Scott Reid: DIY sector helping to build a busy week for the City

INVESTORS will have home improvement on their minds in a four-day working week with results or updates from B&Q-owner Kingfisher, Topps Tiles and Build Center firm Wolseley.

Kingfisher will provide further insight into the health of the retail sector when it updates on first-quarter trading on Thursday.

With the warmest April on record boosting sales of seasonal items such as barbecues, garden furniture and outdoor toys, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has forecast like-for-like sales growth at B&Q of 1.5 per cent in the three months to the end of April. The bank also expects a 3 per cent rise in group sales to 2.73 billion.

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But demand for big-ticket items - such as fridges and ovens - is expected to have seen limited growth as consumers continue to tighten their purse-strings.

Online fashion star Asos is set to post a 41 per cent rise in profits on Thursday, driven by strong growth in overseas sales.

Analysts forecast that the group, whose ranges are styled on clothes worn by celebrities, will report that pre-tax profits rose to 28.6 million in the year to 31 March, on sales up 52 per cent to 339.5m.

While many of its high street rivals have suffered amid the squeeze on consumer spending, Asos has continued to grow as more consumers shop online and it targets overseas markets with more buoyant economies.

Tile and flooring group Topps Tiles reports tomorrow and is pinning its trading hopes on a sustained housing market recovery.

In March, the UK's largest tile and wood flooring specialist reported like-for-like sales increased by 1.8 per cent in its first half, down slightly on the previous year.

Business has been boosted by homeowners choosing to do up their homes rather than move, but the benefit of this may be wearing off as Topps saw a slow down in the second quarter after a good first three months.

The interim figures will be keenly watched to see if it has reversed that trend especially as competition increases and as chains such as B&Q expand their range.

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The recent history of Plumb Center and Build Center owner Wolseley is littered with profits warnings, restructuring and closures, but the company signalled steadier times in March when it returned to the dividend list.

The builders' merchant, which posts a third-quarter update tomorrow, also moved back into the black with profits of 195m in the six months to January, against a 261m loss a year earlier.

The UK business, with more than 1,400 branches, also put in an improved performance with like-for-like sales up 6 per cent and trading profits up 55 per cent to 51m.

There was also improved trading in the US, but analysts are concerned that new house building will remain subdued. The US accounts for 40 per cent of the business and recent downbeat quarterly results from Lowe's, its nearest rival in the US, which did not meet Wall Street's expectations, have added to the unease.According to a weekend press report, Wolseley has put three of its UK divisions up for sale, including Build Center.

Hornby, which will put out its figures on Friday, was derailed by bad weather late last year but the model railways group should be more upbeat looking down the line.

The current year will get the full benefit of Hornby's Olympics products, which it has now started to roll out and includes a range of different coloured London taxis with all of the various events represented on the side.

The group, which also owns Corgi and Airfix, had supply issues in the first half with its European subsidiaries constrained by shortages of products.

Improving global car sales should put a healthy sheen on Johnson Matthey's full-year figures on Thursday. Johnson makes a third of all the filters, or car catalysts, used to sift out pollutants given off by car exhausts and is a big supplier of pollution filters for buses and lorries.

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Its precious metals division, which refines and markets platinum, is also tipped for a good year on the back of buoyant metal prices for the period concerned.