Bank inflation report due as City heads for holiday season

With the streets of the City emptying as weary workers head for sunnier climes, the torrent of company results slows to a trickle this week, but the markets will be scrutinising the Bank of England&rsquo;s quarterly inflation report.<br /><br />The Bank, which releases its report on Wednesday, is expected to predict that inflation will stay low for two or three years and will also say that the economy has shrunk by more than chancellor Alistair Darling&rsquo;s estimate of 3.5 per cent.<br /><br />And official unemployment figures, also due on Wednesday, are expected to show a rise in the number of jobless.<br /><br />The world&rsquo;s largest miner, BHP Billiton, which has forged ahead this year as commodity prices recover, is on Wednesday expected to report a hefty fall in annual profits from last year&rsquo;s $23.5bn (&pound;14.1bn).<br /><br />Meanwhile, insurers Friends Provident and Prudential report interim figures this week. All eyes will be on Friends, thought to be on the verge of accepting a takeover bid from Clive Cowdery&rsquo;s acquisition vehicle Resolution.<br /><br />The insurer, which reports tomorrow, will hope for a fillip from Resolution&rsquo;s interest, with its shares hovering at less than a third of its 2001 flotation price of 240p.<br /><br />Prudential, the UK&rsquo;s largest insurer by market value, releases interim figures on Thursday and could hike its dividend ahead of chief executive Mark Tucker&rsquo;s departure in September, bucking the trend set by rivals Aviva and Legal &amp; General last week. <br /><br />The firm is likely to say that falling insurance sales, particularly in Asia, were offset by favourable currency movements.<br /><br />There will be fresh indications of the health of the travel sector, with Intercontinental Hotels reporting tomorrow, followed by third-quarter figures from industry giant TUI Travel the next day and Thomas Cook on Thursday.<br /><br />Stockbroker Collins Stewart updates the markets tomorrow, when it will hope to report an uptick in revenues.<br /><br />Bakery chain Gregg&rsquo;s also reports tomorrow, as does energy provider International Power, which is expecting lower profits despite a series of disposals.<br /><br />Balfour Beatty&rsquo;s figures on Wednesday will be keenly watched as a signal of the health of the construction industry. <br /><br />Tech firms Soco and Psion release their latest figures on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.