Belfast Telegraph

TUI sunshine amid sluggish FTSE100

Holiday firm TUI Travel offered a ray of sunshine amid a subdued session for blue-chip shares after strong summer trading helped it smash full-year profit forecasts.

The firm behind Thomson and First Choice set the pace in the top-flight as its price lifted nearly 4% after it said rising customer numbers and higher prices enabled it to grow summer sales 8% in the UK.

Its rise came amid a sluggish performance for the FTSE 100 Index, up just 14.1 points to 6565.6 as political bickering over the raising of the US debt ceiling continues to fray investors' nerves.

The American government is heading towards the ceiling and will reach it unless Congress agrees to lift the spending limit, increasing fears over the impact on confidence in the US economy.

Markets in France and Europe were also subdued, posting small declines.

But there was more optimism on Wall Street about the prospects of the world's biggest economy, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ahead in early trading after encouraging data on falling unemployment claims.

The jobs figures helped boosted the dollar, with the pound falling by one cent to 1.60 US dollars. Sterling was flat against the euro at 1.19 euros.

In London, an unchanged picture on second-quarter UK growth - held steady at 0.7% - gave little impetus to shares as higher-than-expected manufacturing and construction data was offset by falling business investment.

Shares in TUI, Europe's biggest tour operator, advanced 14p to 370.4p after it said annual operating profits would grow by at least 11%, compared with its prior guidance of 10%.

But rival Thomas Cook was under pressure on the FTSE 250 Index after reporting a slow start to its winter season and a sluggish finish to the summer due to political uncertainty in the Middle East and warm weather in Europe.

The tour group, which is midway through a painful restructuring, insisted it was on track to hit full-year targets and average prices for winter package holidays were up. But investors took flight, sending its shares down nearly 7% or 10.3p to 145.3p.

British Gas owner Centrica was the top tier's heaviest faller, after Labour leader Ed Miliband's energy price freeze pledge prompted a downgrade by JP Morgan Cazenove.

After a 5% fall in the previous session, its shares dropped a further 2%, down 8.7p to 366.9p. Swalec and Southern Electric owner SSE followed closely behind, down 29p to 1460p.

Betting shop chain Ladbrokes was among the FTSE 250's biggest fallers, slumping nearly 8% after it warned digital profits would be a long way short of hopes. Shares in the group, which has around 2,700 shops, fell 14.3p to 173.8p.

Rival William Hill, which has thrown millions at its online and mobile betting business and could be a beneficiary from Ladbrokes' woes, gained a little ground, advancing by 2.4p to 406.9p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were TUI Travel, up 14p to 370.4p, Whitbread, up 98p to 3035p, Compass Group, up 19.5p to 849.5p and G4S up 4.9p to 253.4p

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Centrica, down 8.7p to 366.9p, SSE down 29p to 1460p, Hargreaves Landsdown off 16.5p at 995.5p and Experian down 17p to 1199p.