* FTSE 100 up 0.9 pct at close
* Morrisons soars after results
* Next is worst FTSE 100 performer
(Recasts, adds detail and quote, updates prices)
By Adela Suliman and Atul Prakash
LONDON, Sept 15 Britain's top equity index rose
on Thursday, led higher by a jump in Morrisons after a
rise in its first-half profit for the first time in four years,
but Next slumped following poor results.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed slightly higher
for the second session in a row, up 0.9 percent at 6,730.30
points though still near a one-month low after a shaky start to
Supermarket operator Morrisons was the top performer, rising
7.5 percent and touching its highest level since March 2015
after reporting a rise in first-half profit for the first time
in four years and a third straight quarter of underlying sales
Nicholas Hyett, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the
firm was not completely out of the woods.
"Lower sterling will increase the costs of imported foods,
and how far the supermarket is able to pass that increase on to
customers remains to be seen," he said.
Sector rivals Tesco and Sainsbury were
also among the top performers, up 4.9 percent and 2.1 percent
British clothing retailer Next dropped nearly 5
percent after it reported a 1.5 percent fall in first-half
profit and said trading since July had been challenging and
Next's results also put pressure on peer Marks & Spencer
, which fell 2.6 percent.
"Even though Next is less prone to the difficulties
currently facing the high-end retailers, there are a number of
struggles ... which the company is confronting with varying
degrees of success," said Richard Hunter, head of research at
Wilson King Investment Management.
"The retail business has seen a slump in operating profit,
the group overall has suffered due to the increase in markdown
sales and the outlook is notably cautious. The wider
implications of Brexit, such as higher import costs, have yet to
wash through, whilst competition in the sector remains intense."
Official figures showed that British retail sales softened
only slightly in August after a bumper July, suggesting June's
vote to leave the EU has had little initial impact on shoppers'
willingness to spend.
The FTSE 100 was steady after the Bank of England said it
was likely to cut interest rates later this year to just above
zero, despite resilient data and economists expecting Britain to
dodge a mild recession after Britain's June referendum.
Coca-Cola HBC rallied, its shares hitting their
highest level since January 2014 on an upgrade from Credit
Suisse to "outperform" from "neutral".
Credit Suisse raised Coca-Cola HBC's target price, stating
better prospects in its main markets in Russia and Nigeria.
"CCH is our preferred European bottler given its more
attractive topline and EBIT growth potential, better ROIC
momentum and scope for balance sheet action over the next 12m,"
analysts at Credit Suisse said in a note.
Outside of the large caps, specialist annuities provider JRP
Group was up more than 18 percent. It posted a 12
percent rise in operating profit on a pro-forma basis in the
first half, boosted by the integration of a former rival.
(Editing by Andrew Roche)