Irish downgrade hits banks and FTSE

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The FTSE 100 Index was 9.4 points lower at 5871.75

The FTSE 100 Index has finished down as a sharp downgrade of Ireland’s credit rating sent banking stocks into decline.

Ireland’s credit rating was slashed from Aa2 to Baa1 by key agency Moody’s, while Greece had its already low rating placed on review for a further downgrade.

The fresh eurozone debt worries left the Footsie 9.4 points lower at 5871.75 with banking stocks among the biggest fallers.

Lloyds issued a warning over the impact that Ireland’s debt crisis will have on its performance this year, saying it will have to write off more of its £26.7 billion portfolio of loans in Ireland due to the deteriorating economic situation in the recently bailed out country.

Shares slumped 3.6% to 66.5p after the part-nationalised bank said it expects bad debt losses of £4.3 billion this year, compared with the £1.6 billion reported in June.

Royal Bank of Scotland, also closely tied to Ireland, was down 2.3p to 37.8p, and Barclays, which is highly exposed to the economy of Spain, which also has debt worries, dropped 3.7p to 259.75p.

EU leaders’ attempts to revise the Lisbon Treaty at a summit in Brussels to restore the credibility of the euro were not enough to calm traders’ fears about banks.

Strong economic data from Germany helped buoy the single currency despite the debt concerns, leaving the pound down against the euro at 1.17. The pound was also down against the the dollar at 1.55.

Elsewhere, AstraZeneca slumped to the bottom of the FTSE 100 after US regulators dealt a blow to its hopes of approval for heart drug Brilinta. The stock fell more than 5% or 182p to 2970p as the US Food and Drug Administration said it wanted more information about a key study into the drug.

Other fallers included BP, which dropped 2.8p to 467.15p, as investors spent a second session worrying about the impact US legal action over the Gulf of Mexico disaster will have on the company’s planned resumption of dividend payments.

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