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article imageLondon shares ends lower after 2014 budget hits pension firms

By AFP     Mar 19, 2014 in Business

London shares ended lower on Wednesday following Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's annual budget, with insurance and pensions firm Legal and General Group leading the day's fallers.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index closed 32.15 points, or 0.49 percent, down at 6,573.13.

One of the key measures in Osborne's budget was the scrapping of compulsory annuities for pensions, sending Legal and General shares 8.37 percent lower to 211.2 pence. The market took little comfort from a company statement this afternoon saying it was "well placed" for the new pensions rules.

"The UK insurance sector saw Legal and General, Aviva, Standard Life and Prudential all drop as the chancellor announced he was planning on ending annuity rules," said IG market analyst Alastair McCaig.

Bookmaker William Hill was the day's next biggest faller, sliding 6.81 percent to 351.5 pence after Osborne announced plans to raise the tax on fixed odds betting terminals to 25 percent from 20 percent.

However, there were budget winners, and savings and investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown was the day's biggest riser after Osborne said he would increase the amount of money that can be saved tax-free in Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs). The stock jumped 14.46 percent to 1,504 pence.

Property developer Hammerson was the day's next highest climber, its stock up 2.54 percent to 565.5 pence.

Lloyds Banking Group was the most traded stock by volume, with 235.05 million shares trading hands, followed by Legal and General with 106.97 million.

On the currency markets, sterling had strengthened against the dollar compared to the previous evening and was trading at $1.6625 at 5.21 pm, and had also strengthened against the euro, trading at 1.1949 euros compared to 1.1912 euros on Tuesday.

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