Week ahead: All eyes on Chancellor’s Budget

The big noise in British business circles will be the Budget, with every industry and sub-sector having lobbied furiously for some sort of giveaway from the Chancellor.

Fashion retailer Next enjoyed a sales boost in the runup to Christmas
Fashion retailer Next enjoyed a sales boost in the runup to Christmas

In the past they’ve been met with the stony face of austerity, but this time, and with the looming General Election on a knife-edge, George Osborne might actually have some room to manoeuvre after improvements in the economy finally started seeping though into the public finances.

Philip Shaw, economist at Investec, said: “Over the few months since the Autumn Statement, the economic backdrop has shifted enough to have notable implications for the public finances. Upgraded growth, lower oil prices, other inflation savings and a further drop in gilt yields should give Mr Osborne one of the better Budget Day hands to play.”

Today

Fashion retailer Next enjoyed a sales boost in the runup to Christmas

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• Smart Metering Systems – The Glasgow–based firm has already indicated that its four recurring income streams all “grew sustainably” last year, to more than £26 million.

Tomorrow

• Sainsbury’s – The grocer is tipped to reveal a fifth successive quarter of falling sales, fuelling fears that its prospects have been dented by a resurgent Tesco.

Wednesday

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• The Budget – George Osborne’s big day, with the chance to offer businesses and the wider electorate a treat before the election.

• Unemployment – Figures are expected to show the UK’s jobless rate is still heading downwards, with economists saying there’s a good chance that the headline three–month rate slipped to 5.6 per cent.

• Bank of England – Minutes of the last monetary policy committee meeting are expected to show unanimous support for the current wait–and–see approach.

Thursday

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• Next – The fashion retailer upped guidance by £5m when it revealed in December that full–price sales in the run–up to Christmas had risen by 2.9 per cent - though warning it was “very cautious” about the year ahead. Pre–tax profits are set to rise 11.5 per cent to £775m.

Friday

• Public finances – Economists expect the deficit for February to have improved, as the deadline for self–assessment fell on a Saturday.

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