Updates from Thorntons, Greene King and Kier

John Laing to float on LSE meanwhile there's a 6.4% sales slump for Thorntons

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savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100 thorntons, Kier, Greene KingFriday saw the FTSE 100 climb 51.4 points to 6,550.2. Oil and mining shares climbed steeply with BP up more than 5.2% to 413.3p; Glencore saw a 4.9% climb to 252.5p. Going the other direction were easyJet shares, down 2.7% to 1600p. Primark owner ABF shares also disappointed, down 1.7% to 3093p.

Across the water, the Dow Jones surged 190 points - an end to five days of straight losses - to 17,511.5 helped by oil prices cresting $50 per barrel. The big question for markets this week is QE - will ECB pull the trigger?

New Greene King numbers are first up this morning. Retail like-for-like sales were up 2.0% over Christmas & the New Year - Christmas Day sales hit a record -and 0.6% year-to-date says the pubs player.

Retail like-for-like sales were in line with last year in the last six weeks despite tough comparatives claims Greene King. Pub Partners like-for-like net income climbed 2.8%; Brewing & Brands own-brewed volume (OBV) growth surged 5.2%.

"Sales were encouraging," says boss Rooney Anand, "in our retail business over the important two weeks covering Christmas and the New Year, despite a very tough comparative from last year and softer trading in Scotland."

Next, chocolatier Thorntons claims a 6.4% slump in sales for the 14 weeks to 10 January. FMCG divisional sales slumped 10.3% to £41.9m.

Like-for-like sales on retail sales increased 5.0% and consumer direct sales were up 13%. However Thorntons shares plunged more than a third just before Christmas following a profits warning.

Orders from major retailers were partly to blame, plus warehouse glitches. Its stock slipped to 77p following the pre-Xmas profits worry; currently its share price is 79p. Thorntons shares, in contrast, were worth more than 165p last spring.

Lastly, construction operator Kier says it has been awarded more than £145m of new construction contract awards in the Middle East since the start of the calendar year.

Kier has been named preferred bidder for a £100m mixed-use development in Dubai and two infrastructure contracts totalling £15m on a major new leisure park project.

"These awards further emphasise our continuing strong order book," said boss Haydn Mursell. Kier was recently named as a preferred bidder for the £1bn Thames Water infrastructure alliance, along with Clancy Docwra.

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