FTSE 100 Index maintains strength

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The FTSE 100 Index improved 34.9 points to 6048.3

The FTSE 100 Index has maintained its recent strength after a positive start to the US earnings season and an easing of eurozone debt worries.

A first rise for US shares in four sessions following a forecast-beating results performance from aluminium producer Alcoa meant Asian markets made progress and the FTSE 100 Index improved 34.9 points to 6048.3.

Sentiment was also boosted by Japan’s pledge to buy bonds aimed at financing Europe’s bailout fund.

The main interest of another busy session in the retail sector saw Sainsbury’s report better-than-expected like-for-like sales growth of 3.6% in the 14 weeks to January 8.

The update fuelled speculation that Sainsbury’s has overtaken Asda as the UK’s second largest supermarket, but broker Seymour Pierce kept its sell rating on the stock and said shares had a premium valuation.

The stock was 3.8p lower at 386.6p, while rival Tesco fell 3.8p to 421.5p ahead of its update on Thursday.

One of the biggest gains in the FTSE 250 Index came from Superdry fashion firm Supergroup after it said it enjoyed its best ever Christmas trading with a near doubling of retail sales.

Shares recovered from a recent wobble to jump 8% or 95p to 1259p as the chain forecast profits at the top end of hopes and said rising cotton prices will not have an impact on this year’s profit margins as previously expected.

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