5 killer stats to start your week

March 5, 2018

1.    Up 0.4% - UK GDP growth in the third quarter

 

Early data shows that the UK’s economy expanded at 0.4% during the period July-September 2017. That was ahead of the 0.3% the market had been expecting and provided some welcome relief from a run of lacklustre economic figures we’ve seen of late. The news meant a boost for the pound too as it makes an interest rate hike from the Bank of England that much more likely - but higher repayments on loans will hit struggling consumers hard.

 

2.    $6.6 billion - how much more Amazon boss was worth on Friday morning.

 

Thursday night saw Amazon post its latest earnings figures and these comprehensively smashed market expectations. Sales were up 34% for the quarter, although significant investments meant costs were up 35% for the same period, too. The company is upbeat over the outlook for the Christmas shopping peak, the acquisition of Whole Foods seems to have been a success, adding $1.3 billion in sales for the quarter, whilst the cloud computing Amazon Web Services saw sales top $1 billion, too. Can nothing stop this machine? 

 

3.    £328 million - Whitbread’s half year profits

 

The owners of the Premier Inn and Costa brands may have served up some good results last week with profits ahead of expectations for the group as a whole, but shareholders were left unimpressed. Slowing sales and rising costs at the ubiquitous chain of coffee shops saw the share price drop around 5%, with investors clearly not finding solace in the fact that the budget hotel brand continues to expand apace and maintain its healthy occupancy levels. It’s often been suggested that Costa Coffee should become a company in its own right, but a sluggish sales outlook would mean this business being worth less, hitting value for existing shareholders.

 

4.    £1.95 billion - Lloyds Bank quarterly profits.

 

It was a mixed bag from the banks last week with many of the high street names reporting their latest earnings. Barclays may have fallen short of expectations, but Lloyds - which has over a quarter of all current accounts - impressed the market, perhaps most specifically with news that it was setting no more cash aside for PPI claims. To date this has cost the bank some £18 billion, so the absence of any further provision here has led some to suggest that the end of this saga may now be in sight.

 

5.    Down 4.7% - John Lewis shop sales

 

You can’t buy their shares, but this high street stalwart is arguably a good barometer of just how prosperous middle England is feeling and helpfully the company produces a weekly update of how sales are faring - both in the department store and at its Waitrose chain. For the week to October 21st, sales were down by almost 5% for the non-food business. Warm weather certainly won’t be helping as sales of winter coats will be languishing, but is this reading a one-off or another sign that consumers are feeling the pressure?