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Strong retail sector supports Britain's FTSE; miners drop
May 28, 2015 / 8:33 AM / 3 years ago

Strong retail sector supports Britain's FTSE; miners drop

* FTSE 100 down 0.2 pct

* Kingfisher and Sports Direct reports bolster retail

* Miners weaker as Goldman sees cartel as unlikely

* Financials hit as Greek optimism deflated by EU

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, May 28 (Reuters) - Strong rises for retailers Kingfisher and Sports Direct limited losses in Britain’s top share index on Thursday, which was knocked by weak mining and financial stocks.

Britain’s biggest sporting goods retailer Sports Direct rose 3.5 percent after it raised its full-year earnings and profit outlook, citing lower interest charges and what it described as a prudent depreciation policy.

“We would expect this news to be well received as it appears to confirm control over profit margins based on the UK market position and significant cash generative capacity,” analysts at Banco Espirito Santo said in a note, maintaining a “buy” rating on the stock.

Europe’s biggest home retail company Kingfisher was up 3 percent after reporting a rise in first-quarter retail profit, helped by a strong performance at Screwfix which lifted sales at the group’s British arm.

Adding to the bullish picture, British consumer confidence surged this month to its highest level in a year as more households expected their finances to improve in the coming 12 months, a survey showed on Thursday.

The reports lifted the retail sector, with consumer discretionary stocks adding 3.5 points to Britain’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index.

However, the index as a whole was in slightly negative territory, dipping 15.15 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,018.18 by 0741 GMT.

Miners fell 1.3 percent even as commodity prices steadied.

The sector is down 9 percent since May 5 as copper has dropped to a four-week low. Investment bank Goldman Sachs said overnight that major iron ore miners were unlikely to create a cartel and agree on output cuts to shore up prices.

“Goldman Sachs said that they don’t see a cartel in the sector ... so in the grand scheme of things, metal prices are weak, (and) without a cartel look set to remain weak,” said David Madden, market analyst at IG.

“Demand for the underlying minerals looks weak, and the supply side looks set to keep the pressure up on these stocks as well.”

Financial stocks were also weaker, trimming more than 9 points off of the FTSE 100.

Traders said that optimism over a Greek debt deal following comments from the Greek government, which spurred the FTSE 100 to healthy gains in the previous session, was fading, knocking back financial stocks.

Senior European Union officials have poured cold water on the idea that Greece is close to striking a deal with its EU lenders, saying that such a notion was wishful thinking. (Editing by Susan Fenton)

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