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Thursday's agenda: Food deflation on Tesco and BoE minds

With food prices in decline, supermarkets are finding it hard to grow like-for-like sales, but it means the Bank of England is in no hurry to raise interest rates to combat inflation
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The twin perils of food deflation and the hard discounters mostly to blame for sluggish growth at the big supermarket chains

So, with Morrisons, Sainsbury's and, for that matter, M&S, out of the way, it is time for Tesco's Christmas trading update.

The wounded big beast of the sector reports on its third quarter plus a bit of the Christmas trading period, resulting in an update covering 19 weeks.

Data from market research group Kantar suggests UK like-for-like (LFL) sales will have fallen, with the twin perils of food deflation and the hard discounters mostly to blame.

“International sales are likely to have remained challenging, whilst a further underlining of management initiatives to improve company performance, including the closure of unprofitable stores, could be made,” speculates Keith Bowman at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown.

ASOS (LON:ASC), far and away the biggest company by market value on Aim, is back on the front foot, according to Peel Hunt.

“Black Friday 2015 was a well-executed event at ASOS. Headline discounts of 20% were less than in previous years, with careful mitigation on cut-offs and delivery promises ensuring customers remained satisfied. The lower discount stance suggests good growth in cash margin,” the broker speculated.

It is forecasting UK and International year-on-year sales growth of 23% for what is apparently a four month first quarter trading period, though the strong performance on Black Friday opens up the possibility it will top expectations on both the top line and the margin.

On the economic front, the big event is the Bank of England's decision on interest rates on Thursday, though few, if any, are expecting the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to follow the US central bank's lead and hike rates just yet.

“With oil prices heading lower again, average earnings growth signalling no domestic inflationary pressures, and the latest GDP figures showing that economic growth was slower than previously thought, Bank rate will be left unchanged at 0.5%, with only one member continuing to vote for a hike,” predicts Japanese broker Daiwa Capital Markets.

Meanwhile, the Royal Bank of Canada notes: “On this occasion, the meeting comes very close to the February meeting and Inflation Report (4 February), so it seems unlikely that January will be the time for a significant new policy message to emerge as the latest quarterly forecast round draws to a close ahead of the Inflation Report. So, the relatively doveish message from December’s minutes is expected still to apply.”

RBS reckons the vote will stay 8-1 in favour of maintaining the status quo, with a small possibility of a 9-0 verdict.

“With oil prices remaining low, too, it seems unlikely that the MPC will need to express an increased sense of urgency to tighten policy versus last time,” it concluded.


Significant announcements expected

Trading statement: Ashmore (LON:ASHM), ASOS (LON:ASC), Associated British Foods (LON:ABF), Booker Group (LON:BOK), Burberry Group (LON:BRBY), Hilton Food Group (LON:HFG), Home Retail Group (LON:HOME), JD Sports Fashion (LON:JD.), Jupiter Fund Management (LON:JUP), Lavendon (LON:LVD), Moss Bros (LON:MOSB), Mothercare (LON:MTC), Polar Capital (LON:POLR), Premier Oil (LON:PMO), Restaurant Group (LON:RTG), SIG (LON:SHI), SuperGroup (LON:SGP), Tesco (LON:TSCO), William Hill (LON:WMH)

Economic: US: Weekly jobless claims. UK: Bank of England base rate decision. Eurozone: ECB minutes of Governing Council 

 

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