IT is time for north face coats outlet beleaguered Marks & Spencer boss Luc Vandevelde to put his tin hat back on. More flak will fly when he delivers what is expected to be dismal first- quarter trading news ahead of Wednesday's annual meeting. Analysts anticipate woeful clothing sales. The early days of the summer sale seem to have gone well, though that may be due to heavy discounting.
Clothing, footwear and gifts, down 6.5% in the quarter to March, have worsened although food sales have been strong, according to sources near the cash tills.
Merrill Lynch analyst north face coat outlet Nick Hawkins draws comfort after previewing autumn ranges. But he still doubts the current management - who will face a hostile reception from shareholders after bumper board pay despite slumping profits - can deliver a sustained recovery. Support for the shares has waned since touching 277p but they managed a 1 1/2p rise at 254p.
It was Marconi's profit warning and the way it was mishandled that gripped the market, almost oblivious to the decisions by the Bank of England and the European Central Bank to leave interest rates unchanged.
Down 132 1/2p to 112 1/2p at the finish, Marconi acted like a lead weight in its sector, dragging down Spirent, its close UK rival, 19p at 183p, CMG 26 1/2p at 261p, Energis 13 1/2p at 170p, and Colt Telecom 44 1/2p at 416 1/2p. The Footsie finished 50.9 lower at 5549.6. The backlash was felt in the US as falls in telecom and networking groups such as Cisco and Juniper wiped 102 points off the Dow Jones index at one stage.
Here, Compass Software, which designs systems to help retailers manage stock, plunged from 157p to 105p - to the bewilderment of finance director Simon Duckworth. 'I have no idea what is going on,' he said.
An announcement several hours later, confirming trading was in line with expectations, lifted the price back to 125p. It appears an early trade of just 2,500 shares in cheap north face jackets for women the tightly held stock gave the market the wobbles.
Reed Health, which supplies temporary nurses and other healthcare workers to the NHS, made a healthy debut following its demerger from Reed Executive. Opening at 96.5p, they closed at 116 1/2p.
Outsourcing and engineering services group Parkman, floated at 125p, finished its first day at 148 1/2p.
Discount store chain TJ Hughes has been in the wars, discovering overvalued stock, losing its finance director, and suffering a failed management buyout attempt. Now it is heading for a first-half loss. It fell 25 1/2p to 126p. 'All in all a pretty disastrous performance,' said Richard Ratner at Seymour Pierce, slashing his full-year forecast by £2.5m to £4m.
The advertising slowdown caught up with marketing group Aegis, which warned revenue growth in the first five months was significantly down on last time. The shares fell 21p to 87p, bringing down Cordiant, 7 1/2p off at 181 1/2p, and Martin Sorrell's WPP, which fell 33 1/2p at 665p.
Bear raiders who sniffed signs of a slowdown at Irish intellectual property solutions group Parthus Technologies were left licking their wounds after the company said second-quarter results were on track. The shares jumped 8 1/2p at 50p. Bob Holt's support services group Mears fell a further 9 1/2p at 64 1/2p, off more than 30p this week. The company can offer no explanation. But Mitie, one of the leaders, also fell 2 1/2p at 136p, close to a year's low. There is talk of pressure on margins throughout the sector.
Worries over the US building industry left plumbers' merchants Wolseley 6p off at 540p. There are rumours it may issue a trading update before annual results due September.