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Retail sales fall | Wickes up | United Utilities higher

Prince St retail shopping


10pm: Financials higher

The S&P 500 ended higher as financial shares rose after the benchmark Treasury yield jumped to its highest level in nearly three years.

The Nasdaq ended lower, and tech and other big growth names mostly declined, but they finished off session lows following a late-session rally.

For the week, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 registered solid gains of 2% and 1.8%, respectively, and the Dow Jones was nominally higher with a 0.3% rise.

5pm: London subdued on weaker oil firms

European shares made only modest gains amid the absence of any major corporate or economic news. Real estate and miners were in fashion on the UK market.

The FTSE 100 closed 15.97 points higher at 7,483.35 while Brent oil was quoted at $120.08 a barrel at the London equities close Friday, up from $118.85 late Thursday.

Housebuilders suffered from downbeat UK consumer confidence data, including a fall in retail sales. Persimmon shares fell 4.4%, Taylor Wimpey declined 3.6% and Berkeley Group was 3.1% lower.

Shares in AIM-quoted Beeks Financial Cloud were up 0.50p (0.30%) at 163.5p after hitting 172.5p earlier in the session following the Glasgow company’s latest contract win.

7am: Retail sales fall

UK retail sales fell unexpectedly by 0.3% in February as online sales growth slowed and there was a slump in alcohol and tobacco store sales, probably due to more customers visiting pubs and restaurants, the Office for National Statistics said.

Online sales volumes fell by 4.8% over the month following strong growth in December and January.

The sales fall in February defied a poll of economists by Reuters which had forecast a 0.6% rise. The fall followed a 1.9% rise in January.

7am: Wickes

DIY retailer Wickes said it expects to benefit from recent government help for householders fitting energy saving products.

David Wood, chief executive, said the company’s strategy is delivering strong growth and return on investment.

“The results we are seeing, plus these strong returns, give us confidence to accelerate our investments to drive further growth.

“Looking ahead, we expect to continue outperforming the market and are well-placed to capitalise on the ongoing requirement for home improvement – namely an ageing housing stock, favourable consumer trends, and the increased focus on insulating and retrofitting homes.

“While we recognise the pressure that consumers will be facing in 2022, we have the right model, a strong pipeline and order book, and remain confident of making further progress in the current year.”

Like-for-like sales for the 53 weeks to 1 January were up 13% on 2020 and 18.6% on 2019. Adjusted profit before tax increased to £85.0m (2020 £49.5m).

The company proposes a final dividend of 8.8p, a total of 10.9p for the full financial year representing 40% of adjusted profit after tax.

7am: United Utilities

United Utilities said group revenue is expected to be higher than last year, largely reflecting higher consumption from business customers. Overall, the net increase in revenue is expected to be around 3%. 

Underlying operating profit for 2021/22 is expected to be broadly the same as in 2020/21 as higher revenue is broadly offset by higher underlying operating costs, largely as a result of inflationary increases in our core costs.

Global markets

London’s blue chip index was expected to open lower as the Ukraine conflict weighs on investor sentiment.

US President Joe Biden raised the stakes with Russia by warning that NATO “would respond” if the country used chemical weapons against Ukraine. He is visiting Poland today.

On Wall Street the three main US stock indexes each rallied more than 1%, as investors snapped up beaten-down shares of chipmakers and big growth names and supported by a fall in oil prices as the United States and allies considered releasing more oil from storage to cool markets.

Brent crude fell 0.21% to $118.78 per barrel and US crude down 0.3% to $112 a barrel, but prices were still very high by historic standards.

Asian shares were dragged down by declines in Chinese tech stocks, while elsewhere trading was choppy amid hawkish US monetary policy, shifts in Chinese economic policy, and ongoing ructions in commodity markets amid the war in Ukraine.

Japan’s Nikkei was little changed, having closed the previous day at a nine-week high, while the Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 2.5%.

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