StockMarketWire.com - FTSE indices were up midday as Marks & Spencer (MKS) piloted blue-chip gainers, on better-than-expected H1 numbers, and allowed retail-sector players to shrug off bleak UK shop price data from British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Near noon, the FTSE 100 was up 59.41 points, or 0.92%, to 6513.38, and the FTSE 250 was up 92.92 points, or 0.6%, to 15,487.0. FTSE 350 indices for food and drug retailers and food producers recorded gains of more than 2%.

Marks & Spencer (MKS) rose 9.43% to 442.85p on pleasing H1 numbers. UK sales rose 1%, but international fell 3.4%. Investors liked the 2.3% hike in underlying profits to £268m, and improved FY guidance on gross margin and costs. Its interim dividend rose to 6.4p.

The retail sector enjoyed an uptick on the M&S news, despite data showing an easing in UK shop prices. Morrison (MRW), Sainsbury (SBRY) and Tesco (TSCO) all gained. Other retail-sector firms also rose, Burberry (BRBY) up 1.39% to 1497.5p and Unilever (ULVR) rising 1.27% to 2525.5p.

Otherwise gains were across multiple sectors. Tullow Oil (TLW), up 3.79% to 475.25p, led the energy outfits, while British Land (BLND), up 1.34% to 736.75p, piloted commercial property stocks and ICAP (IAP), up 2.25% to 431.7p, captained financials.

BIGGER MOVERS

Marshalls (MSLH), up 10.75% to 213.75p, said if positive market conditions continue it is likely that its full-year results will be above current market expectations. Revenue from continuing operations for the ten months to Oct. 31 was up 18% at £312m.

Stock Spirits (STCK) said unless trading conditions improve there is a risk its FY EBITDA could be between 5m euros and 10m euros below expectations. H2 to date had been tough trading, it said. Stock's shares fell 22.85% to 231.75p.

Bezant Resources (BZT) said a financial and technical review of the historic conceptual study improved the economic feasibility of the Mankayan copper/gold project in the Philippines. Its shares surged 60.73% to 6.63p on the news.

John Menzies (MNZS) fell 25.17% to 364.25p on expecting its Distribution arm to deliver in line results. However, its Aviation unit's outturn for the FY would be materially below board expectations.

Security Research (SRG) improved its H1 pretax profit to £0.798m, from £0.2m. Revenue was £4.996m, from £4.799m. Its shares rose 14.81% to 46.5p.

ECONOMIC NEWS

UK's purchasing managers' index (PMI) for services hit a 17-month low of 56.2 in October, from 58.7 in September, data from Markit/CIPS showed today. The market had expected a print of 58.5.

UK shop prices were down 1.9% on the year in October, data from BRC showed today. Forecasts were for a decline of 1.7%, and a 1.8% fall was recorded in September.

Euro zone retail sales rose at an annual rate of 0.6% in September, following a 1.9% rise in August. The market had forecast a 1.5% rise. The single-currency bloc's PMI for services fell to a final reading of 52.3 in October, from 52.4 in September. A print of 52.4 was expected.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Centamin (CEY), down 8.15% to 47.99p, has cut its output forecast from the Sukari gold mine to 370,000-380,000 gold ounces at a cash operating cost of US$700/oz. This is up 4-7% on 2013 output of 356,943 oz, but down on an earlier forecast of 420,000 oz at $700/oz.

Profit margins continued to fall at pubs operator JD Wetherspoon (JDW), triggering a 3.97% share price slump to 799p. It blamed higher costs of staff salary and energy, together with some suppliers putting up their charges.

Meggitt (MGGT), up 6.1% to 466.85p, said it expected the 5% organic revenue growth of Q3 to moderate in Q4, with percentage organic revenue growth in the low- to mid-single digits in 2015.

Online insurer Esure (ESUR) fell 5.72% to 225.8p on a 4% fall in premiums to £410m in the nine months to October, despite a 1.1% rise in policy volume as competition forces prices down.

AIM firms linked to Horse Hill-1 exploration well near Gatwick Airport slumped on news it has failed to find gas in its deeper targets. The well had already uncovered a 3m barrel oil find, but the market wanted more. UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG), Stellar Resources (STG), Solo Oil (SOLO), Doriemus (DOR), Alba Minerals (ALBA) and Regency Mines (RGM) all shed more than 19%.

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