LONDON -- Despite jitters from rising Spanish debt costs, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) remained positive this morning, putting on 52 points (nearly 1%) to reach 5,678 points before midday. It seems to have stabilized since the recent eurozone agreement to help out the banks, but we're still a long way from the end of the current uncertainty.
As always, the prices of individual constituents of the FTSE indexes were more geared toward actual news than general sentiment. Here's a quick look at three of today's early risers.
ASOS (ISE: ASC.L) Shares in ASOS gained a healthy 10% to 1,804 pence after the online fashion retailer gave us an upbeat quarterly trading update. For the three months to June 30, total retail sales grew by 31%. That was mostly as a result of further penetration into overseas markets, as U.S. sales led the way with a 31% rise. But even in the U.K., which is pretty much a mature market, sales were up 8%.
The ASOS price got ahead of itself last year when the shares came close to 25 pounds before crashing to half that value. The current valuation still looks high, with a prospective price-to-earnings ratio of 37 for next year, but that falls to 28 for 2014, when there's a maiden dividend forecast. This latest bull run could well be sustainable.
Marks & Spencer (ISE: MKS.L) High-street fashion rival Marks & Spencer rose a modest 1.6% to 326 pence upon releasing its first-quarter statement, despite the update's disappointing numbers. Overall U.K. nonfood sales fell by 5%, with the like-for-like figure showing a 6.8% fall.
At the same time, the firm announced the departure of Kate Bostock, head of nonfood operations, who will step down in October. Some shake-up appears needed, as M&S's planned turnaround does not appear to be going too well, and despite strong growth early in the year, the share price has slumped back.
Smiths News (ISE: NWS.L)
Smiths News climbed 6% to 99.5 pence after releasing a positive interim management statement. Smiths, the U.K.'s largest newspaper and magazine distributor, acquired educational distributor The Consortium in April as part of a diversification strategy, and it appears to be paying off.
We were told that the group "remains on track to deliver strong growth in profits for the year ended 31 August 2012" and that earnings should be at the top of current forecasts.
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