Upbeat Bailey and Persimmon lift housebuilders
Housebuilders were back in favour with investors with Barratt, Taylor Wimpey and Vistry all boosted by a cautiously optimistic trading update from Persimmon.
There were also warm words from the governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey who told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee that while some households were clearly facing difficult times, there was not the same kind of stress among homeowners that was witnessed during the global financial crisis.
“Repossessions haven’t spiked and falling rates from lenders coupled with a resilient jobs market mean it’s an improving picture for this segment of the population,” he told the Commons committee.
He said that the economy had entered the new year in better shape than expected.
His comments came as Sanjay Raja a senior economist at Deutsche Bank suggested the Bank’s 2% inflation target could be hit as early as April.
Persimmon said it enters 2024 with private forward sales ahead of last year driven by the year-on-year improvement in Q4 sales rates.
Private sales in the forward order book have increased by c.11% with a c.4% increase in value to £499m.
In a trading update that follows the collapse of Scottish builder Stewart Milne Group, it said it completed the sale of 9,922 new homes, down 33% from the previous year but ahead of previous guidance, with a particularly strong delivery in Q4.
“We anticipate market conditions will remain highly uncertain during 2024, particularly for first-time buyers and with an election likely this year.
“However, mortgage rates are beginning to ease, and the response to our recent Boxing Day campaign has been positive, generating a substantial number of leads for our sales teams. Encouragingly, build costs continue to moderate which will benefit completions in 2024.”
Group chief executive Dean Finch said: “Persimmon performed well in challenging market conditions, delivering completions ahead of expectations in 2023 alongside enhanced quality metrics of our already five-star homes.
“Persimmon’s offering is resonating well with customers with sales rates relatively robust throughout the year. We have successfully balanced our need to control costs, whilst investing in the business to position it for sustainable growth when conditions improve.”
Shares were 87p (6.25%) higher at 1479p.
Sainsbury’s fell 19.4p (6.34%) to 286.5p despite delivering volume growth ahead of the market for a fourth consecutive Christmas.
Third quarter grocery sales were up 9.3% and Christmas grocery sales by 8.6%, with stronger volume growth offsetting lower inflation. General merchandise sales fell by 0.6%.
It said it expects underlying profit before tax in 2023/24 of between £670 million and £700 million, with a strong grocery performance offsetting weaker general merchandise and financial services contributions.
Investors were disappointed by the lack of a profit upgrade and the performance in its non-food business.
Chief executive Simon Roberts said: “We enter 2024 with strong momentum and next month we will share our updated strategy, building on all we’ve done to put food back at the heart of Sainsbury’s over the last three years.
“There is a lot to be excited about and we remain absolutely committed to deliver for our customers, colleagues and shareholders.”
Fast food chain Greggs posted a rise in sales and said the pipeline of new shop opportunities remains strong with between 140 and 160 net shop openings expected this year.
Total sales rose 19.6% to £1.809 billion (2022: £1.513bn). Company-managed shop like-for-like sales were up 13.7% for FY23.
A record 220 shops opened in the year, with 33 closures and 42 relocations resulting in a net 145 new shop openings, and 2,473 shops trading as at 30 December 2023.
Roisin Currie, chief executive, said: “2023 was a year of further progress by Greggs. I am proud of our teams, who did a fantastic job serving more customers as we continue to grow our shop estate and offer greater availability through digital channels and extended trading hours.
“We enter 2024 with plans to continue to invest in our shops and expand supply chain capacity to deliver the growth strategy, supported by our strong balance sheet. Our value-for-money offer, and the quality of our freshly prepared food and drink continue to evolve and position us well for further progress in the year ahead.”
Shares rose 128p (5.17%) to 2602p.