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Marks and Spencer and Tesco drag FTSE from high

Retailers drag the FTSE 100 off all-time high on mixed results over the crucial Christmas trading period.

Marks and Spencer and Tesco drag FTSE from high

Marks and Spencer and Tesco have dragged the FTSE 100 off its all-time high after mixed results for the crucial Christmas trading period.

The UK blue-chip index fell eight points to 7,741, down from its record closing high of 7,749 reached yesterday. 

Marks and Spencer (MKS) was the heaviest faller on the index, down 5.6% at 305.8p, as the retailer reported a 2.8% fall in clothing and homeware sales in the last 13 weeks of 2017, with food sales down 0.4%.

That was ahead of analyst expectations, but marked a deterioration in performance on the previous quarter.

Liberum analyst Adam Tomlinson kept his 'sell' rating on the shares following the news.

'A slight beat, but it should be noted that this is against very modest expectations, and there is no change to full-year guidance,' he said.

'We do not expect any material change to consensus and see no catalysts to change our cautious stance at this stage.'

Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Laith Khalaf said the results were 'disappointing'.

'In recent years the food business has been the bright light of the Marks and Spencer empire, but its glow has definitely dimmed of late,' he said.

'That's probably a result of consumers tightening their belts when it comes to grocery shopping, and the strong performance of supermarket premium ranges suggests when customers are splashing out, they are increasingly doing it as Sainsbury's, Tesco and Morrisons rather than Marks and Spencer.'

Tesco disappoints

Joining Marks and Spencer at the bottom of the index was Tesco (TSCO), down 3.7% at 204.1p as Britian's biggest retailer missed forecasts for Christmas trading.

Tesco reported a 1.9% rise in like-for-like revenue in the six weeks to 6 January, below investors expectations of a rise of as much as 3.2%.

Ed Meier, who holds Tesco in his £167.2 million Old Mutual UK Equity Income fund, said the disappointing headline numbers had 'taken a little shine off what are good underlying results'.

'The core profit driver, food, still generated 3.4% of sales on a same-store basis as the group continued to grow grocery volumes in spite of inflation,' he said.

'This is bang in line with the strategy to take the business towards that 3.5%-4% margin where, we believe, approximately 20p earnings per share can be generated.'

Jefferies analyst James Grzinic said the results were solid 'but not quite the dominant display expected by some'.

'The trading evidence of the past 18 months does not make concurrent, sharp UK market share and margin rebuild quite the "slam dunk" assumed by many for Tesco.'

Just East (JE) was the biggest riser on the index, up 6% at 813.6p after analysts at Barclays raised their price target on the shares from 700p to £10.

On the FTSE 250, retail woes were also a feature. Card Factory (CARDC) tumbled 18.7% to 229.6p after the greetings card retailer reported earnings for 2017 were likely to fall to £93 million, down from £98.5 million the year before.

The news will be a blow to fund managers Neil Woodford and Mark Barnett, who hold the stock in their Woodford Equity Income and Income Focus funds, and Invesco Perpetual Income and High Income funds.

Peel Hunt analyst Jonathan Pritchard cut his rating to 'hold' from 'buy' on the news.

'Card Factory's Christmas trading statement is far more than a sales update: it gives us serious concerns about the state of the industry and the earnings potential of the business,' he said.

'The weakness in card sales at Christmas is disappointing but worse still is the company's view that this will persist, with non-card picking up a bit of the slack, albeit at lower gross margins.'

At the other end of the 'mid-cap' index, Ultra Electronics (ULE) issued an upbeat trading statement, saying it expected full-year earnings to hit £770 million.

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