London’s FTSE firmed 59.1 points to 7,197 as the week drew to a close, with consumer-facing stocks back in fashion. JD Sports Fashion (JD.), Whitbread (WTB), Kingfisher (KGF) and Next (NXT) all featured in the blue chip index’s top 10 risers.

Despite ongoing political uncertainty, early indications suggest that Black Friday was good for retailers, implying that consumers might have become more willing to start spending money.

Unloved retailer Marks & Spencer (MKS) was marked up 3.2% to 199.4p on an upgrade from JP Morgan. Also providing support was news its Simply Food brand was voted the UK’s favourite retailer, retaining the crown it last wore in 2017, thanks to positive trading momentum under the leadership of Stuart Machin.

Foods-to-fashion conglomerate Associated British Foods (ABF) edged 1.1% higher to £25.25 as the Primark owner reiterated previous full year guidance, reaffirming that discount fashion chain Primark will continue to expand its selling space and AB Sugar will materially benefit from an increase in EU sugar prices and ongoing cost reduction.

A small year-on-year decline in Primark margin is expected, yet with another year of strong profit growth likely in groceries, Associated British Foods still expects earnings per share progress through the year.

Berkeley (BKG) improved 20p to £45.69 5p as first half results met expectations, albeit with pre-tax profit down 30% to £276.7m. Reassuringly, the Tony Pidgley chaired housebuilder also left near and longer term guidance unchanged, insisting it is on target to deliver £3.3bn of pre-tax profit in the six years to 30 April 2025, with the profit in any one year ranging between £500m and £700m.

WPP (WPP) put on 1.5% to trade at 964.4p following news of the early completion of the sale of 60% of its Kantar data and research business to Bain Capital, a move that will help the advertising giant reduce debt and return capital to shareholders through buybacks.

Another gainer was Phoenix Group (PHNX), which rose 13.4p to 752.4p on the acquisition of ReAssure, a £3.2bn deal which ‘confirms Phoenix as Europe’s largest life and pensions consolidator’.

Haynes Publishing (HYNS) clipped ahead 6.4% to 452p after guiding towards 37% year-on-year growth in first half pre-tax profit, with chief executive Eddie Bell lauding ‘another strong period of trading for Haynes, driven entirely by organic growth’.

Cell-based therapeutics developer ReNeuron (RENE:AIM) sparked up 6.25% to 136p as the half to September saw reduced losses and significant progress across its clinical and research programmes. Working with Fosun Pharma as its partner for China, ReNeuron also hopes to announce ‘further deals with commercial third parties’ in the months ahead.

Casting and engineering group Chamberlin (CMH:AIM) surged 42% higher to 30.5p after securing contracts wins for its Walsall and Scunthorpe factories.

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Issue Date: 06 Dec 2019