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FTSE 100 Index Declines, Led by WPP; Shares of Serco Advance

March 4 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. stocks declined as data in the U.S. signalled growth in wages may fail to keep up with surging energy costs, even as the unemployment rate unexpectedly decreased.

WPP Plc lost 2.6 percent as the world’s biggest advertising agency said that sales will fail to grow faster in 2011. Serco Group Plc rallied 4.6 percent after Bank of America Corp. advised buying the shares of London’s Docklands Light Railway operator. Weir Group Plc advanced 1.1 percent after UBS AG added the shares to its ‘First XI’ stock list.

The benchmark FTSE 100 Index lost 14.70 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,990.39 at the 4:30 p.m. close in London. The gauge has climbed 1.5 percent this year amid better-than-estimated corporate earnings and indications the global economy is gathering strength. The FTSE All-Share Index lost 0.1 percent today and Ireland’s ISEQ Index slid 0.2 percent.

“The market has got a little ahead of itself and was pricing in a much higher payrolls number than we got,” said Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets in London. “There’s a lot of skittishness, especially with what’s happening in the Middle East.”

Average hourly earnings were unchanged in February, Labor Department data showed. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had forecast 0.2 percent growth. The data offset a 192,000 increase in payrolls and an unexpected decline in the unemployment rate to 8.9 percent.

WPP lost 2.6 percent to 814.5 pence as the world’s biggest advertising agency said that sales will fail to grow faster in 2011.

Serco rallied 4.6 percent to 618.5 pence as Bank of America upgraded the shares to “buy” from “neutral.”

Weir gained 1.1 percent to 1,790 pence as the shares replaced HSBC Holdings Plc in the Swiss bank’s ‘First XI list’ of preferred stocks.

Bodycote Plc rallied 5.1 percent to 325 pence, for the second-biggest advance on the FTSE 250 Index. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc upgraded the shares to “buy” from “hold.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Haigh in London at ahaigh1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Rummer at arummer@bloomberg.net

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