Economic news and J Sainsbury in the spotlight

MANUFACTURING and construction data due out this week may provide welcome news for the British economy.

Office for National Statistics output data for April, due tomorrow, are expected to show the decline in activity is slowing down.

Howard Archer, of IHS Global Insight, said: “We expect manufacturing output to have been unchanged month-on-month in April, which would cause the year-on-year decline to moderate to 0.3 per cent from 1.4 per cent in March.”

Meanwhile, the headline unemployment rate for the three months to April – due on Wednesday – is predicted to remain flat.

Blerina Uruci, of Barclays, said: “We expect the April ILO unemployment rate to be unchanged at 7.8 per cent, consistent with a challenging labour market. We forecast average earnings growth to remain subdued with the total weekly pay falling by -0.2 per cent 3m/y and core (ex-bonus) earnings rising by only 0.7 per cent 3m/y.”

In the corporate sector, all eyes will be on J Sainsbury, which is due to report on Wednesday on its first quarter to 8 June.

Tesco last week reported a one per cent drop in like-for-like sales in the UK. Economists forecast Sainsbury’s will have enjoyed only moderate like-for-like sales growth – partly because the first quarter of last year included the Queen’s Jubilee, warmer weather and an extra bank holiday.

The corporate calendar begins today with full-year figures from Latchways.

Tomorrow Carclo, CML Microsystems, Eckoh, Park Group, Oxford Instruments, Vianet Group and Workspace will give final results while Gooch & Housego and IG Group will also update the market.

On Wednesday Creston and Hyder Consulting are due to give yearly figures, while Asos, J Sainsbury, Sopheon and WPP will give trading updates.

Thursday’s full-year results will be from Consort Medical, Halma, Mulberry Norcros, Wincanton and WS Atkins with interim results from Caretech Holdings.

Home Retail Group, owner of Argos and Homebase, will update the market, along with PZ Cussons and WH Smith.

It will be the final presentation of figures for WH Smith chief executive Kate Swann, who will step down at the end of the month. Steve Clarke, who is currently head of the firm’s high street business, is set to take charge.