ICAP Brings out Stars to Lift Woe; MARKET REPORT

Article excerpt

Byline: Etain Lavelle

YOU know the festive season has kicked off in earnest when a trail of celebrities in fancydress start beating a path to the City headquarters of interdealer broker, ICAP.

The firm held its 19th annual all-day fundraising event to raise money for 200 charities - notably Maggie's Cancer Centres and Cure Parkinson's Trust - helping to remind us all that there are more noble causes than eurozone harmony.

ICAP said half the cast of Downton Abbey took to the phones yesterday in a bid to push up trading volumes, joined by ex-boxer Frank Bruno, the Duchess of Cornwall, England rugby player Joe Worsley and Naked Chef Jamie Oliver.

But eurozone harmony - or rather the absence of it - continued to weigh heavily on global markets. The FTSE suffered from increasing pessimism that a eurozone deal might be brokered by the end of the week after an unidentified German official accused some eurozone governments of not understanding the gravity of the situation.

'People are just looking for a quiet December and to start again next year,' said a seasoned trader. 'But it's all Macro-dominated and there is no resolution there.'

The index closed down 21.81 points at 5,546.91, having started the session in positive territory.

ICAP itself was a victim of the gloom, dropping over 4pc after analysts at Morgan Stanley downgraded the inter-dealer broker to 'equal weight' from 'overweight'. Morgan Stanley cut its earnings forecast for the banking sector in 2012-13 by 7-9pc. Traders also said the stock was impacted by data showing that electronic trading volumes dropped by 7pc in November. The shares fell 16.1p to 350.4p.

RBS was under the cosh ahead of the publication of the Financial Services Authority report into the collapse of the bank in 2008, expected to be published on December 12. Shares fell 0.45pc to 22.14p. Among other financials, Man Group, among the world's largest publicly listed hedge funds, slid by 3.4p to 139.8p as the turmoil in global markets looks set to continue.

But there was a glimmer of good news for high-end retailer Burberry Group. Simon Irwin of Liberium Capital initiated coverage with a 'buy' recommendation, and forecast 20pc average earnings growth in the next four years. 'Burberry has reached an inflection point,' he wrote in a note to clients. …