FRIDAY MARKET CLOSE: Gold-diggers shine under war clouds

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THE FTSE 100 put on a late spurt to close in positive territory despite a number of negative factors which had weighed on the index earlier in the session.

The Footsie rose 13.95 points to 6,819.75, with precious metals miners Fresnillo and Randgold making gains as the worsening hostilities in Ukraine pushed the gold price higher. Fresnillo added 21.5p at 962p and Randgold climbed 80p to 5,085p.

Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG, said: “Renewed geopolitical worries have seen gold and silver gain as equities dip ahead of the long weekend in the US.”

Investors dumped Tesco shares as Britain’s biggest supermarket operator issued a shock profits warning and cut its interim dividend by three quarters. The stock closed nearly 7 per cent lower at 229.95p.

Its latest profit alert also pulled down supermarket rivals as analysts speculated that savings from the lower dividend and curtailed spending on refits would help build up a war-chest to ramp up the supermarket price war that has been squeezing margins all year without producing a clear winner.

Morrisons, which has already embarked on a £1 billion price cutting strategy, fell 5 per cent, or 9.4p to 177.5p, while Sainsbury’s was off 4 per cent, or 13.2p, at 290.3p.

Marks & Spencer, which has its own upmarket food offering – a division which has performed well in contrast to the woes of its fashion department – was also dragged lower, falling 2 per cent, or 8.2p, to 429.9p.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca was one of the top blue chip risers on persistent speculation that US rival Pfizer could return for a second takeover attempt after Astra spurned a £69bn offer earlier this year. Shares climbed a further 2 per cent, or 87.5p, to 4,567p.