FTSE pushes up despite retail sector woes

A raft of corporate results today has the potential to move the FTSE in either direction, but it is picking an upward path this morning.
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Mixed UK economic data has clouded the picture further. The <strong>GfK consumer confidence index</strong> has stalled at February's low level on households' concerns over their finances. <br />
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Nationwide, however, said <strong>house prices</strong> rose by 0.5 per cent in March and 0.7 per cent in February, contradicting economists' forecasts for a continued fall. <br />
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Miner <strong>Vedanta Resources</strong> is high on the risers board again, up 2.3 per cent as it moves closer to its acquisition of Indian oil and gas operator <strong>Cairn India</strong>. <br />
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<strong>Royal Dutch Shell</strong> has also gained more than one per cent after announcing it has been awarded a permit to drill in the Gulf of Mexico. <br />
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<strong>BHP Billiton</strong> and engineers <strong>Amec</strong> and<strong> IMI</strong> have been boosted in sympathy. <br />
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<strong>TUI Travel</strong> is 1.7 per cent higher after saying its trading in the past six months has been "satisfactory".
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But baby retailer <strong>Mothercare</strong> has added to the retail sector's woes, losing 10.6 per cent in early trading as its fourth-quarter sales fell 2.4 per cent and it said profits were under pressure. <br />
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On the FTSE 100, fashion retailer<strong> Next</strong> and <strong>Kingfisher</strong>, Europe's biggest home improvement group, have each fallen 1.1 per cent.<br />
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<strong>Vodafone</strong> is also down for a second day after saying it is to pay $5bn (&pound;3.1bn) to buy out its Indian joint venture partner <strong>Essar Group</strong>. <br />
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<strong>London Stock Exchange</strong> and interdealer broker <strong>Icap</strong> have both provided bullish trading updates. <br />
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But amid growing unease over the impact of Middle East unrest on the market, Omani company<strong> Renaissance</strong> has pulled the London flotation of $1bn (&pound;620m) oilfield services operator <strong>Topaz Energy</strong>. <br />
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Markets may also be wary ahead of the results from Ireland's latest bank stress tests this afternoon, which are expected to show the banks needing huge recapitalisation.
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