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THE FTSE 100 Index drifted into the red yesterday despite continuing optimism over many blue-chip retail stocks.

The likes of Marks & Spencer and Next were helped by healthy half-year figures from department store chain Debenhams.

The Footsie was in positive territory for much of the day, but eventually closed 12.4 points lower at 4018.2 as disappointing jobs figures from the US offset upbeat corporate news and sent Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average lower.

With WH Smith also reporting solid half-year results, the signs of a return in consumer confidence meant top-flight fashion retailer Next rose 94p to 1529p and Argos firm Home Retail Group added 15p to 279p. M& S improved 10.75p to 340p.

Debenhams announced a 10.7% rise in half-year profits. Shares jumped 22%, or 13.75p, to 77.25p, as analysts suggested the strong trading figures reduced the need for the company to carry out a rights issue.

Many miners were also on the front foot, led by platinum firm Lonmin, which pleased investors with second-quarter production figures.

The biggest Footsie risers were Lonmin, up 118p, at 1357p, Intertek, up 78p, at 1004p, Autonomy, up 89p, at 1378p, and Next, up 94p, at 1529p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Schroders, down 56.5p, at 760.5p, ENR, off 37p, at 550.5p, Aviva, down 13p, at 239.25p, and British Land, down 21.25p, at 424.75p.

WALL ST ABOUT halfway through first-quarter earnings reports, Wall Street is still not sure where the US economy is heading.

The Dow Jones industrials closed with a gain but only after another shaky, back-and-forth day.

The Dow rose 70.49, or 0.9%, to 7,957.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 8.37, or 1%, to 851.92, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 6.09, or 0.4%, to 1,652.21.

FTSE-100 4018.2 12.4
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 24, 2009
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