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* FTSE 100 index steady
* Next worst FTSE 100 performer
* Morrisons gains after results
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Sept 15 Britain's top equity index
steadied near a one-month low on Thursday, with a slump in Next
following poor results offsetting a strong rally in
Morrisons after a rise in its first-half profit for the
first time in four years.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.06 percent at
6,677.55 points after falling to 6,654.82, coming close to
Monday's one-month low. The index has fallen around 4 percent
since early September, but is still up nearly 7 percent so far
British clothing retailer Next fell nearly 5 percent, the
worst performer in the FTSE 100 index, after reporting a 1.5
percent fall in its first-half profit and saying that trading
since July had been challenging and volatile.
"Even though Next is less prone to the difficulties
currently facing the high-end retailers, there are a number of
struggles ... which the company is confronting with varying
degrees of success," said Richard Hunter, head of research at
Wilson King Investment Management.
"The retail business has seen a slump in operating profit,
the group overall has suffered due to the increase in markdown
sales and the outlook is notably cautious. The wider
implications of Brexit, such as higher import costs, have yet to
wash through, whilst competition in the sector remains intense."
However, official figures showed that British retail sales
softened only slightly in August after a bumper July, suggesting
June's vote to leave the EU has had little initial impact on
shoppers' willingness to spend.
Next's results also put pressure on its peer Marks & Spencer
, which fell 2.7 percent.
In contrast, Morrisons surged 7.2 percent after the
supermarket reported a rise in first-half profit for the first
time in four years and a third straight quarter of underlying
Nicholas Hyett, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said
Morrisons is not completely out of the woods. "Lower sterling
will increase the costs of imported foods, and how far the
supermarket is able to pass that increase on to customers
remains to be seen."
Specialist annuities provider JRP Group was up more
than 14 percent. It posted a 12 percent rise in operating profit
on a pro-forma basis in the first half, boosted by the
integration of a former rival.
"JRP Group ... reported an excellent set of interims, which
should dispel many, if not all, of the fears in the market over
the group's new business prospects, the strength of its balance
sheet and the potential from the merger," Shore Capital said.
(Reporting by Atul Prakash Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)