FTSE edges forward

A clearer picture of the winners and losers on the high street emerged today after a busy session for corporate news.

A clearer picture of the winners and losers on the high street emerged today after a busy session for corporate news.

Investors welcomed news from GUS that Argos and Homebase had outperformed their respective markets although other stores such as HMV and Clinton Cards painted a far bleaker picture.

But with gains on Wall Street overnight and momentum from mining and oil stocks, the FTSE 100 Index edged forward 5.9 points to 5737.4 by mid-morning.

Boots and Argos owner GUS were the best performing retail stocks, even though both companies had to fight hard just to stand still over the festive period.

Shares in Boots lifted 9p to 646p after it beat expectations with a 0.3% rise in underlying sales for the final three months of the year.

GUS was also in positive territory following its comments that Argos and Homebase had outperformed their respective markets, despite failing to grow sales during the festive period. Shares were up 4p to 1008.5p.

Sainsbury's produced one of the strongest of the trading statements, with sales up more than 5% and little sign its recovery was running out of steam.

But shares retreated 2% or 8.25p to 316p as investors took heed of a warning from chief executive Justin King that costs had been higher than expected.

Carphone Warehouse and House of Fraser enjoyed strong festive performances, with shares lifting 1.75p to 270p and 1.75p to 112p respectively.

Elsewhere, HMV shares fell 11% or 22.25p to 174.75p after its chief executive announced his decision to retire amid falling sales.

And HMV bid target Ottakar's was also down 13p to 328p as it struggled to compete with major discounting at rivals such as Amazon.com and Waterstone's, which is owned by HMV.

The disappointment from HMV affected shares of rival companies still to report festive figures. They included WH Smith, which dipped 14.25p to 393p, and Woolworths off 1.25p to 37.75p.

It was also a far from merry Christmas for Clinton Cards as a profits warning sent shares in the struggling firm down 11% or 8.25p to 66.75p.

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