Falling 0.3% after the bell, the FTSE dipped away from the post-7300 highs it struck during yesterday’s trading, in part hampered by a the pound’s half a percent rebound against the dollar. A lack of economic data meant that the morning’s main focus was on the cavalcade of trading statements sent out before the market opened.
The big two reports this Thursday came from Tesco and Marks & Spencer. The former saw a 1.5% increase in its third quarter group like-for-like sales, but with a far less impressive 0.3% rise over the Christmas period; that latter figure perhaps explains why Tesco fell by 2.5% at the start of the session, with investors slightly disappointed by its holiday showing. Nevertheless CEO Dave Lewis will be happy with the results, especially since Tesco managed to grow its market share for the first time since 2011.
As for M&S, well, no-one was expecting such a strong set of results. The high street staple managed an astonishing 2.3% rise in clothing and home like-for-likes, smashing analysts’ expectations of a 0.2% increase and marking only the 2nd time in 23 quarters that the figure has been in positive territory. Add onto that a 0.6% jump in the food division’s comparable sales, beating analysts’ forecasts of flatness, and it is understandable why investors sent the stock more than 3% higher after the bell. What makes these figures all the sweeter for M&S is the comparative weakness of Next’s own update last week though, of course, neither of the bricks and mortar mainstays could get anywhere near the growth of online rival ASOS, which posted a 36% sales surge for the 4 months to the end of 2016.
Elsewhere Associated British Foods claimed that Primark had a ‘good’ Christmas, though the lack of firm like-for-like figures helped drag the stock 2% lower; Debenhams climbed 4% after a surprising 5% surge in Xmas comparable sales; and JD Sports stormed ahead by more than 5.5% as it promised a potential 15% beat on its full year pre-tax profits.