WEDNESDAY MARKET CLOSE: Rally ends despite Primark’s sparkle

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The market rally stalled as weak manufacturing data from China injected a dose of reality following Tuesday’s deal frenzy in the pharma sector.

The top-flight was 7.02 points lower at 6,674.74, as a strong gain from Primark owner Associated British Foods helped offset some of the weakness elsewhere.

Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG, said: “On Tuesday the FTSE 100 showed a distinct aversion to 6,700 and now it has decided that 6,680 is too much as well, with ex-dividend stocks like L&G, Rolls Royce and Centrica taking a bite out of the index.”

Centrica was down more than 4 per cent at 330.5p, but AB Foods leapt almost 9 per cent or 240p to 2,962p after strong half-year results and a good reception for plans to take Primark across the Atlantic.

Drugs stocks continued to improve on the back of deal-making activity by GlaxoSmithKline and speculation linking AstraZeneca to a potential takeover by US giant Pfizer.

Glaxo rose 2.5p to 1,642.5p and Astra added 2 per cent, or 82.5p to 4,042.5p, having risen by 5 per cent in the previous session.

Chip maker Arm Holdings saw its shares flounder despite a 9 per cent rise in quarterly profits. Traders focused on slower growth in the smartphone market, sending the stock down 27p at 956p.

In the FTSE 250 Index, holiday company Thomas Cook rose 4.4p to 178p after its turnaround strategy was backed in a broker upgrade from Barclays, whose analysts expect a resumption of dividend payments in 2016. Top flight rival Tui Travel also rose, by 1.2p, to 427.9p.

Price comparison site Moneysupermarket was 7.2p lower at 179.4p as a 5 per cent rise in underlying earnings was not enough for some investors, who went shopping for a better deal.