Interactive Investor

Must read: UK consumer spending, Chinese growth, bitcoin, Apple, Greggs

Our head of investment rounds up the morning's big news.

5th March 2024 08:54

Victoria Scholar from interactive investor


      European indices have opened mostly lower with the FTSE 100 leading the losses. Ashtead Group (LSE:AHT) is dragging on the UK blue chip index, shedding nearly 7% after the equipment rental company said it expects rental revenue growth to come in at the lower end of its guided range.
      In the UK, according to the British Retail Consortium, consumer spending rose by 1.1% in February slowing from growth of 1.2% in January. Like-for-like sales dropped to 1% from 1.4% in the previous month. Wet weather conditions and cost of living pressures discouraged shopping activity.  

      Speculation is growing around what to expect in tomorrow’s Spring Budget from the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. The latest media reports suggest Hunt could announce a one-year extension of the windfall tax on energy company earnings. Other reports say Hunt will freeze fuel duty, in a £5 billion tax break for motorists.
      China is aiming for ambitious annual growth of around 5%, as Premier Li Qiang discussed some of the country’s economic challenges in an address to parliament overnight as part of the ‘Two Sessions’ meeting. Asian markets were mostly lower overnight with the Hang Seng shedding over 2%. The Nikkei was just below the flatline but remains above key support at 40,000, having hit a fresh all-time high this week fuelled by rock bottom interest rates.
      Bitcoin is giving back some gains today, trading just above $66,500 having broken above $67k on Monday. Some say it could hit its all-time high of $69k as early as this week after a surge of more than 50% over the past month alone. The cryptocurrency is on a tear, rallying nearly 200% over the past year with the latest leg up this year fuelled by the approval of US bitcoin exchange-traded funds.
      Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed sharply lower on Monday, down over 2.5% after getting hit with a 1.84 billion euro fine over music streaming competition. The stock has had a tough time so far in 2024, shedding nearly 6% since the beginning of January. US futures are pointing to a weaker opening, extending losses after a disappointing session on Monday. 


      Greggs (LSE:GRG) reported 2023 pre-tax profit up 27% to £188.3 million up by £40 million partly thanks to a pandemic related insurance payout. Total sales rose by 19.6% year-on-year with like-for-like sales up 13.7%. The bakery said 2024 had started well, with like-for-like sales in the first nine weeks growing by 8.2%. Greggs said it is ‘very much’ on track to deliver its ‘bold’ five-year growth plan to double sales by 2026 and it is targeting 140 to 160 net openings this year.
      Greggs has been successfully extending its customer reach via methods including its app and rewards programme, expanding its store estate, working with delivery partners such as Just Eat and Uber Eats and expanding partnerships with retailers including Tesco and Sainsbury's. Greggs has also been upping its marketing spend. Looking ahead, in an encouraging sign, Greggs is benefitting from reduced inflationary pressures which has improved its cost visibility for 2024.
      Investors are encouraged by today’s update, with shares in Greggs staging gains, extending this year’s rally with the stock up by over 5.5% since the start of January.

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