Belfast Telegraph

Marks & Spencer shares boost fails to lift FTSE amid falling commodity prices

Soaring shares from retail giant Marks & Spencer failed to lift the London market after falling commodity prices took their toll on top-flight stocks.

The FTSE 100 Index was down 24.7 points to 6136.9, despite M&S seeing shares climb 3% after investors cheered better-than-expected sales from its under-pressure clothing business.

The fluctuating oil price continued to dominate the direction of the London market, with commodity stocks coming under pressure after Brent crude fell 2.3% or 92 cents to 38.92 US dollars a barrel.

Oil giant BP was down 0.25p to 339.3p, while m iners Glencore and Antofagasta also suffered hefty falls after seeing their ratings cut by JPMorgan, falling 8p to 132.1p and 11.6p to 426.9p respectively.

The oil price had soared 5% in the previous session after the Kuwaiti governor of the oil cartel Opec said an output freeze could be enforced following a meeting in Qatar on April 17.

In Europe, Germany's Dax was down 0.98%, while the Cac 40 in France fell 0.9%.

The pound was down 0.2% against the euro at 1.23 after the head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi said it would do "whatever is needed" to push up low inflation and growth across the eurozone.

Sterling was also down 0.3% against the dollar at 1.40.

In stocks, Marks & Spencer said clothing and home like-for-like sales tumbled 2.7% in the 13 weeks to March 26, as price deflation created a "challenging backdrop" for trade.

But shares in the company soared, as it beat City expectations of a 3.4% fall and improved on the third quarter when sales slumped 5.8%.

Chief executive Steve Rowe , who took over from Marc Bolland on Saturday, said reviving the retailer's clothing and homes business was his ''number one priority''.

Shares stepped up 12.6p to 433p.

Pharmaceuticals continued to make gains from the previous session as US drugs giant Pfizer scrapped its planned mega-merger.

Pfizer and Irish rival Allergan said they were terminating their 160 billion US dollar (£113 billion) deal by "mutual agreement", days after the US Treasury unveiled new measures to curb tax avoidance, including so-called inversion deals.

Shares in AstraZeneca were up 40p to 4167.5p while Shire rose 35p to 4293p amid speculation that Pfizer may search for another partner in a bid to relocate its headquarters.

Supermarket Sainsbury's saw its share price rise after its was handed an upgrade by Credit Suisse.

The Swiss banking giant said it expects the grocer to bolster profits, grow sales and reduce costs in the wake of its takeover of Argos-owner Home Retail Group.

Shares in Sainsbury's rose 7.5p to 287.2p.

Away from the top tier, s hares in regional airline Flybe nosedived after it said the pound's weakness against the dollar triggered £7 million in extra costs.

The firm saw its shares tumble more than 9% as it revealed that passenger numbers stayed at 1.8 million in the fourth quarter, compared to the year before, while its load factor slipped two percentage points to 68% over the same period.

Shares were down 5.5p to 58.5p.

The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Rangold Resources up 205p to 6575p, Marks and Spencer up 12.6 to 433p, Sainsbury's up 7.5p to 287.2p, United Utilities up 17p to 946.5p.

The biggest fallers in the FTSE 100 Index were Glencore down 8p to 132.1, Berkeley Group down 170p to 3146p, Pearson down 43p to 825p, Lloyds Banking Group down 3.26p to 64.82p.