Inflation figure set to remain above zero

Hopes are high of a return of shoppers to the high street. Picture: JP
Hopes are high of a return of shoppers to the high street. Picture: JP
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INFLATION could drop into negative territory this week as official figures for February take account of price cuts in the utility market.

However most economists expect the consumer price index (CPI) reading to hover just above zero as petrol actually went up at the pump last month.

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “The further weakening in inflation is likely to have been limited by oil prices firming in February from their January lows thereby causing petrol prices to move back up a little.”

Archer is forecasting a new record low of 0.2 per cent on the year-on-year reading which is key to interest rate policy.

WEEK AHEAD

Today

• CBI industrial trends – The monthly survey is expected to show the manufacturing sector soldiering on, although its pace of growth has eased in recent readings.

Tomorrow

• AG Barr – The Irn-Bru maker is expected to report strong annual sales despite heavy discounting in the soft drinks market driven by the ongoing supermarket price wars. Analysts say the Cumbernauld-based firm should post pre-tax profits in the region of £41.6 million, up more than 9 per cent on the previous period.

• Game Digital – A profits warning at the start of the year means the gaming retailer is expected to report flat half-year earnings.

• Inflation – Utility price cuts will weigh on already low CPI figures but economists think that a slight bounce in petrol prices will stave off a negative reading for the time being.

• Wolseley – Interim numbers are forecast to show Wolseley’s key businesses continue to take market share. Analysts at Brewin Dolphin say its US operations are expected to have continued the double-digit growth seen over the last two quarters and margins are still increasing as the business model continues to be refined.

Wednesday

• Balfour Beatty – The battered construction group is expected to swing to a loss after a year in which it issued four profit warnings. The City expects the infrastructure firm to post a £60m loss.

• Bellway – With the number of completions in the first half up by 15.7 per cent, the City is expecting robust interim numbers as the builder goes for growth while market conditions remain positive.

Thursday

• Retail Sales – Having seen two consecutive monthly declines in December and January on the official measure, sales should have picked up in February after the British Retail Consortium reported a positive reading on its survey.

• Amec Foster Wheeler – The recently formed conglomerate presents results against a difficult backdrop for its energy contract markets.

Friday

• US GDP – The final official reading for the last quarter of 2014 is expected to confirm that growth has been slowing in the world’s biggest economy.

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