- The Office for National Statistics said that UK GDP Growth slowed to 0.3% for the first 3 months of 2015, from 0.6% in the final quarter of 2015, with a 1.6% contraction in construction output putting the brakes on the wider economy. Overall output was 2.4% higher than a year ago. Capital Economics’ Chief UK Economist Vicky Redwood said that “with the election just days away, the news that the UK’s economic recovery slowed sharply won’t help the coalition parties” but she said she did not believe that the UK is on the brink of a prolonged slowdown.
- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has stated that he believes Greece will be able to agree an interim deal with its creditors in the next two weeks, but said that mistakes had been made in the Greek negotiating strategy. He also conceded that a deal was likely to include the part privatisation of the Piraeus docks and the lease of 14 airports. Mr Tsipras also suggested that it may be necessary to hold a referendum to approve an agreement, saying that “if the solution falls outside our mandate, I will not have the right to violate it, so the solution to which we will come to will have to be approved by the Greek people”. Greek bond prices rose on the news.
- The FTSE 100 tumbled 73.45 points to 7,030.53 points; the FTSE 250 slipped 125.28 points to 17,659.39; the FTSE All Share fell 37.16 points to 3,797.29 points; and the FTSE AIM All Share finished 1.72 points lower at 753.85 points.
Hospitality firm Whitbread (WTB) earned revenues of £2.6 billion during the year ended 26th February, a 13.7% increase over the prior 12 months driven by a 17.9% improvement in sales at Costa Coffee and a 15.3% increase at Premier Inns. The company also announced that current CEO Andy Harrison will depart by the end of the current financial year. Keith Bowman, an Analyst from Hargreaves Lansdown saw this as a dampening factor after a positive set of results, but commented, “in all, Whitbread remains highly regarded. Its record for consistent delivery is as yet unblemished, with the company’s brands continuing to appeal to cost conscious consumers. Furthermore, some hopes that the hotel and coffee businesses could eventually be separated also injects some additional appeal“. The shares slipped 140p to 5,300p.
Profits for the first quarter of 2015 at petroleum major BP (BP.) fell to $2.6 billion (£1.7 billion) from $3.5 billion (£2.3 billion) in the comparative period of 2014, as the firm was impacted by the fall in oil prices in recent months. Management said that production will fall due to maintenance and changes in seasonal activity. Shares in BP finished 0.8p lighter at 476.1p.
Drinks can manufacturer Rexam (REX) said that performance for 2015 to date has been in line with expectations, with particularly strong demand in Europe, India and Egypt offsetting weaker Middle Eastern and American markets. Falling aluminium premiums have reduced cost headwinds faster than anticipated. Chief Executive Graham Chipchase said, “we continue to expect 2015 to present a tough trading environment, but, as ever, we will focus on tight cost management and the elements of our business that we know we can control“. The shares dipped 3.5p to 581p.
Life sciences and animal care products provider Avacta (AVCT) saw its loss before taxation for the six months ended 31st December widen to £1.6 million, from £0.5 million in the same period of the prior financial year, due to a fall in revenues and an expanded staff headcount as it aims to accelerate development of its Affimer technology. Management believe that they have taken appropriate steps to secure medium-term growth. The shares finished flat at 0.85p.
Tomorrow’s news today
Barclays (BARC), Home Retail Group (HOME), Stagecoach (SGC), and Standard Life (SL.) will be among the firms publishing updates and results tomorrow morning.
Nationwide will also publish its latest House Price Index and the US Government will release its latest GDP estimates.
Quote of the day
“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
― Terry Pratchett