3 Shares the FTSE 100 Should Beat Today

LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) is still floating higher, having gained another 16 points to reach 6,115 as of 10:10 a.m. EST. The Bank of England's decision today not to extend its quantitative-easing program does not appear to have damaged market sentiment, though it was widely expected that U.K. interest rates would be kept unchanged.

Even if the FTSE 100 is extending its gains, there are always some individual constituents of the indexes that are falling. We look at three companies dropping today.

Marks & Spencer (LSE: MKS  )
Marks & Spencer shares have dropped 1.1% after the high-street giant released a disappointing trading update for the quarter ending Dec. 29. The problem is mainly in the clothing department, as the firm's "general merchandise" sales fell by 2.2% (3.8% on a like-for-like basis). With food up 2.7%, the overall result was a sales rise of just 0.6%, translating to a like-for-like sales fall of 1.8% overall.

Food sales over the Christmas period were especially strong, hitting a record 330 million pounds, which the company says is 4% higher than the market. Eyes will now be on M&S' spring and summer clothing ranges, which launch this week.

Ithaca (LSE: IAE  )
Ithaca Energy has fallen 6.9% after publishing a 2012 fourth-quarter production report together with the firm's outlook for 2013. Net production came in at 610,000 barrels of oil equivalent, with an average rate of 6,631 boe per day. That was 31% up on the third quarter and is pretty much in the dead center of the company's earlier guidance.

But forecasts for 2013 suggest a small slowdown in production, with a production rate of between 6,000 boepd and 6,700 boepd now expected.

XP Power (LSE: XPP  )
A trading update from XP Power, the manufacturer of power control components for the electronics industry, led to a slight drop, though the shares have since climbed back to breakeven. Revenue for the year to December 2012 fell by 9% compared with 2011, although that was expected as customer caution took its toll. But there was at least a "marginal" improvement in the second half. Net debt fell throughout the year from 18.6 million pounds to 10.7 million pounds.

XP's fourth-quarter dividend will be announced in February, along with the company's 2012 figures, but it is expected to be at least 16 pence for a total dividend of at least 49 pence per share. That's 9% up on last year and represents a yield of 4.9% at the current price.

Finally, how does Britain's ace investor Neil Woodford avoid share price falls? He goes for a strategy of buying solid blue-chip shares paying dependable long-term dividends. And in doing so, he has built a record of beating the FTSE for nine straight years. If you want to see how Woodford manages to beat the market, the free Motley Fool report "8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor" takes a look at some of his key holdings. To get your copy, click here while it's still available.

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