The Week Ahead: Next is first in line to give measure of festive season

 

While there has been no shortage of estimates and predictions already over how the retailers have fared during the festive period, the beleaguered high street will be eager to get hold of some solid trading numbers. Therefore all eyes will be on Next tomorrow as the first major name in the sector to release a trading statement post-Christmas, with the clothing chain not only announcing figures up to 24 December but also expected to comment on how the sales period has been going.

The level of discounting available even before the sales shows the trouble the sector has been facing in tempting cash-strapped shoppers to spend. Yet although they concede there is a risk that Next's figures could disappoint, analysts from UBS highlight the fact that in "previous periods of promotional activity [it] has come through unscathed by holding its full-price position, and potentially benefiting from the extra footfall than competitors bring out with their own promotions".

Also encouraging, they claim, is the fact that the group restarted buying back shares last month, suggesting that its management is not expecting investors to be shocked by its recent performance.

The problem for its fellow retailers is that even if Next's update does impress, there is no guarantee this will translate into good news for them. A strong run of results from the chain in 2011 showed it largely avoided the woes of its peers, and as a result it ended up as one of the top performing blue-chip stocks of the year.

The question now, of course, is whether it can continue this outperformance, so a lot will be riding on any comments regarding the year ahead. Last September, Next said it believed 2012 would not be as tough as 2011, but with unemployment worsening since then, there are fears that any recovery is likely to be weighted towards the second half of the year.

TODAY

Results/Updates: No major companies expected to report.

TOMORROW

Domino's has a strong record recently of impressing the City with its results, but Collins Stewart's Wayne Brown warns that the pizza delivery company's trading update could buck that trend. The analyst is expecting a "resilient performance" but adds: "We do not feel that adequate volume growth has been achieved to support upgrades and consequently the current rating".

Instead, Mr Brown is looking towards Domino's preliminary results next month, which he believes "provide an opportunity to reinvigorate the strategy". He feels the company can increase the number of planned store openings and look to make acquisitions in Germany of smaller rivals "to ramp up its growth profile".

Results/Updates: Domino's Pizza and Next.

THURSDAY

The exhibitions and conference organiser Tarsus is expected to announce a trading update for the end of the year, and if Singer Capital Markets' Johnathan Barrett believes investors in the small-cap stock should have something to cheer. The analyst is forecasting a "positive" statement, and is optimistic generally for 2012.

Saying the group's trade exhibitions business will have a strong 12 months if current industry trends bear out, Mr Barrett adds that within the sector he continues to "favour businesses with emerging market exposure, something Tarsus is focused on continuing to develop".

Results/Updates: Clinton Cards and Tarsus.

FRIDAY

Recent figures from Sthree and Michael Page have shown that times are tough for the recruiters, so you can't blame investors for feeling wary ahead of Robert Walters' fourth-quarter trading statement due on Friday. Numis Securities' Steve Woolf warns that "in the near-term the market outlook is unlikely to make pleasant reading". In the third quarter, net fees in the UK dropped 4 per cent year-on-year, and the analyst believes this fall will have worsened.

Results/Updates: Caledonia Investments, easyJet and Robert Walters.

Economics Diary

TODAY

Manufacturing PMI; US Federal Open Market Committee minutes.

TOMORROW

Eurozone CPI flash estimate; Net lending to individuals; Services PMI; US ADP non-farm employment change; US crude oil inventories; US factory orders; US ISM non-manufacturing PMI.

THURSDAY

Bank of England credit conditions survey; Eurozone industrial new orders; US unemployment claims.

FRIDAY

Eurozone retail sales; Eurozone unemployment rate; US average hourly earnings; US non-farm employment change; US unemployment rate.

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