More return to work | Greggs | Boohoo | Vodafone
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A rise in the number of part-time and self-employed workers helped drive up the number of people in work in the first three months of the year.
The employment rate rose to 75.9% between January and March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, up from 75.7% in the previous quarter.
The unemployment rate also rose slightly to 3.9% in the same period. The ONS said this meant the number of those neither working nor looking for work had continued to fall. More men in particular are looking for work.
However, it added that the number of people not working due to long-term sickness rose again to a new record.
Scotland’s unemployment rate remained low at 3.1% in January to March
Vacancies have fallen to the lowest level for 18 months as uncertainty weighs on the economy. The number of openings fell by 55,000 quarter on quarter to 1.08 million in the three months to April, marking the 10th fall in a row.
The data also showed that wage increases are still being outstripped by rising prices. Growth in regular pay, which excludes bonuses, was 6.7% in the first three months of the year.
However, the ONS said that when prices rises are taken into account, regular pay fell by 2%.
Markets close lower
London stock markets closed mixed state as investors juggled fresh economic data from the United States and the latest UK unemployment report.
The FTSE 100 slipped 0.34% to close at 7,751.08, while the FTSE 250 eked out a modest gain of 0.07% to close at 19,272.72.
Sentiment was already dampened at the start of the day, following disappointing economic data out of China.
Vodafone Group (see below) slid a substantial 7.44% after the telecoms giant warned of flat earnings in the coming year, following a decrease in annual profits.
Fast food chain Greggs fell 3.23%, after it forecast strong growth in demand for the year driven by new product lines, with concerns about cost inflation and pressure on customers seeming to dampen investor sentiment.
On the currency front, sterling was in the red, last falling 0.29% on the dollar to trade at $1.2493, and slipping 0.19% against the euro to change hands at €1.1499.
Fast food retailer Greggs said it is on track to meet growth forecasts despite pressure on consumers.
The company said i expects profit to grow by about 10% this year as its value offering plus new products will keep sales rising.
For the 10 weeks to May 13, Greggs said underlying sales climbed 15.7%, a rate it expects to normalise over the year.
The chain operates from 2,300 outlets and said inflation has impacted the company over the last year, but it said there was no change in its cost inflation expectations.
Online fashion retailer Boohoo said annual core earnings halved as shoppers were hit by a cost-of-living crisis and many returned to physical stores post-pandemic.
Sales at Boohoo and rival ASOS surged during Covid-19 when high street rivals were closed by lockdowns.
But supply chain issues, higher product returns, competition from rivals like Shein and accelerating living costs have hit them hard.
Boohoo said today it made adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), its key profit measure, of £63.3m in the year to 28 February.
Mobile giant Vodafone is planning 11,000 job cuts as part of a turnaround plan after its new boss said its performance had been poor.
“Our performance has not been good enough. To consistently deliver, Vodafone must change,” Margherita Della Valle, chief executive, said.
The focus will be on a portfolio of products and geographies that is “right-sized for growth and returns over time.”
The telco plans to maximise the potential of Vodafone Business, which continues to accelerate growth, while it pledged to go back to basics to improve its consumer markets.
Pubs chain Marston’s has posted a smaller first-half loss as resilient customer spending has helped the UK hospitality industry manage pressures from rising costs and continue its recovery from pandemic lows.
“The macro environment is becoming increasingly stable and recent evidence suggests that both the cost outlook, and consumer confidence, are steadily improving,” CEO Andrew Andrea said in a statement.
The pub chain said current trading had been positive, aided by strong sales during the Easter weekend and May bank holidays, with like-for-like sales in the last six weeks up 7.9% from last year.
The company reported an underlying loss before tax of £3.6 million for the half year ended 1 April, compared with a loss of £7.5m last year.
US President Joe Biden will reconvene debt talks Tuesday with senior Republican leaders in a further attempt to avert a US default.
The talks focus on lifting the government’s borrowing cap to pay for existing spending commitments.
Markets responded positively to a view that a deal will be reached. Wall Street closed higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.1%, the S&P 500 0.3% higher and the Nasdaq Composite 0.7% ahead.
Sterling was quoted at $1.2515 early today unchanged from the London equities close on Monday.
In Asia, the Nikkei 225 index was up 0.7%. In China, economic data came in weaker than expected pushing the Shanghai Composite down 0.3%, but the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was up 0.1%.