Supermarkets boost FTSE 100

Supermarkets helped the FTSE 100 Index shake off morose sentiment on Wall Street and edge into positive territory today.

CPP Group sold card protection on behalf of lenders including HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland
CPP Group sold card protection on behalf of lenders including HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland

Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Tesco led the way in the top flight as it closed 14.9 points up at 6855.8 at the end of a week when it had looked poised to mount an assault on its all-time closing high of 6930.2 in December 1999.

The index had been down earlier after the previous session saw New York's Dow Jones Industrial Average suffer its worst day in five weeks, following lower earnings from Wal-Mart and mixed economic updates.

New York's torpor had spread across the Atlantic to see the FTSE 100 close lower at the end of Thursday's session.

But markets were quieter for the final day of the week, with Germany's Dax slightly down and France's Cac 40 a little ahead. The Dow Jones was flat at the time of the close in London.

The pound strengthened as it shook off attempts by Bank of England governor Mark Carney earlier in the week to dampen expectations of an early interest rate rise. Sterling was at 1.68 US dollars and 1.23 euros.

In equities, Britain's grocers enjoyed a second day of gains on the back of figures showing Wal-Mart's UK supermarket group Asda narrowly returned to sales growth.

The update cheered investors in a sector where the major players are being squeezed by discounters Aldi and Lidl, driving Sainsbury's to the top flight risers' board as it climbed more than 4%, or 14.9p, to 347.7p

Morrisons was up 7.7p to 212.9p and Tesco rose 7.9p to 310.4p.

Airline and travel stocks again endured a tricky session on concerns about the strength of demand from UK consumers during a World Cup summer.

An update from Germany's TUI, which owns a stake in Thomson and First Choice business TUI Travel, failed to boost spirits, despite the company reporting a smaller loss for the most recent quarter.

Low-cost airline easyJet was down 34p to 1516p, as the stock lost some of its recent froth. British Airways owner International Airlines Group was off 7.4p to 358.3p.

TUI Travel was down nearly 4% or 16.1p to 407.7p while FTSE 250 Index listed Thomas Cook fell 3.4p to 152.7p, adding to the 13% plunge in the previous session following its latest trading update.

AstraZeneca was another notable riser in the top flight, although the improvement of 97p to 4823.5p still left its shares well short of the £50 a share on the table from US rival Pfizer.

Meanwhile, shares in Carphone Warehouse and Dixons Retail Group remained under pressure after nosediving in the wake of their merger deal. Carphone was 11.3p lower at 290p and Dixons, which owns PC World and Currys, fell by 1.7p to 44p.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Sainsbury's, up 14.9p to 347.7p, Morrisons up 7.7p to 212.9p, Tesco up 7.9p to 310.4p and Reckitt Benckiser up 110p to 5070p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Coca-Cola HBC, down 66p to 1381p, Tui Travel down 16.1p to 407.7p, Barratt Developments down 13.5p to 344.3p and Schroders down 96p to 2501p.