The Week Ahead: Trading update due from B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher
Brexit will remain front and centre this week, with investors looking for clues as to how Britain’s vote to quit the European Union is impacting inflation and DIY retailer B&Q, while the latest data on inflation will also come under close scrutiny.
Inflation is expected to stay at 0.5% when official figures for July are published on Tuesday, with economists looking for any impact on prices from the Brexit vote.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation rose to a higher-than-expected 0.5% in June after holding at 0.3% in both April and May. Some economists believe July’s data may still be too early to show the true effect of the pound’s slump after the EU referendum result.
However, Investec economist Chris Hare said the sharp drop in sterling may have caused petrol prices to creep up in July.
“The June surge in air fares will not be repeated and will unwind in the annual calculation. But, pushing up in the other direction, the post-EU referendum fall in sterling should push up on petrol prices,” he said.
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“We also expect to see slightly more pronounced clothing discounting than that seen in July last year.”
June’s increase in the cost of living came in part from soaring flight prices, which climbed by a record 10.9% between May and June, pushed higher by more expensive air fares to Europe.
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A rise in the price of filling up at the pump also had an upward impact on CPI, picking up more than it did a year ago, with the cost of petrol and diesel climbing by 2.3p and 2.6p per litre respectively between May and June this year.
The price of petrol was 111p per litre in June, while the price of diesel reached 112.1p per litre.
The CPI update comes amid a bleak outlook for the UK economy, with many economists slashing their growth forecasts amid a string of dire economic reports.
The Bank of England cut interest rates for the first time since 2009 at the beginning of the month and delivered an emergency package worth up to £170 billion to ward off recession following the Brexit vote.
Policymakers on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to cut rates to a historic low of 0.25% from 0.5%, the first cut since March 2009 when the Bank reduced rates at the height of the financial crisis.
Britain will avoid recession, according to the bank, but it warned over a “material slowdown”, higher unemployment and falling house prices over the next year.
B&Q owner Kingfisher is set to post solid sales growth in its key selling season on Wednesday, but will be looked to for signs of any impact from the Brexit vote.
The group is forecast to notch up yet more impressive trading at its trade outlet Screwfix in the second quarter, while DIY chain B&Q is likely to benefit from a lacklustre performance at rival Homebase.
Analysts said B&Q and Wickes are both being boosted at the expense of Homebase, which is axing promotions in favour of everyday low prices under the ownership of its new parent, Australian retail giant Wesfarmers.
James Grzinic at broker Jefferies said: “We expect another good update from B&Q. This was likely helped by the benefit from store closures and also the net loss of share by Homebase.”
Most analysts are pencilling in like-for-like growth of around 3% at B&Q in the second quarter, after sales rose 3.6% in the previous month.
They believe Screwfix will have put in another double-digit contribution as it benefits from extended ranges and new store openings, up around another 10% after sales rocketed by 16.2% in the first quarter.
Credit Suisse experts said reports from elsewhere in the home improvement sector “suggest that the environment for DIY has held up following the referendum”.
They added: “Improvements in mortgage equity withdrawal, planning permission and credit growth suggest that demand for projects remains healthy.”
Kingfisher boss Veronique Laury is overseeing a turnaround plan at the retailer and is expected to update on the overhaul at half-year results on September 20.
She is aiming to boost profits by £500 million a year by 2021, while 65 B&Q stores will close overall at a cost of 3,000 jobs in the UK and Ireland.
Kingfisher also has stores in Poland and France, where it trades as Castorama and Brico Depot.
Its French operations are expected to remain under pressure amid weak consumer confidence and subdued housing and construction markets.