Argos, the mail-order retailer, should provide some hard evidence of consumer spending patterns with its interim results today. Taxable profits are expected to increase by about 11 per cent to almost pounds 15m for the period to 30 June.
HSBC, the owner of the Midland Bank, is expected to confirm the bumper profits from the high-street banks with taxable profits of pounds 1.33m, up 13 per cent in the first half. A 12.5 per cent increase in the interim dividend to 8p is also likely. Much of the profits advance will come from volume growth in the Asia Pacific region.
A busy week of economic statistics kicks off with UK public sector borrowing figures for July. Helped by receipts from the sale of privatised utilities' debts, the PSBR should amount to about pounds 1.1bn, against pounds 2.9bn in the previousmonth.
Hanson, the big industrial conglomerate should report a 9 per cent improvement in pre-tax profits to pounds 280m for its third quarter to June. But weak cash- flow will force the company to leave the third-quarter dividend unchanged at 3p.
Developments in the labour market during June and July suggest steady growth with low inflation. Unemployment figures for July should decline by about 5,000 to about 2,630,000. The rise in average earnings in July should be held at about 3.75 per cent. Retail prices inJuly should fall by 0.3 because of cheaper seasonal foods and the effect of summer sales, implying a drop in the headline inflation rate of 2.5 per cent.
The rail strike and the hot summer are expected to check retail sales in July. Sales volumes for the month are expected to increase by 0.2 per cent, taking the year-on-year rate up to 3.6 per cent - but the underlying rate of growth - the change between the latest quarter and the same period a year earlier - should fall to 3.7 per cent.
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