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Why ITV plc, Michael Page International plc And Enquest Plc Should Lag The FTSE 100 Today

The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) is looking a little more optimistic today, up 29 points to 6,603 by midday, as recent upbeat UK economic indicators start to have an effect — the trade gap is narrowing, and house price inflation is continuing. Couple that with accelerating factory output and what could go wrong? Ah, well, there is still Europe, so some caution ahead of the next round of eurozone updates is perhaps warranted.

But which shares are having a bad day? Here are three from the various indices that are slipping:

Michael Page International

Shares in Michael Page International Group dipped 19p (4.1%) to 450p after the recruitment company revealed an 11.3% fall in pre-tax profit for the six months to 30 June, to £32m before exceptional items. Diluted earnings per share (EPS), again before exceptionals, fell 10.3% to 7p, and the firm held its dividend steady at 3.25p per share. Chief executive Steve Ingham talked of “challenging market conditions across most of our regions“, but added that “market conditions also showed signs of improvement during the second quarter of 2013, with a 6.6% increase in gross profit compared to the first quarter“.

After today’s dip, Michael Page shares are still up more than 20% over the past 12 months and are ahead of the FTSE. There’s a rise in EPS of around 10% forecast for the full year, with 27% penciled in for 2014 — but the shares are on a lofty forward P/E of over 30 now.

Enquest

North sea oil producer Enquest saw its shares fall 2.5p (1.9%) to 124p this morning, despite first-half results telling us of a 5.9% rise in production for the six months to 30 June to 21,455 boepd. Revenue was up too, by 3.6% to $455.9m. However, lower oil prices contributed to a fall in gross profit of 14.3%, to $175m, and reported basic earnings per share slumped by 24% to 12.2p.

There’s a 40% fall in EPS forecast for the full year, putting Enquest shares on a forward P/E of just under 10, and a 14% rise predicted for 2014 drops that to 8.5. Bargain? That’s up to you.

ITV

A number of high-flying shares are taking a bit of a breather today, and ITV (LSE: ITV) is one of them. Shares in the TV producer and broadcaster had doubled over the past year before they started to slip back a bit, and they’re down 2.3p (1.4%) to 163p approaching midday today. The very strong run since late last year has pushed the firm’s forward P/E multiple up to 16, which is a bit above the FTSE’s 14 average, and the dividend looks like providing a less-than-average 2% yield.

It’s probably just a bit of profit-taking as the valuation settles, and with double-digit rises in EPS forecast for this year and next, ITV shares could still be an attractive proposition for the long term.

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

All you need to do is get a copy of our BRAND-NEW report, “The Motley Fool’s Top Income Share For 2013” — it’s completely free of charge, but it will only be available for a limited period. Click here to get your copy today.

> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article.