The Week Ahead: Tesco feels the pinch as shoppers are squeezed

After the former started its £500m price war last week, Tesco and Sainsbury's go head-to-head again on Wednesday when both update the market.

It has certainly been a tough period for the supermarkets, with shoppers' wallets increasingly squeezed, and as a result there is plenty of pessimism over the numbers from the UK.

Excluding fuel, Shore Capital is predicting Tesco will see its like-for-like sales for the first-half of the year fall 1 per cent, with a disappointing performance from its non-food offerings thanks not only to consumer pressures but also because of "competitive inadequacies".

The broker's analysts do, however, feel it will have "broadly held its own in the grocery aisles" despite the food industry suffering negative volumes for most of the year, which they describe as "unprecedented in modern times".

Outside the UK, they believe Tesco will announce a rise in first-half profits in Asia and Europe of 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively, while they will also be looking for its Fresh & Easy business in the US to show "the first steps" towards breaking even.

Panmure Gordon's Philip Dorgan, meanwhile, expects Sainsbury's to have had rather a better time of it domestically, saying the company's second-quarter will have been "decent".

Forecasting the company's like-for-like sales to be up nearly 2 per cent, the same as for the first three months of the year, Mr Dorgan says fears "of underperformance over the summer should therefore be laid to rest".

In terms of the longer-term danger from Tesco's new aggressive pricing strategy, he warns it will "certainly result in some margin investment" but adds that "most of the pain will be felt outside the UK quoted sector and at [online grocer] Ocado".



Today

Given the disappointing update from its peer Premier Farnell nearly a month ago, optimism is not high ahead of today's trading update from Electrocomponents. Saying that recent poor PMI data paints "a grim picture of the outlook across the board", Peel Hunt warns the electronic parts distributor "will likely be finding it tough" and that "with a tough outlook, low visibility and an operationally geared business model, we see no near-term catalysts for share price performance".

Results/Updates: Electrocomponents.



Tomorrow

Results/Updates: Carillion and Wolseley.



Wednesday

Wood Group releases its interim management statement, the first time it has updated the market since being relegated to the FTSE 250 in last month's reshuffle of the indices. Numis Securities' Sanjeev Bahl says the energy services provider will reveal its engineering unit has continued to see a recovery in revenues and margins, while he believes there will be "visible topline and margin improvement from all three divisions".

Results/Updates: Dunelm, Marston's, Sainsbury's, John Wood and Tesco.



Thursday

The bicycle retailer Halfords releases its second-quarter trading statement, having shed about 15 per cent since its last profit warning in April. Oriel Securities' Jonathan Pritchard is certainly not expecting a cheerful tone to be struck, saying the update "is perfectly likely to be poor and breed lower consensus forecasts".

With the end of its first-quarter seeing a drop-off in sales, he expects the trend to have continued, claiming that of the retailers that have recently updated, only clothes companies have really impressed. He predicts a 3 per cent fall in like-for-like sales over the period, although he is slightly more bullish over the rest of the year, when he is forecasting "a small pick up".

Citigroup believes Victrex's trading update will show that the hi-tech plastics company has suffered from "sluggish" growth over the second half of the year, with a 3 per cent rise in volumes after a huge 22 per cent jump for the first six months of the year. The broker blames this on a slowdown in activity growth globally, in part thanks to the Japanese earthquake knocking the automotive industry, while it also believes the eurozone sovereign debt crisis will have had a negative effect.

Also announcing an update on Thursday is Greggs, with the budget baker's third-quarter statement due. Shore Capital predicts "a resilient performance", with its analysts saying they would be "comfortable" with its total sales rising over the period by between 4 and 4.5 per cent. They hope the group remains on track to open 80 new stores over the year, and news is also expected on its plans to expand its manufacturing, including building a new confectionery bakery in Penrith.

Results/Updates: easyJet, Greggs, Halfords, Hays and Victrex.



Friday

Results/Updates: Vedanta Resources.

ECONOMICS DIARY

Today

Cips manufacturing PMI; US construction spending; US ISM manufacturing.



Tomorrow

Cips construction PMI; US factory orders.



Wednesday

BRC Shop Price Index; Cips Services PMI; GDP; Official reserves; US ADP employment change.



Thursday

Bank of England's Housing equity withdrawal figures; BoE interest rate decision; New car registrations; Service sector data.



Friday

Producer prices data; US non-farm payrolls.

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