Market Report: City skittish over retailers' Christmas performance


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The Independent Online

The collapse of high street fashion chain Bank has left the City skittish over how other shops have fared over the festive period.

News that the mid-market retailer has called in the administrators sent other high street favourites falling yesterday. The worst off was JD Sports, 35p lower at 472p, which pitches its products at the same group of young consumer as Bank and used to own the now-collapsed chain. JD Sports is also grappling with a turnaround of outdoor retailers Millets and Blacks, which broke even for the first time last April after two year of repair work. Weak conditions over Christmas could undo progress and spell trouble.

Meanwhile, Sports Direct lost 21.5p to 692p, not helped by the messy situation at takeover target Rangers Football Club, off 1p at 25p, in which Sports Direct’s founder Mike Ashley is a significant shareholder. And B&Q owner Kingfisher tumbled 11.3p to 316.8p.

The FTSE 100 enjoyed a brief afternoon rally, but the index closed down 50.65 points at 6366.51 as the reality of continued weak oil prices, uncertainty on the Continent and weak service sector PMI numbers sank in. The doom and gloom helped to buoy safe-haven stocks such as gold miners, with Randgold Resources rising 221p to 4,757p and Fresnillo up 22p at 790.5p.

Equipment-rental specialist Ashtead tumbled 73p to 1,109p after the US investment bank Evercore downgraded its rival United Rentals overnight. Evercore fears the recent sharp fall in oil and commodity prices will lead to lower investment in the American energy sector.

A late afternoon profit upgrade from Renishaw sent the engineer bouncing up 97p to 2,059p. The company expects pre-tax profits for the first half of the year to have more than doubled and has a record order book.

US activist hedge fund Elliott Advisors continues to build its stake in Prezzo, off 0.87p at 126.87p, taking its holding to 14.4 per cent. The restaurant chain is being sold to US private equity firm TPG for £304m, a price some think too low.

And Mitchells & Butlers rose 16.7p to 395p as both Morgan Stanley and Nomura named it a top pick in the pub sector this year.