FTSE up at market close

There were more woes for retail stocks today after Carpetright and Comet owner Kesa Electricals became the latest to offer gloomy news.

There were more woes for retail stocks today after Carpetright and Comet owner Kesa Electricals became the latest to offer gloomy news.

The FTSE 250 firms suffered double digit declines, sparking wider losses in the sector as they confirmed the tough trading climate.

But the FTSE 100 Index closed ahead by 31.5 points to 4309.1, thanks to support from heavyweights such as Vodafone, up 1.3p at 129.8p.

Investors were also digesting news of the latest UK inflation figures today, which showed a less-than-expected decline, to 4.1% last month.

Early gains on the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wall Street meanwhile leant support, with the US index rising more than 1.5% higher on expectations of another hefty cut in American interest rates.

Economists are anticipating a cut of at least a half point to 0.5%, with some pencilling in a cut to 0.25% – an all-time low.

In the UK, the trading difficulties of Carpetright and Kesa in the second tier were in sharp focus.

Carpets and floor coverings firm Carpetright dived 13% – or 52p to 342p – after slashing its half-year dividend and warning of profits “significantly below” hopes this year.

It was followed by Comet owner Kesa Electricals, which reported an £8.1 million loss and double-digit sales falls at the UK electricals chain, sending shares 13.75p lower to 88.25p – a fall of 13%.

Elsewhere in the FTSE 250, music retailer HMV shed 10.25p to 98.75p, but Kesa’s rival and Currys owner DSG International recovered from a weak start to stand quarter of a penny higher at 15p. In the top-flight B&Q owner Kingfisher lost 3.2p to 134.7p, or 2%.

The wider Footsie saw miners ease on reports that struggling steelmakers were set to demand lower iron ore prices. Rio Tinto was the leading casualty in the sector, down 40p to 1501p or 3%.

Many oil stocks eased as crude prices steadied at around 44 dollars a barrel. Prospector Tullow Oil was the exception – shooting 48.5p to 620p and the top of the Footsie risers board after a fresh find in Uganda.

Private equity firm 3i Group was a leading casualty in the top flight as shares dropped 13% – or 35.5p to 243p – on general fears over the performance of its portfolio in the current climate.

Dairy Milk firm Cadbury was also on the fallers board despite telling investors that it continued to perform in line with expectations, including in its UK division. The City was more concerned about a softening American market, causing shares to fall 8.5p to 548.5p.

Transport shares were on the front foot after a trading update from Go-Ahead helped settle nerves in the sector, pushing FTSE 250 stock Go-Ahead up 40p to 1050p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Tullow Oil, ahead 48.5p at 620p, Aviva up 22p at 388.75p, FirstGroup up 18.25p at 392p and Drax Group up 23.5p at 539.5p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were 3i Group down 35.5p at 243p, Admiral Group off 117p at 883p, Man Group down 13.75p at 240p and the London Stock Exchange down 26p at 572.5p.

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