Next bucks negative FTSE trend

Retailer Next managed to buck the negative trend in London today as stronger-than-expected results pleased investors.

Retailer Next managed to buck the negative trend in London today as stronger-than-expected results pleased investors.

Despite the FTSE 100 Index closing 12.9 points lower at 4545.6, Next saw its stock climb to the top of the risers board with a surge of nearly 3%.

The group’s 30% leap in profits helped lift the stock 41p higher to 1558p.

Trading in New York did little to inspire the Footsie, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average slightly below its opening mark by closing time in London. Retail sales figures in the US were worse than expected.

Analysts said investors in London would now be looking towards tomorrow’s unemployment figures to give some direction.

Back in the Footsie, other blue chip retailers in upbeat form included Boots, which lifted 2p to 686.5p.

The rise came after Boots announced plans to ditch a range of health services, including laser eye correction and dentistry. While the move will cost it £55m (€80.8m), the company said it would improve trading profits. Dixons was also ahead, cheering 1.25p to 164p.

Elsewhere in London, mobile phone group Vodafone provided a drag on the market after broker Smith Barney downgraded the stock.

Vodafone fell 3% or 4p to 129.25p, although rival mm02 shrugged aside earlier losses to close unchanged at 94.5p.

In the second-tier, French Connection moved in the opposite direction to Next after reminding investors about just how tough retail conditions are.

With half-year like-for-like sales in the UK sharply lower and little sign of an upturn in August, French Connection shares fell nearly 12%, or 43.25p to 329.25p.

There was also further woe for investors in Regent Inns after the owner of the Walkabout chain failed to post results because of accounting problems. Shares, which tumbled last week on the resignation of the company’s chief executive and finance director, were off another 15% or 5.5p to 31.5p.

Housebuilder Redrow was another faller, down 11.75p to 366p, despite a healthy set of full-year results and a strong forecast for the year ahead.

Retailer MFI saw its stock fall 3.25p to 104.75p after two directors left following supply chain problems that left the group struggling to deliver orders.

And aerospace and defence group Cobham was also in the red, off 74p to 1378p, despite saying the civil aviation market was picking up and posting a 7.8% rise in first half pre-tax profits to £51.8m (€76.1m).

In contrast, advertising agency M&C Saatchi saw its stock climb 2.5p to 134p as half-year profits lifted almost 9% after it secured new contracts with London’s Olympic bid team and Thames Water.

Chez Gerard owner Paramount advanced 1.5p to 33p after unveiling a sharp improvement in annual figures.

The biggest risers in the Footsie today were Next up 41p to 1558p, WPP rising 12p to 520p, Schroders NV up 13p to 599.5p and Exel rising 13p to 708p.

The heaviest fallers were Vodafone down 4p to 129.25p, Reuters off 9.5p to 339p, British Airways down 5.5p to 221.25p and Compass off 5.75p to 233p.

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