UK stocks advanced on Thursday, in spite of gloomy news from a swathe of retailers, although weakness crept in towards the close trimming the day's gains. The FTSE 100 index closed up 0.2% at 7,593 compared with a gain of more than 0.5% at midday. Most sectors were in the black although Energy stocks weakened late in the session as Brent crude prices dipped. RETAILERS IN THE DUMPS Shares in Marks & Spencer slumped 11% to 194p despite an improved Q3 performance. UK like-for-like revenues were up 0.2% during the quarter to 28 December, the first positive figure in three years, driven primarily by outperformance at the food business. 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, and a number of 'disappointing one-off issues' to quote chief executive Steve Rowe were enough to send investors fleeing. Card Factory shares slumped 29% to 99p, the same price as one of the firm's greetings cards, after it guided down profit expectations due to 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. Rounding out the negative newsflow, chain store John Lewis warned that it faced one of the 'most severe' markets in a generation TESCO BUCKS THE TREND Swimming against the tide was supermarket giant Tesco, which gained 2.2% 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. 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 will step down on 26 March and retire on 30 June 2020 and be succeeded by Luis Gallego, currently Iberia chief executive. 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. Linn brings 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. FINANCIAL UPDATES Rathbone Brothers has seen 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 stood at £7.4 billion, up 32.1% from £5.6 billion at December 31, 2018. Meanwhile Polar Capital Holdings reported a 3% increase in assets under management (AuM) in the nine months to 31 December. Assets reached £14.2bn compared to £13.8bn at the end of March 2019, with £1.1bn of net outflows offset by £1.5bn of positive performance and market movements.
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