London stocks are on the front foot in early trade on Tuesday, driven by a swathe of food and fashion updates, including better-than-expected trading from supermarket Wm Morrison Supermarkets (MRW) and department stores chain Debenhams (DEB). The FTSE 100 index pushes around 26 points, or 0.45%, higher to 5,898, with midcaps and smaller companies also in positive territory.
Major European indices are up, taking a lead from marginally posiitve trading on Wall Street overnight.
On the company news front, Yorkhire-based grocer Morrisons is marked up 11.6% to 169.9p on a surprisingly strong Christmas trading statement. Like-for-like sales (ex fuel) rose 0.2% in the nine weeks to 3 January, the retailer's first positive same-store performance since Q4 2012 as investment in price-cutting helped lure back shoppers. CEO David Potts also announces the closure of a further seven supermarkets and lowers year-end net debt guidance to £1.65 billion-to-£1.8 billion.
Morrisons' merry Christmas provides a morale boost for sector sentiment, with market leader Tesco (TSCO), set to report on festive trading on Thursday, ticking 5.5% higher to 153.5p. Though Tesco's sales fell by 2.7% over the 12 weeks ending 3 January, according to the latest Kantar Worldpanel grocery share figures, this still represents an improvement month-on-month.
Department store Debenhams is also back in demand, sparking up 15.2% to 76p on news of a materially better-than-expected Christmas. Over the seven weeks to 9 January, Debenhams confounded expectations of a same-store decline by delivering positive like-for-like sales, helped by good growth in beauty and gifting and a successful Black Friday.
Bakery food-on-the-go retailer Greggs (GRG) cheapens 8.4% to £11.22 despite reporting a good finish to an excellent 2015. Disappointment centres on slowing fourth quarter like-for-like growth, reflecting stronger comparatives and the impact of weaker footfall in some shopping locations, as well as the absence of further upgrades this morning.
Following poor festive updates from apparel rival, pure-play online fashion purveyor Boohoo.com (BOO:AIM) puts smiles on faces. The shares firm 6.85% to 39p on a better-than-expected sales showing over the four months to December including Christmas, a scenario flagged by Shares here, and the news full-year sales growth will beat previous guidance of 30%-to-35%.
Private label toothpastes-to-toilet cleaners producer McBride (MCB) clips 6.1% higher to 158.9p on a short-but-sweet trading update, flagging an improvement in first half trading as new CEO Rik De Vos' turnaround strategy begins to take effect. Click here for further details on the recovery strategy.
Cinema group Cineworld (CINE) tumbles 5% to 510.5p after saying full year profits will be in line with market expectations, with total revenue up 12.3%. The group says the 2016 film slate is attractive, but there are no mega blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Spectre on the horizon.
Takeaway provider Just Eat (JE.) falls 4.9% to 453.2p after reporting like-for-like order growth of 46% in 2015, down from 47% growth in the first half of the year. Chief executive David Buttress says 2015 'provides an excellent base for further development of our business'.
Wishbone Gold (WSBN:AIM) continues a second day of significant share price gains, having confirmed last night that it is talks to potential make a large acquisition. The metals exploration business is now up 183% since the start of the week to 0.34p.
Texas oil outfit Pantheon Resources (PANR:AIM) - one of the few strong E&P performers in 2015 - is down 11.2% to 120.8p as an otherwise encouraging update from tests on its VOS#1 well is soured by news of a blockage in the well causing delays.
Recruiter Michael Page (MPI) sinks 5.2% to 423p as growth in net fee income, a key measure of performance, falls to 5.3% in the fourth quarter, down from 10.2% in the third quarter. Declining fees in Asia as well as weakness in the UK financial recruitment market cited by rival Robert Walters (RWA) yesterday is weighing on performance, chief executive Steve Ingham says.
Britain's biggest recruiter Hays (HAS), down 4.6% to 124p, updates the market with fourth quarter numbers tomorrow.
Private equity house Cathexis says its takeover offer for office fit-out firm ISG (ISG:AIM), which has been rejected by management and two large shareholders, has so far secured the support of only 1.6% of ISG's remaining shareholders. Shares in ISG yesterday traded higher than Cathexis' 143p bid price for the first time since the December offer. Today the stock trades down 1.4% at 145p.
And talent management software supplier NetDimensions (NETD:AIM) moves 4.5% higher to 58.5p as it flags lower than expected operating costs. It also says that adjusted EBITDA losses will be better than current market expectations.