Market Report: Man trips again – and falls to its lowest for 10 years

"Man down!" was the cry from the Square Mile last night.

Having already had its share price cut in half since last summer, Man Group could have been forgiven for feeling it deserved a break, but yesterday it was smashed back to its lowest level for almost a decade.

The world's largest listed hedge fund was one of the worst blue-chip performers last year, and 2012 hasn't proved much better so far. Its latest fall of 10.3p, or 8.37 per cent, to 112.7p came as a torrent of City brokers rushed to slash their estimates ahead of its results later in the month.

One of them was JPMorgan Cazenove who, with the Eurozone debt crisis set to dampen investors' enthusiasm for the foreseeable future, warned the sector would "struggle to grow profits this year". Its analysts attacked current market estimates around Man for assuming "an unreasonable degree of investment performance at the start of the year" while they also claimed its level of capital will be severely hit by having to pay dividends for 2011 and 2012.

RBC, meanwhile, cut its profit forecasts by nearly 20 per cent while also downgrading Man's rating to "sector perform". Perhaps surprisingly, however, Credit Suisse's Gurjit Kambo was still telling investors to buy the group, although he did slash his estimates and warned a recovery was unlikely in the near term.

The analyst also downgraded his rating on Ashmore to "neutral", as it slipped 9.6p to 321.3p, in a bearish note on the sector as a whole.

The FTSE 100 ended the week on a high, moving up 25.42 points to 5,649.68. At one point it was even higher, but despite encouraging employment figures from the States, the benchmark index slid back in late trading.

Burberry took the top spot in the wake of speculation China – a major source of growth for the luxury brand – may be about to reduce its bank reserve ration again, which should stimulate consumer spending.

GlaxoSmithKline – in demand for its defensive qualities – closed at its highest since October 2006, powering up 15p to 1,497p, as vague rumours were reheated that the drugs maker may bid for its US partner Human Genome Sciences, despite analysts having previously rubbished the idea.

Meanwhile, the analysts at Goldman Sachs reheated talk that Vodafone could make a move for American peer Verizon, saying a "a merger or acquisition with some or all of Verizon could be attractive", and the telecoms giant powered up 2.2p to 179.5p.

The takeover potential of Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) was back in focus as the pubs group frothed up 8.7 per cent to 249.8p on the FTSE 250. The All Bar One owner fought off a lowball approach from billionaire currency trader – and now its largest shareholder – Joe Lewis last year, and Morgan Stanley reminded investors that he will be able to have another go in April.

The broker also chose M&B as one of its favourite plays in the leisure sector for the year ahead, pointing out that consumers will have lots of excuse to go to the boozer thanks to events such as the London Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee.

With Blacks Leisure set to go into administration, reports claimed JD Sports was the likeliest to win the race to buy most of the tents retailer. The group was certainly in pole position on the mid-tier index after sprinting up 11.39 per cent to 660p, with dealers saying it was still being helped by a strong update from AIM-listed rival JJB Sports (which was another 1.71p higher at 9.41p) earlier in the week.

Supergroup was also on the rise, jumping 18.5p to 548.5p on optimistic buying ahead of the clothing chain's Christmas trading statement next week.

Hopeful takeover speculation around Bowleven was refusing to die as the Africa-focused explorer spurted up 6.25p to 75p, although the vague rumours were being widely played down.

Elsewhere, Rockhopper was lifted 21p to 291.5p by Merchant Securities recommending it as a good pick for 2012. Credit Suisse also started its coverage with an "outperform" rating and suggested the oil group's portfolio could attract admirers.

A profits warning from Akers Bioscience sobered up investors in the AIM-listed diagnostics group. The firm, whose products include disposable breathalysers, plummeted nearly 45 per cent to 1.32p after admitting revenues for 2011 would miss expectations.

There was a less dramatic response to Johnson Service's trading update, although the dry-cleaner was still 1.37p worse off at 5.25p as it said tough trading meant its results were going to come in under market forecasts.

We may not be getting our clothes cleaned, but sweet fruit-flavoured drinks seem to be gaining in popularity if the latest update from Nichols is anything to go by. The Vimto maker announced forecast-beating sales figures for 2011, prompting it to fizz up 10.05 per cent to 591.5p – its highest-ever share price.

FTSE 100 Risers

WPP 690p (up 21p, 3.14 per cent)

World's largest marketing and advertising group enjoys a strong rise following Natixis analysts' decision to increase their target price to 610p from 560p.

ITV 71.35p (up 1.9p, 2.74 per cent)

X Factor broadcaster finishes the week on a high after getting a boost from Morgan Stanley upgrading its recommendation to "overweight" from "equal-weight".

FTSE 100 Fallers

ICAP 319.3p (down 9.8p, 2.98 per cent)

Interdealer broker continues to slide after being hit by cautious comments regarding the outlook for the sector from its peer Tullett Prebon on Thursday.

Morrisons 311.3p (down 4.7p, 1.49 per cent)

The supermarket, along with rival Tesco, falls back amid concerns ahead of a rush of post-Christmas trading updates from the sector next week.

FTSE 250 Risers

Hochschild Mining 411.9p (up 19.5p, 4.97 per cent)

Precious metals digger given a helping hand by RBC adding it to its "best ideas portfolio", with the broker also raising the sector's rating to "overweight".

Rotork 1,918p (up 64p, 3.45 per cent)

In the wake of a sharp fall over the previous two sessions, engineer manages a partial rebound as Goldman Sachs raises its target price to 2,350p from 2,270p.

FTSE 250 Fallers

Savills 336p (down 8.1p, 2.35 per cent)

Estate agent left weaker by UBS's analysts removing their "buy" recommendation, saying that its strong position is now reflected in the share price.

Capital & Counties Properties 182.7p (down 1.1p, 0.6 per cent)

Real estate investment trust slides for the third consecutive session after Espirito Santo downgrades its rating to "neutral".

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