Updates from Co-op Group and M&S

A 44.92-point lift for the FTSE 100 yesterday finishing at 6,635.6. ARM Holdings saw the biggest rise, up 4.52% to 1029p while Barratt Developments also climbed strongly, up 3.86% to 395.90p. Miners though were struck down with Randgold Resources down -2.73% and Antofagasta falling 2.58%.

Meanwhile across the pond, the Dow Jones was up 1.11% to 16,437.1 helped by some strong corporate profits news. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
We commence with the news of last night's quitting of the Co-op board by Lord Myners. The Co-op had already been rocked by the resignation of CEO Euan Sutherland in March; the latest departure indicates severe unhappiness with the plans and progress of Myners' reforms.

The former City minister had already described Co-op governance as "shocking". Specifically, Myners wanted to overhaul the Group's board with a two tier governance set-up plus supplying a 100-strong council which would be more accountable, he claimed.

Myners had previously warned he could quit if his changes were rejected. Currently the Co-op is facing down losses of close to £2bn; it releases full numbers tomorrow, likely to show new losses.

Next, a trading statement update from high street bellwether M&S for the 13 weeks to 29 March. Although group sales climb 1.9%, overall non-food sales - down 0.6% - fall again, for the eleventh consecutive quarter. Food on a like-for-like basis food climbs just 0.1%.

Chief exec Marc Bolland says though General Merchandise section saw a lift. Clothes sales rise 1.3%, up 0.6% on a like-for-like basis. "We are encouraged by Womenswear, which is showing clear signs of improvement and performed ahead of Clothing," he said.

But failure to turn consecutive quarterly sales declines in non food - its major division - around says chief market strategist Joshua Raymond from City Index, "will heap pressure from shareholders on a change of thinking and personnel at board level."

We end with an interim from WH Smith for the six months up to 28 February. Group profit before tax climbs 3% to £69m while earnings per share climb 15% to 46.3p. Travel trading profit was up 3% to £30m while high street trading profit climbed 2% to £49m.

However group total sales are down 4% with like-for-like sales overall down 4%; the group margin however by 190 basis points. The company says it has made good progress in Travel with 150 units won.

Chief exec Stephen Clarke appears upbeat: "The Group has delivered another strong performance, with profit growth in Travel and High Street, demonstrating the continuing success of our strategy." The interim dividend climbs 15% to 10.8p.

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