Festive cheer for Morrisons supports firm FTSE

A rally in UK grocers kept the FTSE travelling higher thanks to encouraging Christmas trading from Morrisons (MRW).

Morrisons was up 2.4% at 232.3p following a 2.8% jump in like-for-like sales excluding fuel in the 10 weeks to 7 January.

The markets were feeling more optimistic about the sector, marking Marks & Spencer (MKS) 2.4% higher to 318.3p. Supermarket Sainsbury's (SBRY) advanced 3% to 248.1p.

The FTSE 100 closed 0.4% higher at 7,731.

Tesco (TSCO) was the fastest growing of the big four supermarkets with sales up 3.1% over the past 12 weeks according to Kantar.

Brent crude oil rose 0.8% to $68.31 per barrel.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

The long-running rally in the US continued on Monday, with the Dow Jones trading 0.4% higher at 25,387 around 4:45pm UK time.

MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Housebuilder Persimmon (PSN) upgraded its annual profit guidance after increasing sales by 9%. Its shares retreated 1.2% to £27.15 as investors focused on warning of potential risks from Brexit.

Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) received a 2.2% boost to £20.50 thanks to a strong trading update, including 20% sales growth in North America and a 'modestly favourable' effect from US tax reform.

Specialist building products distributor SIG (SHI) reported its previously overstated its cash position, triggering a 5% decline to 164.5p.

Student accommodation specialist Unite (UTG) achieved occupancy levels of 99% for the current academic year, although this failed to boost the shares at 813p.

Insurer Hastings (HSTG) was flat at 312.8p following its chairman Mike Fairey standing down. Chief executive Gary Hoffman was flagged as his replacement with internal appointment Toby van der Meer coming in for Hoffman.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Barbados hotel operator Elegant Hotels (EHG) cut its dividend from 3.5p to 1.75p following a drop in average daily rates and profit after tax. Shares in the firm dimmed 6.2% to 90p.

London Capital Group (LCG) decided to seek shareholder approval to cancel its trading on AIM, prompting a 42.2% rally to 0.6p.

Kimberly Enterprises (KBE) also decided to seek approval to quit AIM, although this had the opposite effect and wiped off over half of its market cap.

Carr's (CARR) pleased the market as trading in its agriculture and engineering divisions were significantly ahead of the prior year. The company said positive farmer sentiment in the UK and improved manufacturing activity were behind the encouraging results. Shares in Carr's rallied 10.9% to 137.5p.

There was also strong trading at Topps Tiles (TPT) over the Christmas period, up 9% at 87.2p. The UK's largest tile specialist reported a 3.4% increase in like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to 30 December.

Shares in promotional products marketer 4imprint (FOUR) soared 8% to £20.25 after revealing that the US tax reform would result in a beneficial impact on earnings and cash generation.

Embattled Carillion (CLLN) sank 12.6% to 20.8p following a rally on Monday after investors were excited by the possibility the contractor would strike a deal with its lenders, which did not materialise.

Recruiter Robert Walters (RWA) dipped 1.2% to 650p despite delivering a 19% rise in gross profit of £90.5m in the quarter to 31 December 2017.