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Food inflation soars | Mulberry slumps | optimism dips

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7pm: Abrdn makes FTSE 100 cut

Scottish investment firm Abrdn defied earlier expectations that it would miss out on a return to the FTSE 100 by sneaking back in after a resurgent share price in recent weeks.

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4.30pm: Data at London close

>The FTSE 100 closed 75.51 points higher at 7,587.51.

>EU inflation falls to 10% in November, below forecast

>US GDP revised upwards, jobs growth slows

>Wall Street markets down ahead of Powell speech

11.45am: HSBC closes more branches

HSBC is closing a further 114 branches across the UK – about a quarter of its current portfolio – from April next year.

The bank said it is investing in updating and improving its remaining branch network, which will fall to 327. It has one branch in Edinburgh.

Jackie Uhi, managing director of UK distribution, said: “People are changing the way they bank and footfall in many branches is at an all-time low, with no signs of it returning. 

“Banking remotely is becoming the norm for the vast majority of us.”

10.30am: Jane Davidson to close

Jane Davidson, the Edinburgh-based women’s fashion boutique, is to cease trading next month more than 53 years after it opened for business and just weeks after picking up a couple of industry awards. 

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10.15am: Abrdn poised to miss cut

Asset manager Abrdn is poised to miss out on promotion to the FTSE 100 shares index after falling short of the required threshold.

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Food inflation rockets

Rocketing food prices contributed to a record rise in shopping bills in November.

Food inflation soared to an annual high of 12.4% with overall shop price inflation rising to 7.4%, from 6.6% in October. Non-food inflation was 4.8%, against 4.1% in October.

Fresh Food inflation was up 14.3%, from 13.3% in October. This is above the 3-month average rate of 13.1%. This is the highest inflation rate in the fresh food category on record.

According to the latest BRC-NielsenIQ Shop Price Index the cost of coffee, sports and recreation equipment saw particularly big increases.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Winter looks increasingly bleak as pressures on prices continue unabated. Food prices have continued to soar, especially for meat, eggs and dairy, which have been hit by rocketing energy costs, and rising costs of animal feed and transport.

“While there are signs that cost pressures, and price rises, might start to ease in 2023, Christmas cheer will be dampened this year as households cut back on seasonal spending in order to prioritise the essentials.”

8.15am: Mulberry

Shares in the luxury fashion group plunged 65p (22.81%) to 220p after it fell to an underlying loss before tax of £2.8m for the half year to 1 October (2021: profit before tax of £4.5m).

The company said the loss reflects additional investments, including shop openings in Asia where trading was stronger than in the UK. It insisted it was “well-placed for the festive season”.

Group revenue dipped 1% to £64.9m (2021: £65.7m).

A 6% rise in sales in China – despite COVID-19 restrictions – contributed to a 1% increase in Asia Pacific retail sales to £11.9m (2021: £11.8m). This helped offset a 10% decline in UK retail sales to £34.1m (2021: £38.0m) which were impacted by the broader economic environment.

International retail sales remained in line with the same period last year at £17.5m (2021: £17.6m).

Ithaca Energy

North Sea focused explorer and production companay Ithaca Energy reported adjusted EBITDAX of $1.44bn in the first nine months of the year, up from $531m year-on-year.

In its first results since its IPO, the board said the introduction of the energy profits levy, enacted on 11 July, resulted in an exceptional material non-cash deferred tax charge in the three months ended 30 September of $189m.

On the operational front, Ithaca said it achieved production of 68,200 barrels of oil equivalent per day at 65% liquids, and averaged production of 71,300 barrels per day in the third quarter.

Business optimism wanes

Business optimism across the UK service sector continued to slide over the last three months, according to the latest CBI Service Sector Survey. It said optimism deteriorated for the third consecutive quarter across the sector in the three months to November.

Cost pressures are expected to remain elevated across the entire sector in the next quarter.

Global markets

Brent oil was trading at $84.85 a barrel early today, down a touch from $85.06 late Tuesday.

Wall Street stocks closed mostly lower as uncertainty over China’s Covid plans and declining consumer confidence weighed on sentiment.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.01%, while the S&P 500 lost 0.16% and the Nasdaq Composite closed 0.59% weaker.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index was down 0.2%. In China, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.4%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was up 0.3%. 

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