Markets: Live

Public debt warning | Primark | Whitbread | Hornby


Jeremy Hunt

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has warned that the Government “cannot borrow forever” as net public sector borrowing was £21.5 billion, the second-highest for March since 1993.

The figure reflects the cost of supporting households through the energy crisis.

The figure brings annual public sector borrowing to £139.2bn, which is 5.5% of GDP. That figure was £13.2bn below the Office of Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecasts for the year.

During the month, the Government received £81bn in taxes and other income, up 2% year-on-year, while it spent £104.7bn, up 16.8%. Much of the increase was due to energy bill support.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “These numbers reflect the inevitable consequences of borrowing eye-watering sums to help families and businesses through a pandemic and Putin’s energy crisis.

“We were right to do so because we have managed to keep unemployment at a near-record low and provided the average family more than £3,000 in cost of living support this year and last.

“We stepped up to support the British economy in the face of two global shocks, but we cannot borrow forever. We now have a clear plan to get debt falling which will reduce the financial pressure we pass onto our children and grandchildren.”


4.30pm: Markets lower

London’s equity market closed lower as investors awaited earnings reports from tech giants Microsoft and Alphabet, while new data showed Britain’s debt mounting.

The FTSE 100 was down 21.07 points at 7,891.13.

7am: Primark spikes

Primark has seen sales jump 15% in the first six months to early March as shoppers returned to high streets.

Parent group Associated British Foods reported a 3% fall in first-half profit and kept its guidance for a flat outcome in the full year, staying cautious about the resilience of consumer spending.

7am: Whitbread revival

Premier Inn owner Whitbread posted annual profit above pre-pandemic levels, buoyed by a strong revival in demand for accommodation and leisure travel.

The company, which also owns steakhouses Beefeater and Bar+Block, reported adjusted profit before tax of £413 million for the 52-week period ended 2 March, against a loss of £15.8m a year earlier.

7am: Hornby derailed

Model maker Hornby signalled that it expects to swing to a loss for the year. That compares to the £1.4 million profit after tax last year.

“We expect to report a modest underlying loss before tax this year on account of increased overheads (in an inflationary environment) and as a result of lower than anticipated sales versus budgets,” it said.

However, it is encouraged by stronger trading in the first months of 2023.

Global markets

Sterling was quoted at $1.2478 early Tuesday, higher than $1.2457 at the London equities close on Monday. Eyes will be on the dollar in the coming days, with a US gross domestic product reading due at the end of the week.

Oil prices were steady as investors weighed strong holiday travel in China that could boost fuel demand against the prospect of rising interest rates elsewhere, slowing economic growth.

Brent crude rose 4 cents to $82.77 a barrel at 0345 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 6 cents to $78.82 a barrel.

Wall Street ended largely higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ending up 0.2%, the S&P 500 up 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite down 0.3%.

In Tokyo the Nikkei 225 index was up 0.1%. In China, the Shanghai Composite was down 1.2%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was down 2.1%.

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