Retail stocks push Footsie higher

Retail stocks drove the FTSE 100 Index through the 5100 mark today as the chance of lower interest rates appeared to increase.

Retail stocks drove the FTSE 100 Index through the 5100 mark today as the chance of lower interest rates appeared to increase.

High street names dominated the top flight risers board after it emerged two Bank of England members voted to reduce rates this month.

Dixons, Next, Kingfisher and Boots all surged more than 2% after the news, which suggested there could be some end in sight to the recent downturn in consumer spending.

This helped push the Footsie 24.6 points higher to 5106.2 by mid-morning. The index last closed at this level in May 2002.

Dixons was the highest climber, rising 3% or 5p to 160p as it shook off an initially lacklustre response to its annual results. The retailer announced a major cost reduction exercise at its UK business and said underlying profits rose 4% to £343.1 million last year.

It was followed by B&Q owner Kingfisher, rising 7.25p to 252p and clothing group Next, adding 42p to 1505p. Boots was the fifth highest riser up 13p to 610.5p while Marks & Spencer also put on nearly 2% or 6.5p to 356p.

Elsewhere, transport group Stagecoach gained more than 3% – up 4p at 118.5p - after it said an excellent performance from its rail arm had helped it notch up a 13% rise in profits.

Oil groups BP and Shell dropped despite the price of oil remaining close to 59 US dollars a barrel, with BP losing 1.5p to 585p and Shell off 2.75p to 518.25p.

Shipping group P&O fell nearly 2% or 5.5p to 323.25p after it said it had lowered its annual organic growth forecast for its key ports business to about 8%-9% from 10%.

And logistics group Brambles Industries was in the red despite saying it was expecting good progress in annual profits after solid across-the-board trading by its pallets business. Shares fell 10p to 308.25p.

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