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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 09:32 GMT
Christmas surge buoys Morrisons
Morrisons store
The Safeway takeover weighed on Morrisons finances
A record sales surge in the week before Christmas brought relief to supermarket group Morrisons after "muted" demand earlier in December.

The chain, which late last year celebrated a return to profit as part of its recovery, saw sales up 6.3% on a year ago in the six weeks to 7 January.

It also said it that the number of products it had been forced to throw away or reduce in price was 20% lower.

Shares rose 5% on the news, despite a warning trading would remain tough.

The latest TNS Worldpanel data shows that Morrisons is the fourth-biggest UK supermarket, with an 11.3% market share, behind Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.

Including fuel, like-for-like sales - which strip out the impact of new stores - were up 6% in the period. Morrisons said the results were "slightly above" expectations.

The Bradford-based group took over Safeway in 2004 - the integration of which had pushed it into the red.

Head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, Richard Hunter said that "painful" integration was "slowly becoming a distant memory".

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