WEDNESDAY MARKET CLOSE: Rolls up but ex-divi stocks stall rally

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Shares in Rolls-Royce finally found some traction after shedding more than 15 per cent since it disappointed with its final results last week.

The engine maker, which suffered a number of broker downgrades in the wake of its figures, added 23.5p to close dead on 1,000p a share.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “It is likely that [yesterday’s] multi-billion pound deal agreed by BAE Systems to sell 72 Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia could well be having a spill over effect in that the engines for these planes are supplied by Rolls-Royce amongst others.”

But BAE itself gave up early gains. The agreement was broadly consistent with the company’s previous trading outlook for 2013, and shares closed 0.8p lower at 436.8p.

The wider FTSE 100 was almost flat as a number of heavyweight stocks went ex-dividend. The index closed just 0.28 points higher at 6,796.71, although it had traded up to 35 points lower during the afternoon. Pharma giant AstraZeneca slipped 2.5 per cent to 3,987p as it traded without rights to its latest pay-out, while Barclays was down 2 per cent at 255.8p.

Sports Direct was the day’s star player as shares surged more than 7 per cent after a positive update allowed the firm to put disappointment over half-year results in December behind it. The stock powered ahead with a 51p gain to 767p, and its cheer rubbed off on rival JD Sports Fashion in the FTSE 250 – it gained 6 per cent or 80p to 1,450p.

Marks & Spencer was also on the front foot following bullish broker comments in light of its new website launch this week.

Jefferies said the retailer’s new site was “impressive” as it upgraded the stock from “hold” to “buy”, helping M&S shares lift 4.7p to 501p.