UK stocks marched upwards as tensions in the Middle East seemed to have eased overnight. The FTSE 100 index gained 0.5% to 7,615 by midday with most sectors in the black including Energy despite a dip in crude oil prices. Tesco was among the FTSE's biggest gainers, up 2% to 256p as it reported its fifth consecutive Christmas of growth and celebrated the biggest ever day of UK food sales in its history. Sales for the supermarket giant grew strongly across the 19-week period, by 3.8% excluding tobacco (3.4% including tobacco), in spite of a subdued market. Marks & Spencer also reported improved Q3 performance as UK like for like revenue at was slightly up during the third quarter period to 28 December, driven primarily by an outperforming food business. The food business maintained the momentum seen in the first half of the year, with positive like-for-like revenue and further improvement in volumes. However a weaker than expected performance in Clothing & Home, where like-for-like sales were down 1.7% against forecasts of a 0.8% fall, sent the retail giant's share price tumbling 9% to 199p. Elsewhere in the retail sector Card Factory slumped 26% to 103p after warning on profit following a 'softer than expected Christmas period'. The company also warned that declining high street footfall and wage inflation headwinds would continue into next year and said it had launched a strategic review. Shares in homewares retailer Dunelm were slightly weaker, down 0.1% to £11.41 despite delivering a rise in like-for-like sales and margin growth in its fiscal second quarter. Rathbone Brothers slid 2.1% to £20.85 after it saw a 14.3% increase in its funds under management and administration (FUMA) as at December 31. In its latest update, the business said it had £50.4 billion in FUMA at the end of 2019, compared with £44.1 billion at the same time in 2018. The Investment Management business was up 11.7% from £38.5 billion at December, 31 2018, while the Unit Trusts business stands at £7.4 billion, up 32.1% from £5.6 billion at December 31, 2018. Total net inflows across the group in 2019 were £0.6 billion. While Polar Capital reported a 3% increase in its assets under management (AuM) in the nine months to December 31, 2019. During the period assets under management reached £14.2bn, compared to £13.8bn at the end of March 2019. During the period, assets under management increased by £0.4bn which comprised net outflows of £1.1bn offset by an increase of £1.5bn related to market movement and fund performance. CHANGE AT THE TOP British Airways owner International Airlines Group rose 1% to 626p on news that Willie Walsh had decided to retire as chief executive. Walsh would step down on 26 March and retire on 30 June 2020 and be succeeded by Luis Gallego, currently Iberia CEO. Irish-based energy company Providence Resources saw its share price rise 4% to €0.04 on the back of its announcement of its new chief executive officer. Alan Linn has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Company with immediate effect. He also joins the board as an executive director. Alan has over 35 years of international oil and gas industry experience with a successful track record of operating and developing businesses in diverse and often challenging environments.
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