By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON (Reuters) – A fall in the shares of HSBC bank and credit data firm Experian pushed down Britain’s top equity index on Wednesday, adding to signs of weakness in corporate earnings as the market extended a losing run.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.4 percent, or 26.23 points, at 6,772.33 points in mid-session trading. The index had hit a 2-month closing high last Friday after five straight days of gains.
A 1.2 percent fall at HSBC took the most points off the FTSE after the bank posted a 20 percent fall in first quarter profits and said customer activity was muted in April.
“We do not feel there is an upgrade in these results but HSBC remains a good yield stock that performs relatively well in times of economic stress,” said Mirabaud Securities analyst Alex Potter.
Experian was the worst-performing FTSE stock in percentage terms, falling 6.1 percent after Chief Executive Don Robert said growth in the first-half of this year could be constrained.
The FTSE hit a peak of 6,867.42 points in late January, which was close to its highest level since early 2000, but has since fallen back due to concerns about a slump in emerging market economies and mounting unease about clashes in Ukraine between Kiev authorities and pro-Moscow militants.
The FTSE is trading on a 12-month forward price/earnings ratio of about 13 times, against its five-year average of 11, Thomson Reuters Datastream shows. Meanwhile, analysts have been steadily lowering profit forecasts since the start of 2014.
Peel Hunt equity strategist Ian Williams said he saw little scope for FTSE gains until at least mid-year, and that the market may need more signs of takeover activity to push higher.
“Valuations have come as far as they can in the short term purely on an earnings basis so it does require that corporate activity to add a bit of upside potential,” he said.
(additional reporting by Tricia Wright; Editing by John Stonestreet)
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