FTSE 100 Index Closes at Six-Week High as M&S Rallies in London

U.K. stocks resumed their advance, sending the benchmark FTSE 100 Index (UKX) to a six-week high, led by retailers after Marks & Spencer Group Plc (MKS) forecast profitability will improve this year.

Marks & Spencer surged the most in more than a year. Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) climbed as the political crisis in Ivory Coast nears an end and gold climbed to a record. Lloyds Banking Group Plc (LLOY) led banks higher.

The FTSE 100 gained 34.07, or 0.6 percent, to 6,041.13 at the 4.30 p.m. close in London as two stocks rose for every one that fell. The measure had rallied 5.1 percent in the previous two weeks as U.S. jobs data boosted optimism about the economy. The FTSE All-Share Index (ASX) rose 0.6 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index increased 1.1 percent.

“Against a backdrop of pressured consumer finances, M&S has exceeded expectations,” said London-based Keith Bowman, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbroker. “With market share gains being made, today’s update reminds investors that M&S is still a force to be reckoned with.”

Marks & Spencer rallied 6 percent to 360.6 pence, the biggest advance since November 2009. Britain’s largest clothing retailer said gross margin will be as much as 25 basis points higher in fiscal 2012 than last year.

Marks & Spencer

The retailer also reported a 3.9 percent fall in sales of general merchandise at stores open at least a year in the 13 weeks to April 2. That beat the 6 percent median estimate of 15 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Food revenue gained 3.4 percent on the same basis, beating the 1 percent median analyst estimate.

Next Plc (NXT), the owner of more than 500 fashion stores in the U.K. and Ireland, gained 3.2 percent to 2,096 pence. Kingfisher Plc (KGF), Europe’s largest home-improvement retailer, increased 2.7 percent to 264.9 pence.

Randgold, which mines the precious metal in West Africa, advanced 0.7 percent to 5,260 pence after forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo surrendered and the former president began to negotiate his exit from power with the United Nations.

“The war is over,” Alcide Djedje, Gbagbo’s foreign minister, told France24, adding that he was sent to the French Embassy in Abidjan to negotiate.

Randgold warned in December that the crisis in Ivory Coast would have a ‘negative impact’’ on its earnings.

The shares also advanced as gold climbed to a record for a second day. Fresnillo Plc (FRES), the world’s largest primary silver producer, increased 0.7 percent to 1,633 pence as cash silver touched $39.5013 an ounce, the highest level since 1980.

Lloyds

Lloyds rallied 3.9 percent to 61.96 pence and Barclays Plc (BARC) rose 2.8 percent to 294.8 pence after Germany’s Commerzbank AG and Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo Spa announced plans to raise as much as 13.25 billion euros ($19 billion), bolstering confidence in the banking system and the ability of lenders to raise cash.

“It does help to take out the vulnerability out of the European financial sector,” said Valentijn van Nieuwenhuijzen, head of tactical asset allocation at ING Investment Management.

The following stocks either rose or fell in the U.K. and Irish markets. Stock symbols are in parentheses.

Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Plc (BPTY LN), which generates more than 18 percent of its revenue in Germany, sank 16 percent to 166.4 pence. The Austria Press Agency reported Germany is planning to introduce a 17 percent concession level on betting principle when the country opens its sport betting market to private companies next year.

The levy will affect all private betting companies located in Germany and will be in addition to taxes on revenue, APA said, citing a decision by the German states’ prime ministers in Berlin today.

Carillion Plc (CLLN) rallied 2 percent to 387.3 pence after the company said it won facilities management contracts from Nationwide Building Society and Virgin Media Inc. worth as much as 204 million pounds.

EasyJet Plc (EZJ) gained 3.4 percent to 337 pence after the airline reported a 12 percent increase in March passenger traffic to 4.44 million from a year earlier.

Misys Plc (MSY) rallied 2.8 percent to 335.1 pence after the U.K. provider of software for the financial industry reporting a 7 percent rise in third-quarter sales to 85 million pounds.

Taylor Wimpey Plc (TW/) dropped 4.6 percent to 38.4 pence after Citigroup Inc. lowered its recommendation to “hold” from “buy” saying sector share prices may “pause” after recent strong gains. Barrett Developments Plc (BDEV LN) was also cut to “hold”. The stock fell 2.9 percent to 109.1 pence.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Jones at sjones35@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Rummer at arummer@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.