3 Shares The FTSE Should Beat Today

Published in Investing on 7 November 2012

FirstGroup (LSE: FGP) falls, and Clarkson (LSE: CKN) issues a profit warning.

The FTSE 100 (UKX) is on the up again, adding a modest 18 points to further the week's rise so far to 5,903 points. Will it keep its head above the 5,900 level? Well, the actual figure doesn't really matter, but a strong spell could help boost confidence for the longer term.

Individual constituents of the various indices falling doesn't help, of course. We look at three that are dropping today...

FirstGroup

FirstGroup (LSE: FGP) shares are down again after a recent mini-recovery, dropping 8.6p (4.2%) to 197p on the release of half-year figures. Things are largely going as expected, we were told, as underlying pre-tax profit fell 42% to £48.7m -- reported pre-tax profit slumped to £8.4m, but that was heavily distorted by a pension fund boost last year and exceptional costs this year.

The travel operator declined to raise its interim dividend due to uncertainty caused by the West Coast main line fiasco, holding it at 7.62p per share. FirstGroup shares are approximately 40% down on the year, with about half of that fall coming as a result of the aborted franchise bid.

Clarkson

Shipping services group Clarkson (LSE: CKN) issued a profit warning today, causing a 110p (8.5%) fall in its share price to 1,190p. The firm is apparently suffering from falling freight rates and lower asset prices, telling us that "(t)he short-term outlook for rates and values is uncertain".

The result is a lowering of the board's expectations for the full year, though we were not given any figures. Prior to today, the City was forecasting a 28% fall in earnings per share this year.

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RPS

RPS Group (LSE: RPS) fell 11.2p (4.7%) to 227p on the day the resources, land and property consultant announced that nine-month performance is well ahead of the same period last year. The firm is also, we were told, on track to meet the board's full-year expectations. So why the fall?

RPS's Built and Natural Environment division is facing tough conditions, and broker forecasts have been downgraded a little. Before today, analysts had the shares on a forward price-to-earnings ratio of around 12, with a 2.7% dividend forecast, making the price fall look possibly unfair.

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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article.

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