UK online fashion retailer ASOS (ASC:AIM) on Thursday beat forecasts for sales growth in the key Christmas period, putting it firmly in the sector’s winners’ camp for festive trading.

The internet clothing and accessories business is among the main reasons why some many traditional high street chains have struggled for sales over Christmas, including Debenhams (DEB) (read here) and Marks & Spencer (MKS).

But investors had largely priced-in positive news, as evienced by the stock’s 13%-plus rally since early December. Modest profit taking today seems reasonable, the share price falling a little more than 3% to £66.60. The shares were changing hands for £51.78 a year ago today.

NEW SKY SUBSCRIBERS

Satellite TV broadcaster Sky (SKY) posts a 5% rise in first half revenue to £6.7bn on Thursday and talks up new subscriber numbers, where it attracted 365,000 new customers.

That takes its overall viewer base to 22.9m. Shares in the company nudge 6p higher to £10.295.

The news will come as a relief to investors with concerns over soaring costs to continue its dominant position in live Premier League football broadcasting. The rights auction for the next contract is taking place currently and could see new entrants like Amazon potentially raise the bidding bar.

Sky’s takeover by the Murdoch family was recently called into question by competition authorities.

The FTSE 100 index is largely flat given the lack of corporate news, trading at 7,642.75 in early deals on Thursday.

TOUGH LONDON HOUSING MARKET

With limited house price growth expected this year it comes as little surprise that estate agents are feeling the pinch. London-focused Foxtons (FOXT) spooks investors with a warning that profits are set to decline in 2018 as trading conditions remain ‘challenging’.

This news comes after the homes seller reported a fall in core earnings and revenue in the 2017 full year. That was largely anticipated by investors, who seem fairly sanguine on the downbeat tone of 2018 talk, the shares staying flat at 73.9p in early trade on Thursday.

But today’s performance should be drawn against steep declines since last summer, when the stock traded at 112p levels.

RECORD CHRISTMAS DAY BOOZE-UP

British pub operator Greene King (GNK) had a record breaking Christmas Day but sales either side of the two  Christmas weeks saw slower sales.

The group says this reflects a tough underlying trading environment and the impact of snow. Pub company sales for the 37 weeks to 14 January fell 1.4%.

Spreadbetting firm CMC Markets (CMC) reports a surge in revenue per client of 33% in the third quarter to 31 December 2017. This comes as the company concentrates on high value clients, helping offset challenges from a sector-wide regulatory clamp-down and lower levels of volatility. The shares remain largely flat on Thursday at 157.8p.

Property group Great Portland Estates (GPOR) plans to return £306m to shareholders following profitable property sales. That news sparks a 3% rally in the share price to 667.5p. Trading also appears solid.

DECHRA EXPANDS

Veterinary firm Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) plans to buy the Netherlands-based AST Farma and Europe-focused Le Vet in a €340m cash and shares deal. Investors like the terms, bidding shares in the UK business 3% higher at £21.24.

Diageo (DGE), the world’s largest spirits company, reports a 1.7% increase in half year sales as growth was curbed by foreign exchange rates and other issues. That includes a later Chinese New Year and a ban on selling alcohol near Indian highways. The shares nudge 1% higher to £25.705.

More global oil and gas firms expect to increase capital spending this year as confidence picks up after crude prices climbed above $70 a barrel in January for the first time in the three years. That’s according to survey by DNV, an industry technical advisory firm.

That plays nicely into today’s Shares feature, ‘The Big Oil Comeback’, which looks at the oil price hike and what it means for investors.

Find out how to deal online from £1.50 in a SIPP, ISA or Dealing account.

Issue Date: 25 Jan 2018