LONDON -- After roaring past the 6,000 mark last week, the FTSE 100 index has looked distinctly sedate this week. Yesterday's 26-point drop was followed up this morning by a seven-point gain, which left the blue-chip index standing at 6,072.
Early trading was influenced by speculation of corporate activity at Vodafone and what were described as "underwhelming" December high-street sales by the British Retail Consortium.
Indeed, a bevy of retailers issued Christmas statements this morning and a trio did not seem to please investors. Here are three names that look set to lag the FTSE 100 today.
The shares of Debenhams dived 6% to 110 pence during early trade this morning after the department store chain admitted that gross margins for the year would be lower than expected.
Debenhams said the 18 weeks to Jan. 5 had witnessed like-for-like sales gain 3%, with online sales surging 39%. But the company also noted that greater promotional costs would mean that gross margins would improve by only 10 basis points on last year. Debenhams had previously expected an advance of 20 basis points
Prior to today, City experts had predicted current-year earnings of about 11 pence per share.
Details of a 13% first-half sales advance did nothing for the shares of Dunelm this morning. The price dropped 2.1% as the home furnishings retailer warned that like-for-like sales growth would be harder to achieve during the group's second half.
Nevertheless, Dunelm's first-half performance appeared very creditable, with gross margins advancing by 30 basis points and 10 new stores taking the estate to 123 locations. Net cash in the bank was a useful 50 million pounds, too.
The shares of Majestic Wine failed to sparkle today after the chain confirmed that total sales had fizzed 5% higher in the run-up to Christmas. The AIM-quoted retailer also said like-for-like sales had improved by 1% during the final seven weeks of 2012.
Majestic's shares fell 2.7%, although longtime investors may not be too concerned -- the price has jumped fourfold since early 2009.
Before today, City brokers had projected earnings of 27 pence per share for the year ending April 2013.
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