Going Down: Abbey National

ABBEY NATIONAL led falls in the former building society shares, as investors fear increased competition in the mortgage market will cut profits. Abbey fell 8 per cent, Northern Rock shares fell 7.7 per cent and Halifax dropped 3.5 per cent.

The concern was triggered by Northern Rock's announcement that it may parcel some assets together and sell them off as securities. Mortgage margins are already narrowing due to new competition from lenders such as Standard Life and egg.

"The threat of much lower mortgage margins after Northern Rock's announcement on securitisation has frightened people," said Ian Poulter, an analyst with Williams de Broe.