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Sunday 30th of January 2011
December 20, 2010    

Drax Group leads UK utilities higher as demand rises

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by Elaine Frei
Drax Group leads UK utilities higher as demand rises

European equities markets saw gains Monday even though analysts were afraid that France and Belgium could have their credit ratings downgraded and Moody’s Investors Service said it could downgrade Spanish banks.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.34 percent to 5,891.61 in London, while the FTSE 250 added 0.06 percent to 11,433.1.

Utilities were higher on increased demand as cold weather blanketed the UK.

Drax Group (LSE: DRX) gained the most in the utility sector, adding 3.12 percent, while National Grid (LSE: NG) was up 1.99 percent and Centrica (LSE: CNA) gained 1.42 percent.

The bad weather also had an impact in the travel and leisure sector, where British Airways (LSE: BAY) led declines on the 100, falling 1.85 percent as flights were disrupted.

Elsewhere in the travel and leisure sector, gamblers were mixed, with online gambler and casinos operator Rank Group (LSE: RNK) seeing the biggest gain in the sector as it added 3.28 percent, but online gambler Betfair Group (LSE: BET) had the worst day in the sector as it dropped 6.16 percent.

Retailers were mostly lower as the bad weather kept people from doing their last-minute Christmas shopping, with consumer electronics retailer Dixons Retail (LSE: DXNS) down 6.2 percent, while a few gainers in the sector were led by J. D. Sports Fashion (LSE: JD), which added 3.55 percent.

The biggest gainer on the 100 was assets manager Schroders, with non-voting shares (LSE: SDRt) adding 3 percent and voting shares (LSE: SDR) right behind with a gain of 2.69 percent.

Over on the 250, credit card protection provider CPP Group (LSE: CPP) was up 7.36 percent for the best result of the day, while the biggest decliner was investment managers Gartmore Group (LSE: GRT), which was down 8.64 percent on the news that it is talks to sell itself to Henderson Group (LSE: HGG) at a “slight discount”.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was up 0.68 percent to 1,133.91 while the CAC-40 added 0.46 percent to 3,885.08, the Dax was 0.52 percent higher to 7,018.6 and the IBEX gained 0.99 percent to 9.996.1.

Most markets in the Asia-Pacific region saw declines after North Korea made threats, which it later rescinded, to retaliate as South Korea conducted military maneuvers near North Korean territory, and as investors continued to worry about Europe’s debt problems and whether they might spread.

The Nikkei 225 was down 0.85 percent to 10,216.4 in Tokyo, while the Topix index fell 0.51 percent to 898.55 but the Mothers market added 0.96 percent to 430.1.

Shares of companies doing substantial business in China were lower after China’s markets declined, including a decline of 1.8 percent for industrial robot maker Fanuc (TYO: 6954), while heavy machinery manufacturer Komatsu (TYO: 6301) was down 1.9 percent and Hitachi Construction Machinery (TYO: 6305) dropped 2.1 percent.

Consumer electronics giant Sony (TYO: 6758) was 1.2 percent lower after it said it won’t sell as many televisions in the fiscal year ending in March as it had planned.

Honda Motor (TYO: 7267), on the other hand, added 1.4 percent after it forecast it will sell about 80,000 more vehicles in China next year than it estimates it has sold this year.

Other decliners in the region included a drop of 0.3 percent to 2,020,28 for South Korea’s Kospi, while the Hang Seng was down 0.33 percent to 22,639.1 in Hong Kong.

The Sydney Ordinaries dropped 0.49 percent to 4,829.2 in Australia, while the S&P/ASX200 was down 0.56 percent to 4,736.6.

Taiwan’s Taiex also fell 0.56 percent, to 8,768.72, the Straits Times Index was 0.64 percent lower to 3,132.96 in Singapore and the Shanghai composite was down 1.41 percent to 2,852.92.

On the other hand, India’s Sensex added 0.12 percent to 19.888.9.

New York markets were mixed as the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.11 percent to 11,478.9 in early afternoon trade, while at the same time the S&P 500 was up 0.26 percent to 1,247.2 and the Nasdaq Composite was 0.29 percent higher to 2,650.54.

The price of crude oil was higher in afternoon trade in New York, while metals prices also saw gains.

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