WEDNESDAY MARKET CLOSE: Bid chatter sees Footsie creep above 7,000

BID talk surrounding mobile phone giant Vodafone saw it lead London’s top-flight higher as the FTSE 100 crept above the 7,000-mark.

shares up 5 per cent, or 12.2p, to 238.8p.

The FTSE 100 Index closed 12.16 points higher at 7,007.26 in a session that saw traders react to the release of a batch of corporate results, including the first profits rise at Marks & Spencer in four years.

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Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “The FTSE 100 bobbed in and out of black all day”.

“The prospect of minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting, with a focus on the likelihood of an imminent rate rise, acted as a counter balance preventing investors from getting too carried away by corporate news from the likes of Vodafone and Marks & Spencer.”

M&S fell 2p to 583.5p after it announced a long-awaited profit rise, with its beleaguered general merchandise arm - including clothing - ending 14 quarters in a row of like-for-like declines with a 0.7 per cent lift in the most recent period. Shares have risen by a fifth since the start of the year.

The retailer hiked its dividend and said it expected to return £150m of cash to investors through a share buy-back programme, although some traders had expected more.

Elsewhere, shares in energy giant SSE fell 15p to 1,681p after it reported a small rise in annual profits to £1.5 billion and said it faced a number of pressures at the start of the new financial year.

Away from the top flight housebuilder Crest Nicholson advanced for the second day in a row after it said its forward sales jumped by a quarter to 1,786 homes in the six months to 30 April compared with a year ago, buoyed by stamp duty reforms and a more competitive mortgage market.

Shares lifted 18p to 541.5p.