Pick of the early market news

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It's a tale of contrasting fortunes for two of the UK's biggest retail names this morning, with Kingfisher releasing a strong set of results while declining sales at Comet dragged owner Keas Electricals down. Media group Centaur also posted finals, coming in ahead of expectations.
Pre-tax profits at Kingfisher rose 24.8% to £438m in the 26 weeks to 30 July. The company's interims, posted this morning, show sales up 3.8% to £5,662m. Earnings per share rose 27.4% to 13.5p and the board is recommending an interim dividend of 2.47p, an increase of 28.3%.

Chief executive Ian Cheshire said: "We have delivered very strong profit growth in what are difficult times for all retailers." The group, which owns the B&Q and Screwfix brands, says it is to expand its network of stores in the UK, creating 1,200 jobs in the process.

Kesa Electricals, which runs the Comet chain in the UK, reports total group revenue down 9.8% in the first quarter. Revenue in the UK was down 25.5%. The statement blames "increasingly challenging market conditions and the strong comparatives from last year".

Specialist business publisher Centaur reports revenue up 14% to £68.3m in its final results. Pre-tax profit rose 63% to £6.5m, earnings per share rose 55% to 3.4p and the board is proposing a full-year dividend of 2p, which will be a rise of 18%.

Digital revenues now account for 26% of the total, with digital advertising revenues up 19%. CEO Geoff Wilmot said: "This is an encouraging set of results. Centaur has acquired momentum and is well placed as a preferred provider of business information and services to our professional and commercial markets of choice."

Big gains by retailer Next and the high street banks helped the FTSE 100 to a strong finish yesterday. The blue-chip index closed up 53 points at 5,277. An easing of fears over the Greek debt also saw Germany's Dax and France's CAC close on an upward trajectory.

In the US, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 140.81 points, a rise of 1.27%. The Greek debt deal helped the US market rally after a rocky start which saw the market plunge 112 points at one stage. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose for only the third time this month, closing up 15.81 points at 1,188.68.

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