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Soaring Next leads FTSE higher on sales relief

Soaring Next leads FTSE higher on sales relief

Update: Shares in Next (NXT) have soared after the embattled retailer reported a return to sales growth, sparking relief among investors who had feared the worst.

Shares in Next rallied 8.9% to £43.69, topping the FTSE 100, which rose 58 points, or 0.8%, to 7,469, driven higher by the pound's fall as the Bank of England kept interest rates on hold and cut UK growth forecasts.

A weaker pound tends to support the FTSE 100, whose members rely on overseas markets for around three quarters of their earnings.

Next reported a 0.7% rise in full-price sales in the three months to the end of July, reversing a 3% fall in the previous quarter.

Full-price sales in its online Directory business were up 11.4%, offsetting a 7.4% sales fall in its stores.

'We believe there has been some improvement in our product ranges and our online functionality during this period,' said Next management.

'However, we believe most of the increase in full-price sales is due to the much warmer weather and, to a lesser degree, lower markdown sales in the end-of-season sale.'

Peel Hunt analyst Jonathan Pritchard said the results 'should have highly positive consequences for the shares and the sector'.

'We think that management is being a little modest when playing down the importance of better ranges in the improved performance, but Next is definitely right to flag the better weather as a factor.

'From a lowly price-earnings ratio, those shares should enjoy forthcoming sessions, as should the sector as a whole: it is not all doom and gloom and the right product at the right price is selling well.'

The rally in Next shares provided a boost to star fund manager Neil Woodford, who holds 1.5% of his £10.1 billion Woodford Equity income fund in the stock, offsetting some of the impact of the slide in Purplebricks (PURP) shares yesterday following its probe by the BBC.

The news also buoyed shares in Marks and Spencer (MKS), up 1.1% at 328.6p, while Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF) rose 1.7% to £30.61.

On the FTSE 250, JD Sports (JD) and also received a boost from the brighter outlook for retail, up 2.1% at 370.9p.

At the other end of the FTSE 100, Convatec (CTEC) was a heavy faller, down 6.2% at 289.8p after the medical products business reported a fall in half-year profits.

Numis analyst Paul Cuddon said the earnings were 'disappointing and well below expectations' and reiterated his 'reduce' rating.

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Neil Woodford
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