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Investors calm over S&P eurozone downgrades, with defensive stocks in focus

FTSE edges lower, with cruise group Carnival biggest faller after disaster

The mass downgrade of eurozone credit ratings on Friday has been taken remarkably well by stock markets.

In what was probably one of the most widely flagged moves in the whole sovereign debt crisis, Standard & Poor’s cut nine countries ratings. But because it was so expected, investors seem relatively calm about the whole thing. That could change of course in an instant, and there is no doubt France’s latest debt auction later will be keenly watched to see how successful or otherwise it is. And then there are the continuing talks to resolve Greece’s bond issues, which in extremis could help push the country into bankruptcy if they are not resolved.

But with defensive stocks in favour, the FTSE 100 is just 10.64 points lower at 5626.00, with France barely changed and the German Dax edging higher. There will be no help – or hindrance – from Wall Street which is closed for Martin Luther King day.

Severn Trent has added 14p to £15.56 while British Gas owner Centrica is up 2p at 285p.

The biggest faller in the leading index is, not surprising, Carnival following the Costa Concordia shipwreck. The company issued a statement to the market which – after expressing its sorrow at the tragedy – indicated that earnings would be hit by m to m in the current year, with other so far undetermined costs to come. Its shares have dropped 410p to £18.38.

And to prove the eurozone worries are not being completely ignored, banking shares are under pressure again, with Barclays down 3.95p to 197.25p and Lloyds Banking Group 0.74p lower at 28.76p.

Elswhere dairy group Robert Wiseman jumped 60.75p to 388.75p after agreeing to a £279.5m, 390p a share, offer from Germany’s Mueller Group.

Lower down the market mining group Beowulf fell 1.25p to 11p after it reported that its Kallak drilling programme in Sweden had received objections from the local Saami community due to the reindeer herding season. Drilling remains suspended while attempts are made to solve the problem. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds