When times are hard it’s easy to impress

SHAREHOLDERS may have been handed a carrot today in the form of a reinstated dividend, but long-term a return to the stick is looking more and more likely.

Argos has been underperforming for Home Retail Group since Christmas 2008, and unless Terry Duddy really throws his weight behind it that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

But with retail gloom showing no discrimination when it comes to its target any improvement in fortune, however small, is likely to get a thumbs up from investors.

In January this year, for example, the company added £173m to its value in one day of trading despite losing £30m over Christmas.

Trading in line with expectations doesn’t sound like much when forecasts have you down 13 per cent. But shares in the group still jumped more than four per cent today, despite brokers continuing to back away from the stock with haste.

Sometimes least worst might just be enough.