FTSE up more than 50 points

Traders shrugged off sovereign debt woes and sustained violence in Libya as reassuring results from Next and B&Q owner Kingfisher boosted the retail sector.

FTSE up more than 50 points

Traders shrugged off sovereign debt woes and sustained violence in Libya as reassuring results from Next and B&Q owner Kingfisher boosted the retail sector.

The wider FTSE 100 Index was up 52 points at 5848.7, as Kingfisher and Next shot to the top of the risers' board, moving up 9% and 6% respectively.

Next, which added 116p to 2081p, posted a 9% increase in pre-tax profits to £551m (€630.8m), while Kingfisher, up 20.3p at 264.1p, saw profits grow 23% to £670m (€767.04m) and hiked its full-year dividend to shareholders by 28% to 7.07p.

Both groups were subject to profit upgrades from analysts.

Traders shrugged off the cautious outlook from both companies, as well as official figures which revealed a 0.8% decline in retail sales, and moved to other retailers.

Marks & Spencer was up 10.9p at 356.4p and Primark owner Associated British Foods was ahead 25.5p at 1003p.

Investors seemed unperturbed by the escalating debt crisis in Portugal, which is looking increasingly likely to take an EU bailout after its government failed to secure backing for its austerity package.

Mining stocks offered support as metal prices, including aluminium and copper, were at three-week highs.

Anglo American was up 69p at 3186p, silver miner Fresnillo was ahead 29p at 1521p and platinum firm Lonmin added 30p at 1669p.

Oil prices continued to rise as air strikes in Libya continued to intensify and reports that Middle Eastern pipelines had been shut down emerged, with crude for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 0.7% at $106.48 a barrel and Brent crude in London up at $115.

Elsewhere, Resolution, the owner of life and pensions firm Friends Provident, advanced more than 2% after reporting record sales at its Lombard wealth management business.

Resolution said the strong performance at Lombard, and its international arm, helped offset a weaker show at Friends Provident. Shares were up 7.8p at 292p.

BT Group featured on a shortened fallers board after sentiment towards the telecoms sector was hit by a note from Deutsche Bank, reducing its target price for Cable & Wireless Worldwide.

BT shares were 0.8p lower at 179.6p, while Cable & Wireless dropped 0.4p to 48.8p on the FTSE 250 Index.

Imperial Tobacco was also in the red, down 43p to 1879p, after it said first-half cigarette volumes were expected to fall by around 1%.

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