Thursday, 20 April: The FTSE 100 closed out the day flat(+0.06%) as trade was muted in a light day for market-moving news. The index remains 4.19% down over the past thirty days, but only -0.34% down year-to-date. The FTSE 250 saw more volatility with some large stock price moves, but closed only -0.20% lower intraday. The secondary index remains 1.19% higher over thirty days, but a notable 7.20% higher year-to-date.

Debenhams(-3.62%) announced interim results today with a headline grabbing store closure announcement amidst profit falls. The FTSE 250 department store launched its ‘Debenhams Redesigned’ strategy to drive growth through a digitally driven and ‘social shopping’ strategy. Debenhams have ramped up annual capital expenditure to £150m between financial years 2018-2020 in order to facilitate this shift, compared to current annual capex of £130m. A ‘Fix the Basics’ plan was already underway, seeking to: review ten UK stores for closure, switch 2000 staff to customer facing roles, and exit certain brands & non-core international markets. Pretax profit for the interim period fell 6.4% to £87.8m year-on-year as management said that the decreases were in line with market expectations. Investors reacted sceptically to these turnaround initiatives as they sold the stock, opting to wait it out and see if ‘the proof is in the pudding’.

In more bullish news for the high street, stalwart Marks & Spencer announced it will be opening 36 new stores in the next six months as it shifts the business focus away from its legacy in clothing, and into its more popular food vertical. This move will create 1,400 new jobs.

MAN Group(+3.90%) was one of the largest gainers in London today as the hedge fund manager released its Q1 trading statement. Strong fund inflows, positive investment performance and weakening of the dollar led to a sharp 10% rise in funds under management(FuM). Major contributors were net inflows totalling $3.0bn, positive investment performance adding $2.2bn in the quarter, and positive exchange rate movements with a further $0.8bn to FuM. The $25.0m acquisition of UK-based Aalto Invest also completed in Q1 bringing with it $1.80bn of assets, taking total FuM to $88.7bn at March 31, from $80.90bn at 31 December.

At the close, European indices were up with the FTSE 100 +0.06%, the DAX 30 +0.09% and the CAC 40 +1.48%.

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