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Times puts in a sterling performance as dailies are lifted

LONDON - The Times put in its best performance since turning tabloid, leading the quality newspaper market in the latest newspaper ABCs as national dailies put in their best overall performance for four months lifted by coverage of the Asian tsunami disaster.

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The Sun registered a 6.36% rise on December to 3,382,509, up by 202,368 copies as rival the Daily Mirror continued to lag in the tabloid field, with a 2.79% monthly rise to 1,748,327 copies. The Daily Star, boosted by Richard Desmond's decision to cut its cover price to 15p, rose 6.37% to 861,825.

Desmond also saw the Daily Express surge 5.62% to 949,238, performing ahead of the Daily Mail, which climbed 3.89% to 2,409,121.

While Associated Newspaper's London Evening Standard did not continue its sharp December fall, it only managed a paltry 0.91% rise to 350,671. It remains to be seen whether it can hold on to its readers after the entrance of its free edition Standard Lite, which distributes 70,000 copies a day, ahead of the opening up of the London market proposed by Ken Livingstone in December.

There was good news for The Times as it registered its third victory in a row over the Daily Telegraph with its highest circulation since going tabloid, up 5.19% to 686,327 with an extra 33,385 copies added.

The performance put it up 4.51% year on year, comparing well with the likes of The Guardian, which is rumoured to want a slice of the Times market in a move to the centre. The Guardian is down 3.42% year-on-year although up 4.7% on December to hit 376,816 for January.

For the Times, the figures put it comfortably ahead of The Daily Telegraph, which added 1.78% to 920,745 with The Independent, up 1.8% to 257,100.

The Financial Times was the only daily newspaper to register a decline, down 1.24% to 422,519.

The Sunday Mirror did rather better than its sister daily, rising 7.51% to 1,652,375, against News International's News of the World's 3.78% rise to 3,823,317. It just outperformed The People, which climbed 7.44% to 1,001,389 copies.

The Daily Star Sunday fell 11.87% to 459,933, its worst copy total during the last six months.

The Sunday Express gave Desmond less trouble with its 5.06% rise to 976,055, but Associated will be equally, if not more, happy with the Mail on Sunday's 4.76% rise to 2,446,465.

The Barclay Brothers will be worried by The Sunday Telegraph, which rose only 0.68% to 692,107, while The Sunday Times grew 5.45% to 1,375,982 copies.

The Observer was up 2.97% to 446,818 providing more encouragement for Guardian Newspapers, while the Independent on Sunday could only manage a 1.06% rise to 206,527.

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