As Thomas Cook, which has lost three-quarters of its market value since mid-January, sunned itself at the top of the mid-cap index, leaping 5.95 – 13pc – to 51½p, the wider market was in fine fettle too. Although traders were keeping a wary eye on this weekend’s summit of European leaders to discuss the region’s debt crisis, robust results from US giants, General Electric and McDonald’s, lifted spirits. As such, the FTSE 100 jumped 103.97 points to 5488.65, while the FTSE 250 climbed 154.35 points to 10265.49.
Banks and miners led the index higher, with Barclays advancing 9.95 to 181.95p, Antofagasta climbing 57p to £10.96 and Xstrata finishing 55.7 higher at 951½p. Helping the latter was HSBC upping its stance on the miner to “overweight”.
There were only nine equities in the red, with Marks & Spencer giving up some of Thursday’s gains, easing 2 to 330.6p. Ahead of its trading update next week, ARM Holdings slipped ½ to 567½p as analysts at Peel Hunt asked whether the microchip designer’s share price had hit a ceiling. Discussing the fact that this week the market had been preoccupied with Apple’s disappointing Q3 results rather than ARM’s release of a new processor that can increase smartphone battery life, the broker said: “This preference for bad news suggests 600p may now represent a ceiling for the shares.”
Among the second-liners, traders stocked up on Ocado, which gained 4.05 to 88.8p, after Bank of America-Merrill Lynch turned bullish on the online grocery retailer. Ocado has been under pressure since telling the market in September that sales growth had slowed during the third quarter, although it stressed this was down to capacity constraints rather than falling demand.
Merrill analyst Andrew Gwynn said he had made a trip to Ocado’s distribution centre and was more confident the trading slowdown was due to real supply bottlenecks and the business was remedying those. He said the blueprint for Ocado’s planned second distribution centre will be “slicker and cheaper”, at about half the cost of the first centre but double the capacity.
After revealing that revenue in the nine months to September was up 9pc, publisher Quarto advanced 5 to 130p. It said UK trading had been helped by sales of The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, a book about the World War Two codebreakers.