On the day that the top job is advertised at the Bank of England it is figures from fast fashion businesses Boohoo (BOO:AIM) and Primark, and its owner Associated British Foods (ABF) that are likely to grab investor attention.

Primark-owner AB Foods has reported half year revenue of £7.5bn and adjusted operating profit of £639m, largely flat year-on-year but it is the low cost fashion arm Primark that continues to power growth. It saw profits jump 25% thanks to ongoing selling space expansion and improved margins, the latter largely coming from more savvy stock buying that mere currency movements.

Primark’s overall sales increased 4.4% on this time a year ago although like-for-likes declined 1.5%. AB Foods shares feel the drag of the parent business, managing to rise just 15p to £25.21.

Investors are more impressed by online fashion retailer Boohoo’s annual figures that showed revenues up sharply as it continues to prove popular with its core 16 to 30 year olds target market.

Pre-tax profits jumped 38% to £59.9m driven by the rapid growth of brands including PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal.

The company, which has more than £190m of net cash on its books, sees its shares rise 1.3% to 219.7p, valuing the internet business at more than £2.5bn.

UK MARKETS TAKE A BREATHER

Overall UK stock markets ease back from yesterday’s 2019 highs as many investors look to book profits into the recent rally. In early trade on Wednesday the FTSE 100 index has drifted around 30 point lower at 7,494.21, about 0.4% off Tuesday’s 7,523.70 close.

Mining and oil stocks act as the biggest drag, led by today’s more than 2% decline of Anglo American (AAL), closely followed by BP (BP.) and BHP (BHP).

Providing an element of counter-balance is private hospitals operator NMC Health (NMC) and software infrastructure supplier Micro Focus (MCRO), up around 1.8% a piece at £26.70 and £19.67 respectively.

Gold mining FTSE 250 group Centamin (CEY) is also in demand after saying that operating costs are running towards the lower end of expectations thanks to mine improvements.

Shares in the near-£1bn business rally 5.6% in early trade, to 84.32.

MIXED SMALL CAPS

Elsewhere, there is a smattering of smaller company announcements with car safety services supplier AB Dynamics (ABDP:AIM) catching the eye. Shares in the company are up nearly 9% to £20.75 after reporting a near doubling of pre-tax profits to £6.4m for the six months to 28 February.

The dividend also gets a 10% hike.

Going the other way are shares in data replication technology specialist WANdisco (WAND:AIM) after posting declining revenue and rising costs.

Investors are not impressed by headline sales for the year to 31 December 2018 that fall from $19.6m to $17m, especially given the huge jump in operating losses, which spin beyond $22m.

Cash overheads increased to $29.8m depleting its net cash pile from $23.4m to $6.9m.

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Issue Date: 24 Apr 2019