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Why AstraZeneca plc, Costain Group PLC And Sirius Minerals PLC Should Lag The FTSE 100 Today

Is the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) going to end the week higher? Well, it was looking good yesterday, but the index of top UK stocks is down 20 points to 6,614 by late afternoon today, so things are not certain yet. Weak reports from some US companies, coupled with this morning’s news from Vodafone that things are still tough in Europe, have not raised optimism.

A number of individual shares are falling, too. Here are three from the various London indices that are on a bit of a slide today:

AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) (NYSE: AZN.US) shares dipped 44p (1.4%) to 3,261p this morning after the company announced the completion of its acquisition of Omthera Pharmaceuticals, the developer of therapies for treating abnormal blood lipid levels. Today’s announcement told us that “the acquisition strengthens AstraZeneca’s late-stage cardiovascular disease pipeline” with Epanova, a fatty acid composition.

AstraZeneca paid $12.70 per share for a total cash cost of $323m, with Omthera shareholders also getting Contingent Value Rights up to the value of $120m dependent on specific targets for Epanova.

Costain

Infrastructure consultant and developer Costain Group (LSE: COST) saw its shares fall 7.6p (2.7%) to 279p, despite announcing a new £34m contract. The firm has been awarded an Early Contractor Involvement contract for a traffic improvement scheme in north Lincolnshire.

Costain shares are up 40% over the past 12 months, though there is fall in earnings per share forecast for the year to December 2013. But even with that, the shares are on a forward P/E of only around 11, with a 4% dividend yield expected.

Sirius Minerals

Things are getting gloomier by the day for Sirius Minerals (LSE: SXX) as details emerge concerning the deferral of the approval decision for the firm’s York Potash project. The big hurdle now appears to be a report prepared for the North York Moors National Park Authority, which questions the demand for polyhalite and the economic benefits claimed for the project.

For its part, Sirius believes that the report ignores some key economic issues and says that it has a number of healthy agreements for the sale of potash around the world. The Sirius share price responded with a 3.5p (16%) fall to 19p today, taking it down 31% since the start of the week.

Finally, reliable dividends can more than compensate for the day-to-day ups and downs of share prices. So how about a company that’s offering a 5% yield and which could be set for some nice share price appreciation too?

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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Vodafone.