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    By Louise Heavens
    LONDON (Reuters) - The FTSE tumbled to its lowest level in 12 weeks on Monday in a retreat that took in all sectors as fears over a consumer spending slowdown grew, although Stanley Leisure (SLY.L: Quote, Profile, Research) was among the few bright spots after larger rival William Hill (WMH.L: Quote, Profile, Research) said it was in talks to buy its betting shops.

    By 10.15 a.m. the FTSE 100 share index was down 88.0 points, or 1.8 percent, at 4,803.6. Earlier the benchmark hit 4,794.8, its lowest intraday level since January 25.

    Share prices on Wall Street and then in Asia tumbled as disappointing results from computer maker IBM (IBM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) on Friday increased investor concerns about an economic slowdown and as disconcerting news from U.S. automaking giants General Motors (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Ford (F.N: Quote, Profile, Research) hinted at a future consumer spending slowdown.

    "What worries people a bit is that looking at General Motors' situation and the state of the car market, notably in the U.S., there a feeling that we've had something like 4 years of zero interest rates to sell cars in America and it no longer seems to be doing the trick," said Dan Bunting, European strategist at Dryden Wealth Management. "Are we reaching that dreaded tipping point?"

    Dealers said falling oil prices and a more stable U.S. dollar -- factors that should relieve some pressure on share prices -- were overshadowed by worries over the economy.

    Anglo-U.S. fund manager Amvescap (AVZ.L: Quote, Profile, Research) was the biggest casualty, shedding 4.5 percent as investors fretted over its heavy dependence on U.S. stock market.

    Steelmaker Corus (CS.L: Quote, Profile, Research) was another hefty faller, losing 4 percent on persistent concern that demand for steel may have peaked.


    Technology related stocks crowded the list of mid-cap fallers after IBM's disappointment was compounded by weak earnings from Dutch electronics firm Philips (PHG.AS: Quote, Profile, Research) . Telecoms testing equipment maker Spirent (SPT.L: Quote, Profile, Research) , software maker Misys (MSY.L: Quote, Profile, Research) and bluetooth provider CSR (CSR.L: Quote, Profile, Research) each shed around 5 percent.

    The only blue-chip pure play technology stock, Sage, was among the FTSE 100's biggest fallers, down 4 percent.

    Leisure firm William Hill (WMH.L: Quote, Profile, Research) was also among the heaviest casualties, shedding 2.5 percent after it said it was in talks to buy the betting shops of smaller rival Stanley Leisure for more than 500 million pounds. Shares in mid-cap firm Stanley Leisure, which also operates casinos, jumped 10.3 percent. Continued ...

    © Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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