Retailer Marks & Spencer’s shares rose almost 6% today despite its worse sales performance for nearly a decade.
The stock added 13.5p to 252.25p after its Christmas sales declines failed to match the worst fears of the City and it announced major cost-cutting plans.
But falling commodity stocks put the FTSE 100 Index’s new year surge under threat, with blue chips standing 61.5 points lower at 4577.4 by mid-morning after six winning sessions.
M&S reported a 7.1% fall in UK like-for-like sales, and plans to cut costs with the loss of more than 1,200 jobs.
But with sentiment over retailers more positive as the feared sales meltdown failed to emerge, Argos chain Home Retail Group added 4.25p to 234.25p while Debenhams – which updated yesterday – gained a further 6% or 2.25p to 36.5p in the FTSE 250.
Scottish & Southern Energy led the top-flight fallers board after it announced plans for a share placing in order to fund possible acquisitions. Shares were down 97p to 1166p – almost 8% – while rival Centrica was off 9.75p at 267.25p.
Progress was also hindered by a 4% fall for index heavyweight BP, which fell 22p to 532.5p on analyst forecasts of a tough final quarter of 2008. BP denied rumours it was guiding estimates lower.
Elsewhere in the sector rival Royal Dutch Shell fell 18p to 1795p, as crude oil prices eased back after its recent surge on tension in the Middle East as Israel launched attacks on Gaza.
In the second tier, sub-prime lender Cattles slid 3.25p to 26.25p after it said it planned to reduce new business volumes in 2009. The firm is cutting 1,000 jobs.
And Blacks Leisure dived 2.75p to 29.25p after issuing a profits warning because of poor trading at its boardwear division.