Tuesday 15 January 2019

Christmas cheer for retailers helps FTSE 100 to record high

The FTSE 100 Index closed up 17.49 points to a 7,748.51.

Sainsbury's chalked up its best ever sales over the festive period (PA)
Sainsbury's chalked up its best ever sales over the festive period (PA)

By Ben Woods, Press Association Chief City Correspondent

London’s top-flight index secured a fresh all-time high on Wednesday as investors cheered a sparkling festive performance from a host of retailers.

The FTSE 100 Index closed up 17.49 points to 7,748.51, maintaining its upward march and beating Tuesday’s record of 7731.02.

Retailers proved the driving forced behind the rise, with supermarket giant Sainsbury’s climbing 2% after chalking up its best ever sales over the festive period.

Shares in Britain’s second biggest supermarket were up 5.5p to 253.9p following 1.1% rise in like-for-like sales over the 15 weeks to January 6, with its 25p vegetable lines proving popular.

Sainsbury’s also flagged that sales at its general merchandise arm, which includes Argos, fell 1.4% – adding it is cautious about challenging market conditions and the consumer environment.

Nevertheless, the group said it expects underlying profit to be “moderately ahead” of the £559 million consensus after signalling bigger cost savings from the integration of Argos, which it acquired in 2016.

Fashion chain Ted Baker was also enjoying a strong session after seeing retail sales jump 9% in the eight weeks to January 6 compared to the year before.

Online sales proved a bright spot for the retailer, rising 35% over the period and counting for nearly a third of total sales.

The group was biggest riser on the second tier, closing up 9% or 282p to 3,118p.

Across Europe, Germany’s Dax and the Cac 40 in France took a turn for the worst, dropping 0.8% and 0.4% respectively.

On the currency markets, the pound was down 0.2% versus the US dollar at 1.35 after a disappointing update on Britain’s trade deficit.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the overall trade deficit widen in November to a five-month high of £2.8 billion from £2.3 billion in October.

However, Britain’s factories secured further growth in November as the sector notched up its seventh month of expansion in a row for the first time in 20 years.

Official data showed manufacturing output surged by 3.9% year-on-year over the three months to November, the biggest rise since March 2011, and by 0.4% between October and November.

Sterling was also 0.4% lower versus the euro at 1.129.

In oil, Brent crude was down 0.5% to 68.83 US dollars a barrel after a US Energy Information Administration report showed a drop in stockpiles.

Focusing on UK stocks, Marks & Spencer’s boardroom reshuffle proved popular with investors, causing shares to rise 5.7p to 324p.

The high street bellwether has poached Dixons Carphone executive Humphrey Singer as its new finance boss, following Helen Weir’s decision to step down.

Mr Singer joins as chief finance officer, bringing to a close a four-year tenure as group finance director at the electricals retailer.

On the second tier, fashion chain Superdry was the biggest faller despite notching up strong Christmas sales.

Superdry saw like-for-like retail sales climb 4.7% for the 10 weeks to January 6, with group revenues rising 13% to £215.6 million during the period.

However, the update came as the group unveiled a 28% fall in half year pre-tax profits to £9.1 million, sending shares 9% lower, or 190p to 1850p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Royal Bank of Scotland Group up 12.9p at 293.4p, HSBC Holdings up 29.2p at 795.5p, Prudential up 62.5p at 1,970.5p, and Standard Chartered up 25.9 at 818.7p.

The biggest fallers were Taylor Wimpey down 8.7p to 200.2p, Paddy Power Betfair down 325p to 8,475p, Rolls-Royce Holdings down 27.8p at 839p, and Just Eat down 25.4p at 767.6p.

Press Association

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