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Marks and Spencer leads FTSE higher
The FTSE 100 Index rose 28 points to close on Thursday at 6416
High street giant Marks & Spencer has sparked a shares rally in the retail sector after delivering better-than-expected sales cheer in its fourth quarter figures.
Decent updates from WH Smith and Mothercare also put paid to fears that retailers had been hammered by the snow-hit start to the year and recent prolonged cold spell.
The wider FTSE 100 Index closed 28.8 points higher at 6416.1 as it also benefited from increased optimism on world markets.
Renewed hopes for the UK economy saw the pound strengthen further against the US dollar and euro, at 1.54 and 1.17 respectively.
M&S shares set the pace among stocks, with a rise of 4% as investors cheered its strongest quarterly sales growth in two years in the 13 weeks to March 30.
This was driven by a 4% rise in its food department, while its under-pressure clothing division defied the earlier grim forecasts of analysts to post a decline of 3.8%, in line with the previous quarter despite the weather.
Annual profits are still expected to fall next month, but investors were buoyed by the update as M&S shares rose 16.6p to 400.4p.
There were also encouraging signs from parenting retailer Mothercare after it posted flat UK like-for-like sales in the 11 weeks to March 30, compared with a fall of 6% in the previous quarter.
It has jettisoned 56 poorly-performing stores in the last year and offset the loss of store space through stronger internet trading.
And with the international division continuing to make headway through new stores and sales growth of 15%, Mothercare shares were up 8%, or 23.75p to 315.75p.