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FTSE edges higher ahead of US updates

LONDON'S blue chip share index struggled to make headway yesterday as markets trod water ahead of updates from a raft of Wall Street giants.

The FTSE-100 Index – which on Monday hit its highest level for more than four years in intraday trading – edged up 9.5 points to close at 6117.3.

Investors on both sides of the Atlantic chose to stay on the sidelines as they await full-year figures from JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs this week, with Chinese gross domestic product data also due out on Friday.

Meanwhile, there was little reaction in the market from UK inflation figures, with the Consumer Prices Index rate unchanged for the third month in a row at 2.7% in December.

The pound, which has weakened in recent days, held firm at 1.61 US dollars and 1.21 euros after the inflation data came in as expected.

Among stocks, upmarket fashion label Burberry was the biggest riser in the top flight after latest sales figures comfortably beat City forecasts.

The share price rally of 5% or 61p to 1386p means the stock is now back at levels seen before a slump in September caused by fears over demand from big-spending customers in China.

Chip designer Arm Holdings was one of the biggest top flight fallers after broker Morgan Stanley cooled expectations for further strong growth in the share price, which has risen by 9% this year, including yesterday's fall of 32p to 841p.

In the FTSE-250 Index, shares in grocery delivery chain Ocado were 0.4p higher to 84.5p after it posted a 14% rise in sales for the six weeks to January 6.

Analysts were relieved at the performance after supermarket giants including Tesco stepped up their internet operations with Click and Collect services over Christmas. There was also a decent performance from car parts and bicycles retailer Halfords, which upgraded its profits guidance on the back of a 0.4% rise in like-for-like sales for the 15 weeks to January 11. Shares were up 5.5p to 334p.

It came as HMV's shares were suspended with a value of just £5 million. The entertainment retail company called time on its long-running battle for survival by filing an intent to appoint administrators.

The biggest FTSE-100 risers were Burberry Group up 61p to 1386p, Pearson ahead 39p to 1221p, BG Group 25.5p higher at 1073.5p and Associated British Foods up 32p to 1532p.

The biggest fallers were Anglo American down 75.5p to 1961p, Arm Holdings off 32p to 841p, Royal Bank of Scotland 10.4p lower at 354.1p and Polymetal International down 32p to 1104p.

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