Market Report: Political paralysis puts a drag on Drax
Punters in Drax will be forgiven for wishing politicians would just get their act together. The power station operator has been waiting on tenterhooks for the government to make a decision on green energy subsidies, seen as vital to its future plans and, according to some, its takeover potential.
Yesterday, however, it was hit by the news that the announcement – originally due in spring – had been put off for a second time, and is now unlikely to be made until after MPs return in September from their summer recess.
The amount of support for renewable power is important for Drax because it won't commit to investing in plans to generate more energy from eco-friendly biomass until they know the level of subsidies available.
There has also been speculation in the City that Drax could find itself in play as a takeover target once the future is clearer, with British Gas owner Centrica, 4.9p worse off at 321.2p, one name put forward by analysts as a potential suitor.
Yet investors were clearly unwilling to wait, with Drax finishing the session as one of the mid-tier index's worst performers after sliding 32.5p to 540.5p. This was despite Deutsche Bank's James Brand doing his best to put a brave face on it, saying he did not think the postponement "signals a lack of support for biomass" while adding that the market should "see any near-term weakness in the shares as a buying opportunity".
US Fed boss Ben Bernanke's first bit of testimony to Congress disappointed those hoping for hints of QE3 as the FTSE 100 shifted back 33.34 points to 5629.09. Still, optimists may choose to take heart from the fact he still has the second part of his statement to go today, with Capital Spreads' Angus Campbell pointing out he "could just as easily provide some better news for the bulls".
G4S chief executive Nick Buckles' grilling by MPs over the Olympics fiasco was clearly not doing much to soothe the market's fears, as the security services giant reached its lowest for nearly eight months, dropping 14.6p to 240p. Still, there was some good news for Mr Buckles, with fund manager Invesco – G4S's second largest shareholder – saying he should not resign.
Barclays managed to rise for the first time in a week, ticking up 1.3p to 159p after Citigroup kept the bank on its list of favourite stocks. Economists from the broker claimed the UK sector was "one-step removed from the eurozone crisis", although Royal Bank of Scotland, down 3p to 201.5p, was still on their "least-preferred" list because of its exposure to Ireland.
More generally, the number-crunchers were predicting a return to growth for the UK in 2013, but warned that the eurozone would see a "mild recession" both this year and the next. Citi's analysts used this as a justification for reiterating their preference for easyJet – founded by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou – saying the budget airline, which crept up 1.5p to 558p, "looks well-placed to benefit from travellers trading down".
CSR was racing away at the top of the FTSE 250. The chip maker was lifted 73.7p to 292p after agreeing to sell its handset business to South Korean tech giant Samsung for $310m (£198m).
Meanwhile, longstanding vague bid speculation around US pharma group BioMarin was being reheated for the umpteenth time, with market gossips once again suggesting blue-chip drug maker AstraZeneca, up 13.5p to 2,953p, as a possible bidder for the rumour mill favourite.
There was some deal activity on Aim where wheel maker Titan Europe jumped 17p to 130p after announcing it had received an approach from shareholder Titan International.
Fellow Aim stock Ncondezi Coal moved down 0.75p to 26p despite reports from India claiming the miner is in talks with Adani Enterprises over the potential sale of a minority stake in its assets.
Elsewhere, investment group Creon Resources powered up 0.23p to 1.22p as traders applauded news that the tiddler had agreed a joint venture with Chinese shipbuilding giant Yangzijiang.
Premier Oil 375.8p (up 14p, 3.87 per cent) Driller spurts higher after getting a push from analysts at Bernstein who decide to raise their price target to 570p from 470p and keep their "outperform" rating.
Salamander Energy 195.4p (up 6.8p, 3.61 per cent) Asia-focused explorer continues its strong start to the week, with its share price now having added more than 9 per cent over the past two trading sessions.
Morgan Crucible 269.2p (down 10.5p, 3.75 per cent) Engineer is knocked back despite JP Morgan Cazenove keeping its "overweight" rating, although the broker does cut its target price to 360p from 390p.
IG Group 450.7p (down 11.8p, 2.55 per cent) Spread-betting company finishes the day in the red after revealing it saw a drop in revenues over the first six weeks of the new financial year.
BSkyB 695p (up 6.5p, 0.94 per cent) Satellite broadcaster climbs as scribblers from Espirito Santo say its Now TV streaming service "seems to tick all boxes, including competition, regulation and consumer demand".
Hammerson 467p (up 2.6p, 0.56 per cent) Anglo-French property company's recent impressive run continues, with its share price now having added more than 14 per cent since June.
National Grid 662p (down 20.5p, 3 per cent) Utility continues to fall in the wake of Ofgem announcing new regulatory proposals on Monday, as Société Gé*érale cuts its price target on the stock to 642p from 673p.
Rio Tinto 2,916.5p (down 69.5p, 2.33 per cent) Heavyweight miner finishes in the red after announcing its production figures, with iron ore sales over the second-quarter slightly less than its output.
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