Market Report: Broker's backing puts SuperGroup in fashion
With its abundance of pin-striped suits, the Square Mile may not exactly match Shoreditch or Paris for cutting-edge fashion. Yet SuperGroup was in vogue yesterday after fears the clothing chain's popularity is nothing more than a short-lived craze were played down by one of the world's largest brokers.
Attacking claims that the retailer's ubiquitous Superdry brand may have already peaked, that well-known style expert Bank of America Merrill Lynch rushed to SuperGroup's defence by claiming it was "not just a fad".
Aurelie Caspar – an analyst at Merrill, which as an aside happens to be one of SuperGroup's corporate brokers – said that despite the chain's rapid growth it had "not reached saturation" yet, pointing to its encouraging performance over Christmas as well as recent data showing its popularity among youngsters.
Keeping her "buy" rating, Ms Caspar went on to claim that the company's potential outside of these shores is also being undervalued. SuperGroup is planning to open a number of standalone stores in Europe, and the analyst predicted that eventually more than half of its sales could come from its international operations.
Traders were not so convinced by the sartorial merits of the SuperDry brand: "I can't stand those T-shirts," was the opinion of one. However, with the group also being added to Merrill's list of recommended mid-cap stocks, it ended up being lifted 14p to 645.5p, although it is still not far off being two-thirds lower than the peak of 1,820p it reached last year.
Overall, the FTSE 100 was pegged back 62.36 points to 5,671.09 amid low volumes as yet another eurozone summit began in Brussels. With Greece's seemingly never-ending debt talks still dragging on, and Portugal's bond yields rising sharply, the banks ended up among the worst losers.
Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland were knocked back 9.3p to 213.55p and 0.98p to 26.76p respectively, while Lloyds retreated 1.34p to 31.09p. The latter was not helped by reports claiming a shake-up of its top brass is imminent, although there was an element of profit-taking across the sector following the recent rally, and Credit Suisse also downgraded its rating on the European banks to "underweight".
Investors' aversion to risk hit the miners as well, with Vedanta Resources sinking 50p to 1,176p and Eurasian Natural Resources driven back 28.5p to 700p as last week's disappointing GDP figures from the US continued to knock sentiment.
Meanwhile, Lonmin dipped 55p to 1,037p on the mid-tier index after Goldman Sachs added it to the broker's "conviction sell list", predicting 2012 would see a "significant surplus" in the platinum market and warning there was a risk the miner may need to raise cash.
Back on the Footsie, while most of the nine stocks which managed to rise were being sought for their defensive qualities, Arm Holdings advanced 1.5p to 597.5p ahead of today's full-year figures thanks to optimism in the wake of last week's forecast-smashing results from its major customer Apple.
Encouraging news around its Varisolve product helped BTG touch an eight-year high during trading after the medical tech specialist's varicose veins treatment successfully completed the first of two late-stage trials in the States.
The drug has faced problems before with regulators, but the company said it remained on track to file for US approval by the end of the year.
The announcement also prompted dealers to turn their attention once again to the group's takeover potential, with a number of City voices believing it could prove attractive to a larger name. Yet despite this BTG had moved well off its highs by the bell, closing just 7.4p better off at 331.1p.
It was beaten to the top spot on the FTSE 250 by Rank, with the Mecca Bingo-operator's announcement that it is in discussions over buying Gala Coral's casino operations, prompting it to jump up 4.1p to 131.1p.
Elsewhere, the recent rush of broker support for Dixons Retail continued to help the electricals chain, and its latest climb of 0.24p to 15.24p means that it has added nearly 60 per cent over the past three weeks.
Down on the small-cap index, Mothercare slipped 3.5p to 193.5p after The Independent reported that private equity firm Cinven is no longer interested in a possible move for the baby products retailer.
The struggling, high street chain was also knocked back by Panmure Gordon's Jean Roche, who said she still believed a turnaround in the UK will take more than two years.
However, she did concede that – with its share price having shed over two-thirds in not much more than a year – "for some, selling the shares now is too little, too late".
FTSE 100 Risers
l AstraZeneca 3,055p (up 19p,0.63 per cent) Pharmaceuticals giant finishes in pole position on the blue-chip index as it prepares for the release of its full-year results on Thursday.
l National Grid 613.5p (up 3p,0.49 per cent) Utility just one of a number of defensively minded stocks closing ahead following HSBC's Verity Mitchell's decision to keep her "neutral" recommendation.
FTSE 100 Fallers
l Vedanta Resources 1,176p (down 50p, 4.08 per cent) Miner slides ahead of its third-quarter results today even as Deutsche Bank'sGrant Sporre reaffirms his "buy" recommendation.
l Aviva 342.7p (down 13.4p, 3.76 per cent) Insurance company slumps despite announcing that it has agreed to sell a number of its eastern European businesses to US peer Metlife.
FTSE 250 Risers
l Cranswick 770p (up 11p, 1.45 per cent) Shareholders take home the bacon after pork supplier's third-quarter update reveals that it managed a 10 per cent jump in sales over the period.
l Taylor Wimpey 41.77p (up 0.09p, 0.22 per cent) Housebuilder advances up the mid-tier index as UBS's analysts give it a boost by deciding to raise their price target to 41p from 36p.
FTSE 250 Fallers
l Allied Gold Mining 139.4p (down 5.6p, 3.86 per cent) Yellow metal digger closes near the foot of the mid-tier index after being knocked back by a sharp drop in the priceof gold.
l Misys 320p (down 6.8p, 2.08 per cent) Having enjoyed a significant jump last Friday amid the revival once again of bid speculation, software firm is pushed lower by investors choosing to take profits.
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