FTSE up for fifth day in a row

The FTSE 100 Index notched up its fifth straight day of gains today, despite lacklustre trading on the London market.

The FTSE 100 Index notched up its fifth straight day of gains today, despite lacklustre trading on the London market.

The index climbed 17.9 points higher to 4579.6, although the rally that started at the beginning of last week eased as traders returned to their desks and the prospect of a UK recession.

Construction activity data showed the UK sector to have hit a new record low, adding to the mounting gloom for the economic outlook.

Two more administrations – china and crystal group Waterford Wedgwood and retail chain Passion for Perfume – also suggested UK corporates are already starting 2009 on the back foot.

But a lower-than-expected fall in US construction spend provided some cheer for the London market.

While it helped stocks on these shores, the Dow Jones Industrial Average failed to maintain last Friday’s rally that saw it achieve its highest close in two months, slipping into the red today.

In London, retailers were in the spotlight as investors prepare for two weeks of updates from the high street’s biggest names.

Marks & Spencer added 9p to 230p despite fears over a possible worst-ever Christmas for the leading high street chain.

M&S and a number of other retail stocks were on the front foot after City brokers including Panmure Gordon suggested that the fall-out from depressed Christmas trading conditions was now factored into share prices.

Department store business John Lewis also said it was “encouraged” by trading despite flat like-for-like sales in the five weeks to January 3, while figures from Experian showed the number of people out looking for bargains on Friday, Saturday and Sunday was up 2.7% on the same period in 2008.

Argos owner Home Retail Group cheered 3p to 213.5p, but Next – giving a trading update tomorrow – lost an initial gain to stand 18p lower at 1091p.

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