FTSE 100 sets another record despite retailers' struggles
London's top flight index set another record on Wednesday, shrugging off pain from retail stocks and rising on the back of home builders to reach its fifth consecutive all-time closing high.
The FTSE 100 closed higher by 0.17% to reach 7,189.74 points, edging past the previous record close of 7,177.89 which was set on Tuesday.
The index was relatively buoyant despite major losses from retailers including Next, which emerged as the biggest faller on the FTSE 100, down 685p at 4,085p after warning profits were expected to drop by 3.6% in the year to January 2017.
Next said trading woes are set to deepen over the following 12 months, with profits tumbling as much as 14% in the worst case scenario in the year to January 2018.
The news hit fellow retailers including Marks and Spencer Group which fell 21.1p to 323.4p, and Primark owner Associated British Foods which dropped 101p to 2,610p.
But home builders including Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey dragged the index higher, buoyed by comments from Deutsche Bank which said there was "appealing value" in the sector.
Barratt Developments, which was the best performer on the FTSE 100, jumped 18.9p at 483.9p, while Taylor Wimpey rose 5.9p at 161.4p, and Persimmon gained 50p to reach 1,180p.
In currency markets, sterling rose 0.6% against the US dollar to 1.231 but was flat against the euro at 1.175.
Investors were digesting data from the Markit/CIPS UK construction purchasing managers' index (PMI) which came in at a better-than-expected 54.2 for December, up from 52.8 in November. Economists had been expecting a reading of 52.6.
A reading above 50 indicates growth.
It marked the fastest pace of construction output in nine months, having been driven by improved order books and a rebound in business conditions.
Across Europe, the French Cac 40 and German Dax both closed flat.
In oil markets, Brent crude rose 1.3% to around 56.26 US dollars per barrel (£45.75), as investors cheered reports that Saudi Arabia was set to increase oil prices in February as part of a deal between major producers to tackle the supply glut.
Away from London's top tier index, B&M shares rose nearly 9.5% after the discount retailer reported a 7.2% jump in like-for-like sales in the three months to December, with revenue rising over 20% to £789.1 million.
The company put the performance down to strong festive sales and "improved in-store standards" for customers.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Barratt Developments up 18.9p at 483.9p, Taylor Wimpey up 5.9p at 161.4p, Fresnillo up 48p at 1,314p, and Persimmon up 50p at 1,180p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Next down 685p at 4,085p, Marks and Spencer Group down 21.1p at 323.4p, Associated British Foods down 101p at 2,610p, and ITV down 6.6p at 201.4p.