Retailers rouse Britain's FTSE to fifth day of gains

Tue Feb 11, 2014 10:26am EST

* FTSE 100 up 0.8 pct, rises for 5th straight session

* Retail stocks buoyed by strong UK retail sales

* Barclays falls after posting lower profits

* FTSE could hit 6,900 over coming month

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Britain's top equity index rose for a fifth straight session on Tuesday, boosted by retailers which were up strongly on more evidence that the UK's economic recovery is slowly gathering momentum.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up by around 0.8 percent, or 51.28 points, at 6,642.83 points in late-session trading, marking the index's fifth straight day of gains.

The FTSE 100 rose 14.4 percent in 2013 to post its best annual gain since 2009, but the index has declined 1.6 percent since the start of 2014 as global equity markets fell on political and economic concerns in emerging markets.

IPR Capital director Steven Mayne said he would initially look to see if the FTSE could get beyond late January's peak level of around 6,867 points before deciding to take a more bullish view on the stock market.

Adrian Slack, technical strategist at London-based firm APS Alpha, was more confident and expected the FTSE to reach the 6,900 points level in the coming month.

"I'm expecting further upside. We should push onwards and upwards," said Slack.

Retailers dominated the FTSE's leaderboard of top-performing stocks, after a monthly industry survey showed British retail sales rebounded after a weak December to record their strongest annual growth since April 2011.

Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, described the UK retail sales figures as superb.

Sportswear retailer Sports Direct rose 3.2 percent, clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer gained 2.3 percent while home improvements company Kingfisher was up by 2.8 percent.

In contrast, British bank Barclays, down 4.1 percent, was the FTSE's biggest faller in percentage terms after posting a drop in profits. Traders also said Barclays' management had a hard time trying to convince analysts on a conference call about its cost-cutting and restructuring plans.

APS Alpha's Slack said he would use any pullback in the market to buy up equity positions, given his expectations the FTSE 100 could hit a record level of 7,000 points during the second quarter of this year.

"We're still looking to buy on the dip," he said.