Retailers’ woes in focus after a festive slump - London week ahead

RETAILERS’ woes will be centre stage this week as J Sainsbury, Tesco, WM Morrison and Marks & Spencer update the market after what is expected to have been a relative slump in trading over the festive season.

Tesco’s trading announcement on Thursday will be of particular interest, as new chief executive Dave Lewis will outline his plans to shore up the troubled supermarket’s finances.

Meanwhile investors will be watching closely to see if Marks & Spencer can turn around its struggling clothing business.

The week brings a series of economic releases, including purchasing managers’ index (PMI) surveys for construction and services. The manufacturing PMI hit a three-month low in December, according to figures that were released last week.

Figures for the total trade deficit, out on Friday, are expected to be little changed at £2.1bn in November. The deficit was at a seven-month low of £2bn in October from £2.8bn in September. Lowered oil prices are expected to have helped this figure.

Also out this week are Halifax housing figures for December, which are expected once again to show the market settling after soaring price rises in the first half of last year.

House prices are forecast to have risen 0.3 per cent month-on-month in December following an increase of 0.4 per cent in November and a dip of 0.4 per cent in October.

This Thursday’s monetary policy committee meeting is highly unlikely to alter the Bank rate, and experts are wondering if the change will even take place this year.

Howard Archer, of IHS Global Insight, said: “While deflation does not appear to be a serious risk in the UK, the very real prospect that consumer price inflation will be below one per cent for quite a while in 2015 and the probability that it will be below its two per cent target for some considerable time to come could make the Bank of England increasingly wary about raising interest rates at all in 2015, even if growth holds up.”

The corporate week begins with reports from Robert Walters, J Sainsbury and Caledonia Investments on Wednesday, followed by reports from Hays, Interserve, Wm Morrison, Tesco and Marks & Spencer on Thursday.

On Friday Laird, Restaurant Group, Tarsus Group and XP Power are due to report.