3 Shares the FTSE Should Beat Today

LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE  ) was unable to keep its head above the 5,900 level this morning and is down 0.3% as of 8:50 a.m. EST. The point value of the index doesn't really matter, but a strong spell could help boost confidence for the long term.

Even on this trading day gone wrong, some individual companies are seeing even heavier losses.

FirstGroup (LSE: FGP.L  )
FirstGroup shares are down again after a recent mini-recovery, dropping 4.2% to 197 pence on the release of half-year figures. Things are largely going as expected, we were told, as underlying pre-tax profit fell 42% to 48.7 million pounds. Reported pre-tax profit slumped to 8.4 million pounds, 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 7.62 pence per share. FirstGroup shares are down about 40% on the year, with about half of that fall coming as a result of the aborted franchise bid.

Clarkson (LSE: CKN.L  )
Shipping-services group Clarkson issued a profit warning today, causing an 8.8% fall in its share price to 1,190 pence. The firm is apparently suffering from falling freight rates and lower asset prices, telling us that "the 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 (LSE: RPS.L  )
RPS Group fell 5.4% to 225 pence 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.


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