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Why Tesco PLC, Wm. Morrison Supermarkets plc and RSA Insurance Group plc Should Lag The FTSE 100 Today

The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) is still not doing much, despite some relatively big movements from a few of its constituents today, and by mid-morning it is standing 21 points up at 6,724. Volumes are still low, and sentiment is generally muted after the US Federal Reserve gave us a mixed message — the time is right for stimulus tapering, but there is still need for caution.

But which of our FTSE 100 companies are in the news today? Here are three, but for the wrong reasons:

Tesco

The much-awaited Christmas trading updates from our top supermarkets have started to come through, and Tesco‘s (LSE: TSCO) (NASDAQOTH: TSCDY.US) has been something of a disappointment.

Despite the firm’s emphasis on takings of over £1bn in the five days leading up to Christmas, declining grocery sales still led to a like-for-like drop. In the UK, total sales fell by 1.5% (0.6% excluding petrol), with like-for-like sales down 2.4%. Tesco did tell us that online sales are rising and that recently refreshed large stores are outperforming, so there are good signs, too.

An unimpressed market sent the shares down 8.2p (2.5%) to 320p in early trading.

Wm. Morrison Supermarkets

Things were gloomier at rival Wm. Morrison Supermarkets (LSE: MRW), which saw a 5.6% fall in like-for-like sales, made worse by the company’s lack of online shopping facilities — although through its partnership with Ocado, that omission is set to be rectified later this month.

Citing economizing by “hard-pressed consumers“, Morrison told us that total sales for the six weeks to 5 January were down 3.3% (1.9% excluding fuel), with chief executive Dalton Philips saying “In a very tough market our sales performance over Christmas was disappointing“.

The share price? Down 14p (5.6%) to 240p.

RSA Insurance Group

RSA Insurance Group (LSE: RSA) shares fell, too, losing 3p (3%) to 98p, on the day the firm published the findings from a probe into its Irish accounting irregularities, though the report didn’t really reveal any further damage.

RSA confirmed the impact of the accounting issue at £72m, also reiterating the required degree of additional reserves as £128m. It told us that the review by PwC concluded that there had been “inappropriate collaboration involving a small number of senior executives in Ireland“, and that “certain individuals acted in such a way as to intentionally circumvent parts of the existing Control Framework“. But it does appear that the issue was a one-off and restricted to Ireland.

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