M&S bolsters FTSE

Marks & Spencer dominated trading in London today after posting a surprise pick-up in sales and announcing the departure of the creator of its Per Una range.

Marks & Spencer dominated trading in London today after posting a surprise pick-up in sales and announcing the departure of the creator of its Per Una range.

Its shares passed the key 400p barrier after M&S said like-for-like sales rose 1.3% in the second quarter, before slipping back on news of the resignation of fashion guru George Davies.

M&S closed 12.25p to the good at 397.25p on a positive day for the FTSE 100 Index, which lifted 6.2 points to 5380.7.

Sentiment was also underpinned by a survey from the British Retail Consortium which suggested that high street conditions had stabilised after a difficult summer.

A value of 400p for M&S shares was important as that was the sum that Bhs and Arcadia boss Philip Green was willing to pay last year before aborting his £9.1 billion takeover campaign.

Other retailers to respond to the feelgood factor in the sector included Kingfisher, which rose 3.25p at 215.75p, and Dixons owner DSG International – up a penny at 145p.

But clothing chain Next lost hold of its gains of the morning to finish the day 8p lower at 1353p.

Elsewhere in the top flight, poker giant PartyGaming gained 0.5p to 71.5p after yesterday’s fall of 11%, while miners were showing positive signs after a volatile few sessions for the sector.

Antofagasta led the mining pack with an improvement of 37p to 1542p and Anglo American added 38p to 1663p.

Also in the top flight, Cable & Wireless lost a further 2.75p at 116.25p following its profits warning last week.

Compass shares were under pressure – down 4.5p at 192p – after the catering giant confirmed that one of its subsidiaries featured in an investigation into the contracting practices of the United Nations.

Elsewhere, home shopping group N Brown advanced 11% or 15p to 148p after reporting half-year profits of £23.5 million and strong sales growth of 6.6% since the start of October.

The positive mood in the retail sector even buoyed WH Smith as the high street chain prepared to announce its annual results later this week.

The second-tier stock stood 14.5p higher at 348.5p, with food chain Greggs not far behind following a rise of 100p to 4950p.

Investors in Somerfield were reassured that a £1 billion bid could materialise the last remaining suitor said it was continuing “to work towards an offer”. Shares in the supermarket chain lifted 1.5p to 185p.

But printing firm St Ives lost 5% or 17.25p at 345p after flagging short-term concerns over consumer confidence and posting flat profits compared with the previous year.

The highest Footsie risers today were Tate & Lyle up 16p to 475.75p, Marks & Spencer adding 13.25p to 397.25p, Scottish & Newcastle up 13.75p to 469p and O2 lifting 4.5p to 164.25p.

The heaviest fallers were Man Group down 48p to 1549p, Cable & Wireless off 2.75p to 116.25p, Compass Group down 4.5p to 192p and Standard Chartered off 25p to 1204p.

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