TYO: 8306) and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (TYO: 8316) each dropped 1.4 percent.

Elsewhere in the region, the Sensex fell 0.35 percent to 17,527.77 while the Kospi was down 0.43 percent to 1,692.85, the Taiex was 0.53 percent lower to 7,920.06, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.62 percent to 3,109.1 and the Hang Seng dropped 0.63 percent to 21,239.35.

In Australia, the Sydney Ordinaries fell 0.68 percent to 4,893.1 and the S&P/ASX200 was down 0.84 percent to 4,875.5, while Singapore’s Straits Times Index dropped 1.57 percent to 2,887.46.

New York markets were mixed in midday trade as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.15 percent to 10,890.56 but the S&P 500 was 0.02 percent higher to 1,173.56 and the Nasdaq Composite had added 0.08 percent to 2,412.57.

Crude oil prices were higher with West Texas Intermediate May contracts above $83 at midday in New York, while among metals copper prices were down but precious metals saw gains.

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