Sales slump batters retailers’ shares

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LISTED retailers suffered a mauling yesterday as official figures revealed a shock fall in UK sales.

Marks & Spencer and B&Q owner Kingfisher were among the casualties, but the wider market ignored the poor domestic data. The FTSE 100 Index gave up most of its afternoon gains to close 0.9 of a point higher at 6,328.3 as investors waited for news from the G20 meeting of financial ministers in Moscow which has raised the spectre of a currency war.

Angus Campbell, head of market analysis at Capital Spreads, said: “The plight of the UK economy is of little concern to investors looking to buy into good quality stocks, especially ones that also offer a decent yield. However, the movements over the past few days have not exactly been a ringing endorsement of a stock market that’s due to race much higher.”

Kingfisher lost 3.1p to 272.6p and M&S dropped 2.4p to 387.1p, while Tesco led the supermarkets lower with a 2 per cent fall, down 5.8p to 364.8p.

But mining giant Anglo American rose after reporting better-than-expected annual underlying earnings. Its shares lifted 26p to 2,039p as investors ignored hefty write-downs which were already priced in and concentrated on upbeat comments regarding the outlook.

However, news of a contract change between Anglo and Johnson Matthey sparked a fall for the platinum refiner, which makes catalytic converters for cars. Its shares fell 5p to 2,294p after saying it expects to suffer a loss of commission income of around £35 million.

Utility giant Severn Trent was in the spotlight after a trading update revealed its commercial customers were continuing to use less water. Shares initially fell into the red, but later stood 5p higher at 1,584p.

NEW YORK: US stocks gave up early gains in a late sell-off last night as Wal-Mart dropped following a report of a weak start to February sales, though the S&P just barely extended its streak of weekly gains to seven.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 8.37 points, or 0.06 per cent, to close at 13,981.76 while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index ended down 1.59 points, or 0.10 per cent, at 1,519.79. The Nasdaq Composite Index finished the day down 6.63 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 3,192.03.