Festive updates boost retail stocks

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Halfords and Argos won the backing of investors today after the pair posted strong Christmas updates.

The latest round of festive bulletins provided mostly positive news, with Argos’s parent Home Retail Group delivering the additional boost of an upgrade to the city’s profit forecasts.

Halfords set the pace in the FTSE 250 after the retailer reported a 5.2 per cent rise in like-for-like sales, driven by significant growth in its bicycle department.

Shares responded with a gain of seven per cent, up 30.8p to 492.7p.

Home Retail Group was also four per cent higher, up 7.3p to 207.9p, after Argos’s like-for-like sales rose 3.8 per cent and its Homebase DIY chain improved by 4.7 per cent. It now expects profits to be towards the top end of the current range of market expectations of £90m to £109m.

Dixons Retail Group, which owns PC World and Currys, saw like-for-like sales rise five per cent in the UK and Ireland, but with margins slightly lower shares fell 1.4p to 48.9p.

Chief executive Sebastian James said it had been a “lively Christmas with plenty of ups and downs”.