The construction and sales of new houses picked up during the first quarter of 1997, according to the National House-Building Council. The number of applications to start new houses, excluding housing associations, was 34,000, up 8 per cent compared with a year earlier. Sales reached an average of 632 a day, up 15 per cent year-on-year. Imtiaz Farookhi, chief executive of the NHBC, said this was a steady recovery but not a boom. Economist Simon Briscoe at City investment bank Nikko agreed. In a new report, "Where's The Boom?", he said: "There continues to be no sign of a renewed surge in housing activity." House prices rose strongly in the first quarter of this year, but other indicators edged back in the latest month.
Annual consumer price inflation declined to 1.5 per cent in Germany last month, with a 0.2 per cent drop in the price level during the month. Lower food prices accounted for the fall, but there was no sign more generally that the weaker Deutschmark, leading to higher import prices, was feeding through into inflation. Reductions in wage costs in Germany, where unemployment remains near its post-war record, have offset this effect.
Leicester City, the Premiership football club, is planning to come to the stock market. The club has called a shareholders' meeting for 9 May to change its share structure to enable a flotation. Tom Smeaton, chairman, said it was essential for Leicester City to have access to substantial levels of outside funding. He said that although flotation was not the only way of raising money, the status of a listed company would enable the club, if it chose, to return to the market for funds as its growth developed. The team has had reasonable success on the field this season, reaching the fifth round of the FA Cup and the Coca-Cola Cup Final which it is due to replay next Wednesday.
Peugeot plans to invest pounds 100m to raise production at its UK factory in Coventry. The company said a new model would be built at the factory next year. A Peugeot spokesman said the investment would safeguard 2,500 jobs.
Sir Brian Pitman, chairman of Lloyds TSB Group, said 1997 had "started well" for the group, with first-quarter profits "well up" on the prior year and volumes increasing. He told shareholders at Lloyds TSB's annual general meeting in Edinburgh that the bank's net interest margin "has widened slightly and costs remain under tight control".Reuse content