* Next hits record highs after strong Xmas sales
* FTSE 100 up 0.4 percent in late session trading
* FTSE to hit 7,000 in Q2 - SVM's McLean
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Jan 3 Strong gains by clothing retailer
Next lifted Britain's top equity index on Friday, with
many traders expecting the market to push on to record highs
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up by 0.4 percent,
or 24.44 points, at 6,742.35 in late session trading.
Next's shares hit record highs after the company raised its
annual profit outlook following strong Christmas sales. The
shares were up 9.6 percent at 60.59 pounds at 1532 GMT, adding
the most points to the FTSE 100.
Next's performance helped to lift rival retailer Marks &
Spencer, which rose 4.4 percent, and eased fears that
the sector may have had weaker-than-expected Christmas sales
after Debenhams issued a profit warning this week.
"We're looking a bit better on the retail front. There were
a few scares after Debenhams but Next seems to have put things
right," said Berkeley Futures associate director Richard
The FTSE 100 rose 14.4 percent in 2013 to mark its best
annual gain since 2009.
Many traders and investors expect more progress this year,
helped by low interest rates and a gradual UK economic recovery,
and see the FTSE breaching 7,000 points, which would mark a
Griffiths said the FTSE could rise 8 percent by June, which
would push it up to around 7,280 points, while SVM Asset
Management managing director Colin McLean also expected the FTSE
to hit 7,000 by the second quarter of this year.
McLean said that, while the stock market rally could be
halted by a slowdown in emerging economies, any temporary fall
would represent a good buying opportunity.
"Any pullback on the market will be brief and shallow.
There's still quite a weight of money coming into the stock
market," he said.