The FTSE 100 Index bounced back past the 6000 mark today, but Marks & Spencer shares slumped into the red despite news of a Christmas sales hike.
Strong gains for banking stocks after some upbeat broker comment helped the Footsie rise 1%, closing 57.7 points higher at 6014.
Concerns over the financial sector’s exposure to sovereign debt were also soothed by a pledge from Japan to support Europe’s bailout efforts, while Portugal’s finance minister said he does not expect his country will need emergency support.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was cheered by earnings reports after Monday’s close from aluminium giant Alcoa, which posted strong fourth quarter profits due to stronger demand and prices, and increased guidance from two major US retailers.
The ongoing eurozone debt issues helped the pound gain strength – rising to near its highest level in almost four months against the euro, at just over €1.20.
Elsewhere, better-than-expected trading results from high street giant Marks & Spencer failed to lift its shares as a cautious outlook spooked investors and prompted shares to fall 10.8p to 373.2p.
The drop of 3% came despite UK like-for-like sales growth in the 13 weeks to January 1 of 2.8%.
In the banking sector the mood was lifted by a note from Citigroup upgrading HSBC and the view of Societe Generale that profitability should be significantly more sustainable than the market currently expects.
Barclays saw shares advance 15.3p to 292p, while HSBC added more than 2% or 16.3p to 688.7p.
Flavour-of-the-month Arm Holdings continued to enjoy a strong run as the computer chip designer surged towards the top of the risers board, up 7% or 32.5p at 497.5p. The Cambridge-based firm is still benefiting from last week’s announcement from computing giant Microsoft, which intends to develop Windows-based platforms running on ARM-designed chips.
Wolseley jumped 6% after the building supplies firm got a boost from Citigroup and Deutsche Bank as they upgraded their target prices for the blue-chip stock. Shares responded with a rise of 122p to 2179p.
Capital Shopping Centres was near the bottom of the top tier, down 10.8p to 381.7p, after America’s Simon Property Group dropped its £3 billion takeover pursuit of the shopping mall owner.
Simon said it was left with no alternative but to walk away because Capital refused to share due diligence information. Attention will now turn to a meeting of Capital shareholders on January 26 when investors will be asked to approve the company’s proposed acquisition of Manchester’s Trafford Centre.
Smith & Nephew shed 6%, down 42p to 670p, as the company’s continued silence over a reported bid from Johnson & Johnson cooled some of the recent share price froth surrounding the UK-based medical devices maker.
The biggest Footsie risers were Arm Holdings up 57.7p to 6014p, Wolseley ahead 122p to 2179p, Cairn Energy up 23.9p to 455.3p and Barclays up 15.3p to 292p.
The biggest Footsie fallers were Smith & Nephew down 42p to 670p, Marks & Spencer off 10.8p to 373.2p, Capital Shopping Centres down 10.8p to 381.7p and National Grid down 13.5p to 551.5p.