Steling slide fails to derail FTSE

The fastest slide in UK economic output since 1979 put sterling under pressure today but failed to derail London shares in a strong end to the week.

A surge in mining stocks after a sector upgrade from broker Cazenove meant the FTSE 100 Index stood 44.7 points higher at 4062.9 by mid-morning.

The pound was down by more than 1% against the euro and also lower against the dollar after worse-than-expected figures showing a 1.9% drop in GDP.

The biggest gain on the London market came from Xstrata, which added 6% or 31p to 556p after Cazenove said the robust Chinese economy should prop up commodity prices. Vedanta Resources followed with a gain of 47.5p to 982.5p, while Eurasian Natural Resources added 25.5p to 576p.

The retail sector had a mixed session after strong gains on Thursday following strong half-year results from Debenhams and WH Smith.

Marks & Spencer slipped 4p to 336p and Tesco dropped 5.2p to 351.8p, but in the second tier WH Smith and Debenhams rose 18p to 433p and 3.75p to 81p respectively as more analysts upped their forecasts in the wake of the interims yesterday.

Halfords also cheered 14p to 337.5p, but Sports Direct International shed 2.75p to 67.25p and home furnishings firm Dunelm eased 5p to 250p.

Elsewhere, Alexon shares were up 62% after the company removed uncertainty by placing its Bay Trading business in the hands of administrators. With the company now better placed to focus on the revival of its core brands, shares jumped 20p to 52.5p.

Regent Inns, which operates the Walkabout and Jongleurs comedy club chains, fell 16% after it said it was mulling plans to delist from the main market of the London Stock Exchange. Shares were off 0.38p at 1.95p.

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