Market Report: HSBC slides after Investec scribe sticks boot in again


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The Independent Online

It is fair to say that Ian Gordon probably is not the most popular person in HSBC's Canary Wharf headquarters. The Investec scribe has been known to be rather scathing about the bank, and yesterday he was at it again. With HSBC bosses set to update the City in May on its attempts to reposition the group, Mr Gordon conceded that they will have "a lot of worthy achievements" to announce.

However, that was not enough to persuade him to change his opinion. Saying he has the "same old gripe – no growth!", the analyst warned that "the market will have to refocus on the reality that the HSBC balance sheet simply isn't growing and margins are still falling".

"How much more pain are you prepared to take?" he asked HSBC's investors, who, he claimed, "do not face financial ruin, just a further extended period of underperformance".

Although Mr Gordon kept his hold recommendation on the company, he has in the past said this rating "should not be confused with any suggestion of 'active' ownership".

His other previous proclamations include calling HSBC "a modest stock, with much to be modest about", while last November he said there was "absolutely no excuse for owning the shares at all".

In response to the latest missive, HSBC, which revealed it is getting rid of an 80.1per cent stake in its Middle Eastern private-equity firm, was knocked back 5.1p to 558.3p. In fact, it was the only one of the blue-chip banks to finish in the red, with Lloyds and Barclays rising 0.73p to 35.98p and 4.9p to 244.5p despite the Bank of England saying the sector urgently needs to raise fresh capital.

The FTSE 100 spent much of the session heading for a fall, but a late rally, sparked by the miners following bullish results from Chilean copper giant Codelco, meant it closed 9.24 points better off at 5,854.89, although this was not enough to prevent the week being its worst of 2012.

The main economic event of the day came from the US, where housing data missed expectations. It signalled bad news for building materials firms CRH, down 18p to 1319p, and Wolseley, off 40p to 2,464p, both of whom have a large exposure to our cousins across the Atlantic.

Although Randgold Resources has tried to calm investors by saying its operations in Mali are still running smoothly, the gold digger continued to slide following the military coup in the country, slipping a further 115p to 5,650p.

At the other end, BT was the clear winner, shooting up 11.9p to 232.1p as it unveiled a new deal that means it will pay down its huge pension deficit quicker than expected.

A number of the pubs groups were in a cheerful mood after David Cameron announced plans to set a minimum price for booze, with Mitchells & Butlers climbing 3.1p to 276.4p while Enterprise Inns ticked up 1.25p to 53p.

"Mr Cameron doesn't like people getting pissed up and being sick everywhere, so he's going to confine it to JD Wetherspoon instead," dryly noted one dealer, although despite Numis Securities' Douglas Jack saying the chain was likely to be the biggest winner, by the bell it had edged back 0.8p to 420p.

Essar Energy finished its first week since being relegated to the FTSE 250 on a high, jumping up 9.08 per cent to 153.8p. The power giant's dramatic tumble has been halted recently, and it has now added nearly 40 per cent over the past fortnight with Morgan Stanley's Nicholas Ashworth prompting the latest move by raising his advice to overweight.

The "will they, won't they?" saga around Cable & Wireless Worldwide took another twist. The telecommunications group is waiting to hear whether Vodafone, 0.15p lower at 173.6p, or India's Tata Communications will make a formal bid, but reports that bigwigs at the former are split over whether or not to do so left CWW 0.48p worse off at 37.5p.

Elsewhere, Dixons, which has added nearly 38 per cent in just two weeks, was up 0.7p at 19.55p. The chain's latest fillip came from John Lewis announcing impressive electronics sales figures, while the latest results from the department store also raised optimism around a number of the other retailers.

Down on AIM, AEC Education was getting top marks after its latest trading update. The exams setter shifted up a massive 42.42 per cent to 11.75p after revealing it was on course to beat the Square Mile's profit forecasts, while the tiddler also said it had snapped up training provider Skye Training.

Gulfsands Petroleum was 9p stronger at 135p amid vague rumours the explorer, whose shares have shed over a quarter in the past few weeks, could be a possible bid target. However, traders dismissed the speculation, saying its focus on Syria was likely to put off any potential suitors.