A cautious note in Next’s otherwise stellar results was not enough to derail a move higher by domestic-facing stocks buoyed by the optimistic outlook presented in the Budget.
The FTSE 100 Index added 17.12 points to close at 6,962.32, having retreated from a new intra-day high set during the morning.
Although Next itself was the biggest blue chip faller despite a 12 per cent jump in profits, Marks & Spencer appeared to be the recipient of investors cashing out of its rival.
Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG said: “Next might have posted figures that show why its shares have increased by 19 per cent in the last year, but the accompanying guidance for the year ahead saw all of that positivity knocked out of the share price by the market.”
The fashion retailer was 4 per cent lower at 7,315p, with archrival M&S adding 3 per cent to 531.5p. Housebuilders also remained buoyant, with Persimmon up 18p at 1,778p.
Equities and precious metals were both cheered after the US Federal Reserve cooled expectations over higher interest rates by highlighting the impact of the strong dollar on exporters.
But this failed to ease pressure on the pound against the greenback after remarks by Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane - speaking in a personal capacity - that the next move in interest rates is as likely to be a cut as a rise.
The chief beneficiaries were Fresnillo – up more than 5 per cent or 35p to 679p, and Randgold Resources which added 151p to 4,826p. The precious metals miners took the top spots in the FTSE 100.
Energy-related stocks such as Petrofac and Tullow Oil were also in demand, boosted by Wednesday’s tax relief moves for the sector in George Osborne’s Budget. Tullow added 6.8p to 309.6p and oilfield services firm Petrofac gained 20.5p at 900p.