Wednesday morning's business news

The FTSE fall after last night's rally; the Government is looking at action over a widening pay gap between men and women managers; and consumer confidence fell during August as the impact of the five interest rate rises hit.

London’s benchmark index slipped into the red today as profit-taking after yesterday’s rally hit blue chip stocks.

The FTSE 100 Index fell 17.7 points to 6356.6 in the first hour of trading, with a strong performance from miners and property groups failing to add support.

Mortgage lender Alliance & Leicester was among the worst hit after a downgrade from Lehman Brothers, citing fears that the whole sector will be impacted by soaring wholesale lending costs.

The stock sunk 23p to 1035p despite moves by A&L yesterday to reassure over its exposure to the credit crunch and US sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Fellow mortgage bank Northern Rock - also downgraded by Lehman - saw its shares shed 12p to 720p.

The Government pledged today to press forward with plans to reduce wage inequality between men and women as new figures showed a widening gender pay gap amongst managers.

Minister for Women Harriet Harman said the pay gap between men and women was both unfair in principle and preventing women from fulfilling their opportunities at work.

Her remarks came after the Chartered Management Institute released figures showing the gap between male and female pay amongst managers across Britain has widened for the first time in 11 years.

A survey of more than 42,000 managers in every sector found women averaged £43,571 last year, while the men averaged £49,647.

BSkyB said today its £125m takeover of Sir Alan Sugar’s set-top box business was to go ahead after receiving the thumbs up from Amstrad shareholders.

Sky said the offer had been declared fully unconditional after it received support from investors representing 89.49% of the group’s shares.

The move comes after the Office of Fair Trading cleared the deal at the end of last month after it ruled the takeover would not breach competition guidelines.

Consumer confidence fell during August as people felt the impact of the five interest rate rises seen during the past year, figures showed today.

Nationwide Building Society said all measures of confidence dropped during the month, the first time this has happened since December 2006.

The index which measures how people feel about the current economic and employment situation fell by two points in August, while the expectations index, which looks at the same factors in six months’ time, was four points lower.

Nearly one in three people now think there will be fewer jobs available in six months’ time, while a similar number of people also think the economy will deteriorate going forward.

The FTSE-100 index at 8:45am was down 14.2 at 6362.6.

The pound at 9am was 2.0050 dollars compared to 2.0107 dollars at the previous close.

The euro at 9am was 0.6772 pounds compared to 0.6767 pounds at the previous close.

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