3 Shares the FTSE 100 Should Beat Today

LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) has picked up a little, gaining 25 points to reach 6,404 by 8 a.m. EST. That comes despite a handful of FTSE 100 shares trading at ex-dividend prices, but it reflects improving sentiment toward Japan and Europe.

But even as the FTSE hits a new high, some individual index constituents are falling. Here are three responding negatively to news.

RSA (LSE: RSA  )
RSA Insurance shares have slumped 13.4% to 118 pence after the company slashed its dividend by 33%. The final dividend will be 3.9 pence per share, down from 5.82 pence last year. The total dividend amounts to 7.31 pence for a yield of 6% on the current share price, but that won't be sustained, as the company told us it "anticipates similar percentage reduction in 2013 interim dividend."

The dividend cut took the market by surprise, as there was no suggestion of it at the interim stage, when the halftime payout was actually lifted. Chief executive Simon Lee believes that rebasing the dividend will help the company invest in future opportunities and is in the best interests of shareholders.

BHP Billiton (LSE: BLT  )
Half-year results from BHP Billiton sent the miner's shares down 2.2% to 2,188 pence. The company said "the December 2012 half year was more challenging for the global resources industry" and reported a 38% drop in underlying EBIT to $9.8 billion and a 58% fall in basic earnings per share. The current divestment program is continuing, with sales of assets worth $4.3 billion announced or completed during the six-month period.

What effect this has on full-year forecasts remains to be seen, but the City was expecting a fall in EPS of about 22%. But at least the interim dividend has been lifted by 3.6% to 57 cents per share.

Vodafone (LSE: VOD  ) (NASDAQ: VOD  )
Vodafone shares have slipped just 0.5% to 163 pence after the results of the latest 4G spectrum auction were announced. Vodafone has acquired spectrum of 2x10 MHz in the 800 MHz band, 2x20 MHz in the 2.6 GHz band, and 25 MHz in the 2.6 GHz band, valid for an initial 20 years. The cost was 790 million pounds (which is a good bit less than the crazy prices paid for G3 spectrum in 2000). The other winners were BT subsidiary Niche Spectrum Ventures, Everything Everywhere, Hutchison 3G UK, and Telefonica (O2).

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