Three of Britain's biggest companies -easyJet, Kingfisher and Unilever - were punished by investors yesterday after publishing disappointing trading updates that were affected by geopolitical turmoil, a slump in European sales and a downturn in emerging markets respectively.
Kingfisher boss Sir Ian Cheshire admitted he was at a loss to explain why there had been such a marked turndown in activity at the Polish and French operations of the home improvements firm, which also owns B&Q and Screwfix in the UK.
Shares in Kingfisher were the biggest fallers in the FTSE 100, closing 8% lower at 308p, after Cheshire said that, in recent months,trade had been slower than anticipated, particularly in June and particularly in France and Poland.
"It is unclear whether this . . . is short term, we will know more by September," Cheshire said.
Kingfisher revealed like-for-like sales down 1.8% in the 10 weeks to 12 July, including a 2.2% fall in France and a 1.3% decline in the UK and Ireland.
There were suggestions that B&Q had been affected by England's exit from the football World Cup which had left it with unsold themed merchandise. Analysts at Jefferies said it was "virtually impossible" to say whether the performance was a blip or the start of a new downturn.
Airline easyJet was just behind Kingfisher as the second largest faller in the index of blue-chip shares, falling 5% to pounds 13.33 after political unrest around the globe led to a scaling-back of expectations for the business.
While easyJet's chief executive, Carolyn McCall, said the airline expected pre-tax profits for the year to the end of September to be up at least a 14% on a year ago at pounds 545m-pounds 570m, the City had been expecting pounds 572m.
She added that the expected range assumes "no further significant disruption" and "includes the impact from the situations in Israel, Egypt and Moscow".
Unilever, the owner of household names such as Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Dove soap and Lipton tea, also disappointed investors after reporting lower-than-expected sales.
Underlying sales - which exclude the impact of foreign exchange, acquisitions and disposals - rose 3.8% but fell short of analysts' expectations of 4.3%.
"Overall there's a slowdown in Asia," chief financial officer Jean-Marc Huet told Reuters, citing China and Vietnam in particular. "Russia has been difficult: you can imagine why."
Huet said the global markets in which Unilever operates were slowing.
Paul Polman, Unilever's chief executive, said: "Our markets have been challenging and we have experienced a further slowdown in the emerging countries while developed markets are not yet picking up".
He has been rejigging Unilever's food business - selling off the Ragu and Bertolli pasta sauce brands in the US as well as the SlimFast diet product.
Kingfisher shares were the biggest fallers in the FTSE 100. The firm's boss, Sir Ian Cheshire, said trade had been slower than anticipated especially at the Polish and French operations
EasyJet was the second largest faller in the index of blue-chip shares. The airline said the lower-than-expected pre-tax profits were due to political unrest around the globe
Unilever also disappointed investors after reporting lower-than-expected sales. The owner of Ben & Jerry's ice cream said this was due to 'challenging' and slowing global markets
Budget airline EasyJet, Cornetto maker Unilever and B&Q owner Kingfisher all published disappointing trading figures yesterday Photographs: Alamy, Jim Wileman