The non-EC trade deficit is expected to widen to pounds 800m for February, as import volumes continue to outstrip the rise in exports. The company reporting season is still in full flood, with Argos due to deliver profits of pounds 80m, up 11 per cent, and Wilson Bowden a 39 per cent rise, confirming its reputation as one of Britain's best housebuilders.
The US trade deficit for January is forecast to grow, as exports slow from the strong 0.5 per cent gain of December.
Full-year profits at Prudential Corporation will confirm the pick-up in insurance, with a rise of more than 30 per cent. Meanwhile, Iceland is expected to deliver a 16 per cent uplift, to pounds 64.5m, in the wake of a cool climate in food retailing.
UK retail prices for February will probably show a modest 0.4 per cent rise, despite seasonal increases in food bills and the end of the January sales. A complete change of management at Lasmo has been good news for the oil explorer, but it will still deliver a full year net loss of about pounds 19m on the back of a very weak oil price. Another solid set of results is expected from Britannic Assurance.
Fourth quarter GDP should show a 0.8 per cent rise on the previous quarter, maintaining the 2.6 per cent increase year-on-year. Profits at Reckitt & Colman are predicted to increase by 12 per cent, to pounds 277m, while Sun Alliance should turn last year's pounds 130m loss into a pounds 190m profit for the year.
Opec oil ministers will hold their second quarter meeting in Geneva. The CBI will release its March distributive trends survey.
Sources: NatWest Securities, MMS International
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