UK market update
Renewed concerns over the outlook for the beleaguered eurozone – this time centring on Spain – provided fresh fodder for nervous investors during April, and the share prices of large and mid-sized UK companies declined over the month. The blue-chip FTSE 100 index fell 0.5% and the FTSE 250 index, which represents medium-sized companies, fell 1.1%, although the FTSE SmallCap index managed to buck the overall trend, rising by 1.6% over April.
The UK economy tipped back into recession during the first quarter of 2012, according to preliminary estimates from the Office for National Statistics. At the corporate level, Ernst & Young reported a total of 73 profits warnings in the UK during the first three months of 2012, compared with 75 during the same period of 2011.
Profits warnings spiked during January and February, and then tailed off sharply during March, which might suggest a possible recovery in the corporate sector. During April, home furnishings company Carpetright issued another profits warning, citing low sales of beds in the UK and weaker trading in its European business.
UK retail sales jumped during March, boosted by panic buying of fuel and by unusually warm weather. Retail sales values rose at an annualised rate of 5.7%, while volumes rose by 3.3%. Sales of fuel rose by 4.9% during March amid panic buying caused by the threat of possible industrial action by tanker drivers. Meanwhile, petrol prices continued to reach new highs during April, according to the Automobile Association.
The organisation accused speculators of driving up oil prices, describing their activities as “destructive”, and urged the government to take more action to address the problem. Elsewhere, Royal Dutch Shell reported an 11% rise in first-quarter profits – compared with the same period in 2011 – that was boosted by strong demand for energy.
According to the British Bankers’ Association, UK consumers’ appetite for loans remained relatively low during March, and repayments on credit cards continued to outpace new credit-card borrowing. Mortgage lending surged during March before the expiry of a two-year stamp-duty holiday, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
Gross mortgage lending rose by 30% month on month, and by 17% year on year, but lenders expect activity to slow down following the end of the concession. During April, housebuilder Redrow announced an issue of almost £80m-worth of new shares to help finance new opportunities for expansion.Subscribe to our newsletter
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