Thursday market close: FTSE buoyed by Next

The London Stock Exchange headquarters. Picture: Sang Tan/AP

The London Stock Exchange headquarters. Picture: Sang Tan/AP

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The benchmark FTSE 100 Index ended the day marginally higher, up 0.2 per cent or 15.99 points at 7,340.71.

It was helped in part by a jump in Next shares, which was the top performing stock in the top flight, despite the retail bellwether reporting its first fall in annual profits since the height of the financial crisis.

Next posted a 3.8 per cent fall in underlying pre-tax profits to £790.2 million for the year to January, but saw its shares leap 314p to 4,199p as investors breathed a sigh of relief that the chain had not downgraded its forecasts for the year ahead.

Jasper Lawler, senior market analyst at London Capital Group, said: “Clothing retailers led gains on the FTSE 100 after investors took solace in unrevised forecasts from Next after it reported its first annual profit drop in eight years.
“[Chief executive] Lord Wolfson of Next appears acutely aware of the macro risks facing the clothing sector from shifting tastes towards ‘experience’ to higher input costs.”

Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland rose 2.1 per cent to 240p after it announced plans to cut costs, through the closure of scores of branches and hundreds of jobs.

Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said: “RBS is making good on its promise to slash costs – good news for shareholders in the short term but no so great for customers and staff. It might also be bad news for profits going forward if it is to grow the business and invest enough in new technology.”

Meanwhile, on the currency front, the pound climbed to a one-month high against the dollar.

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