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Why Afren Plc, Stobart Group Ltd And Xcite Energy Limited Should Lag The FTSE 100 Today

After the feared US economic stimulus cutbacks failed to materialise, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) regained 56 points to end yesterday on 6,447. And it’s up a fraction more today, gaining nine points to 6,456 by late morning. But the index of top UK stocks is still 44 points down since last Friday’s close, and unless we see a good bit more optimism surfacing today it looks set to put in its third week of losses in a row.

But there are individual companies doing worse. Here are three that are falling behind today:

Afren

Shares in Afren (LSE: AFR) slipped 6.4p (4.4%) to 139p this morning after the oil explorer reported a 16% fall in first-half pre-tax profits to $260m. Production during the period was up 13% to 47,653 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), but average oil prices dropped 5%. The firm said it is still on target to meet its full-year production guidance of 40-47,000 boepd.

The Afren share price is up a little more than 5% over the past 12 months, though there is a 16% rise in earnings per share (EPS) currently forecast for the full year, putting the shares on a relatively modest P/E of 10.5.

Stobart Group

Stobart Group (LSE: STOB) shareholders have not had a great year, with their shares hitting a slide in 2012. But there has been something of a recovery since late June, and the price is now down only around 10% over the past 12 months. Today’s pre-close update ahead of interim results didn’t cause cheer, mind, with the price dropping 5.7p (4.9%) to 111p in response.

The firm did say it has “made solid progress in the first half-year” despite interruptions caused by the extreme swings of weather, and also told us “We expect […] to remain on track for the full year“. We also heard today of the appointment of a new chairman, Iain Ferguson, the fourth in the past seven months. Figures for the first half are expected on 24 October.

Xcite Energy

Shares in Xcite Energy (LSE: XEL) dropped 2.4p (2.3%) to 102p, despite the announcement of a first-half net profit of £8.3m compared to a loss of £0.3m in the same period a year previously. The profit is, however, something of a one-off, arising from a $15m sale of well data to a third party and the disposal of surplus oilfield equipment.

The company had a cash balance of £24.9m at 30 June, and is currently in discussions with potential farm-out partners and lending banks. The uncertainty hasn’t helped, and the shares have had a very erratic 12 months — they’re currently around 15% up on the year.

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?

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