Testing time to take pulse of consumer sentiment

FirstGroup's rail operations are on track but City will have an eye on bus plans. Picture: PA
FirstGroup's rail operations are on track but City will have an eye on bus plans. Picture: PA
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The turnaround plans of Marks & Spencer and Morrisons will be in the spotlight when the retailers post updates during a busy week for corporate news.

The two stalwarts may well point to the crushing effect of inflation on consumer appetite to explain poor sales, but their travails will be in stark contrast to budget chain
Primark’s rising star.

Analysts looking to make sense of the situation on the high street will also have data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to consider.

Economist Howard Archer believes the BRC’s sales monitor “may well show a clear softening in retail sales”, which would fuel suspicion that shoppers are taking at least a temporary breather after spending at a robust rate during the third quarter.


• Construction PMI – Britain’s construction sector is expected to post its sixth consecutive month of growth, but the expansion is likely to have eased in October amid evidence that the wider recovery has weakened slightly.


• Services PMI – Economists expect the latest survey to show the dominant services sector remains in robust health, although the reading may be slightly below September’s score of 60.3.

• Retail sales monitor – The British Retail Consortium’s data will give further clues as to how badly the consumer-driven recovery has stalled on the high street.

• AB Foods – The company’s popular Primark chain is expected to have helped push full-year profits through the £1 billion mark.

•Marks & Spencer – M&S is attempting to revive flagging clothing and homewares sales with a star-studded advertising campaign featuring Dame Helen Mirren and Olympic boxer Nicola Adams, but analysts believe it will have little impact on the July to September quarter.


•FirstGroup – Improvements in profitability at the firm’s rail operations are likely to have driven profit growth in the first half, but the City will want to see signs that turnaround plans for the bus operation are on time.


• MPC and ECB – Bank of England policymakers are unlikely to change direction on interest rates given their commitment to forward guidance. However, their colleagues at the European Central Bank are not tied down and there is an outside chance they may spring a surprise rate increase following figures showing eurozone inflation running below 1 per cent.

•Twitter IPO – Shares in the microblogging site will start trading after being priced the night before, and many analysts expect values to soar above a likely $20 starting price.

•US GDP – Official figures should show the world’s largest economy advancing at a rate of about 2 per cent a year.

•Morrisons – The supermarket chain is set to reveal further sales pressure in its third quarter as its turnaround makes slow progress in luring in hard-pressed shoppers.


•IAG – The British Airways parent reports on the crucial summer quarter amid hopes it could mark a significant uplift in its fortunes.