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Next is the top performer as markets weaken; FTSE 100 LOVENESS MILLER Brewin Dolphin.

ON the back of falling European markets and in direct contrast to the previous day's gains, the FTSE 100 index weakened yesterday following a fresh drop in crude oil prices and persisting fears over Greece, ending the trading session, down 86.5 points at 6547.

Next was the top performing company in the index following the release of its December trading statement which showed a 2.9% rise in sales up to December 24, taking the year-todate sales increase to 7.7%.

As a result of the upbeat news, the company has declared a special dividend of 50p per share and now expects pre-tax profits to be in the region of PS775m.

Next shares closed the day at 6725p, posting a gain of 3.2%.

In housing market news, growth in annual average house prices is thought to be weakening.

The Nationwide House Price Index figures showed that house price inflation fell to 7.2% in December from 8.5% in November.

Nationwide's Robert Gardner, chief economist at the mortgage lender and building society commented on the widening gap between the north and the south, with London house prices averaging 35% above the 2007 peak at PS406,730, whilst prices in Northern England and Wales are still 10% below the peak.

Activity in the housing market is, however, expected to improve in the coming year, and the stamp duty reforms announced in the government's Autumn Statement are expected to have a beneficial impact on demand in the housing market especially in Southern England where prices are typically higher.

loveness.miller@brewin.co.uk

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 31, 2014
Words:263
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