Marks & Spencer outperformed a jittery London market on Tuesday after industry data pointed to its strongest summer in at least three years.
UK clothes sales spending rose 0.6 per cent year on year for the 12 weeks to the end of July, a Kantar Worldpanel survey showed. The data contrasted with recent reports from the British Retail Consortium and credit card providers, who found that weather-inspired June sales had not continued into July.
M&S was the biggest positive surprise in Kantar’s report, according to JPMorgan Cazenove, with sales up 0.8 per cent for the period. M&S was also shown to have stemmed market share losses including in the key womenswear category, which held steady for the first time since 2014, albeit helped by the timing of its summer clearance sale.
M&S closed 0.5 per cent higher at 314.5p, having hit an 11-month low in the previous session. Bets against M&S have jumped this year with more than 11 per cent of its free float on loan, the highest ratio since 2008, Markit data show.
AB Foods was the retail sector’s top performer, up 1 per cent to £32.16, after Kantar’s survey showed its Primark brand setting the pace with 12-week sales up 8.6 per cent.
Next, which has already reported July sales figures, slipped 2 per cent to £40.93 as the survey was seen to confirm that its recent improvement was market driven rather than company specific.
A flight to safety sent the wider market sliding in response to North Korea’s missile launch. The FTSE 100 ended 0.9 per cent lower, down 64.03 points to 7,337.43.
Engineers and oil-services stocks dropped after tropical storm Harvey shut down onshore production and refining capacity in Texas. Hunting, which has headquarters near Houston, slipped 4.9 per cent to 382.6p while Weir, whose US oil and gas operations are based in Fort Worth, lost 3.6 per cent at £17.48.
“What is clear is Harvey has devastated the local area and a significant proportion of the oil and oilfield services industry will be affected by this,” said Credit Suisse. “Sure, there is insurance protection, which should limit the potential financial impact, but we expect significant operational disruption across the industry”.
Broadcaster ITV dropped 4.9 per cent to 153p after Germany’s ProSiebenSat 1 cut full-year guidance due to September advertising sales not recovering as much as expected.
Wm Morrison retreated 3.7 per cent to 242.1p ahead of interim results due on September 14. Deutsche Bank advised caution, saying that at 20 times 2018 earnings the stock is fully valued.
Ahead of half-year results due on Thursday, Restaurant Group fell 2.7 per cent to 314.3p on a Peel Hunt downgrade to “reduce”.