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Next's special dividend cheers 30 year old FTSE

Next's special dividend cheers 30 year old FTSE

Shares in Next (NXT.L) shot higher in otherwise subdued trading on the FTSE 100 as the high street retailer reported bumper Christmas sales and a special dividend.

The 9% rise in Next shares to £60.60 came after the group reported an 11.9% rise in Christmas sales, upped its profit forecast and announced a special dividend of 50p per share.

Analysts at Cantor upgraded the stock to a ‘buy’ rating. ‘The stock, in our view, is well supported by its superior returns, prospects and the strength of its on-line business when one considers the valuation the market puts on pure play retailers’, commented analyst Freddie George.

Overall though Britain's FTSE 100 was little moved on its thirtieth birthday and the second day of trading of the New Year.

A 0.1% rise to 6,724 at least reverses some of yesterday's loss of nearly 0.5% on the UK's blue chip index. Last year, the FTSE managed a gain of 14%, and while market commentators expect shares to grind higher in 2014, they don't expect those gains to be matched.

There is little economic data due today, and no major company announcements, while many market participants remain on holiday.

There was however more disappointing economic data from China, with the country’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the non-manufacturing sector showing a drop to a four-month low of 54.6 in December from 56 in November. That follows the decline shown in an equivalent report published yesterday on China's manufacturing sector.

US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is due to speak at the American Economic Association annual meeting, but he is unlikely to provide any market moving statements ahead of his departure from the Bank at the end of the month.

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