Pick of the early market news

London skylineIt's all going to be about the reaction to President Obama's big speech today, after a choppy day on the markets yesterday. Longer term, the emphasis on stimulus could raise pressure on the UK government. This morning we have contrasting results from J D Wetherspoon and HMV.
The FTSE 100 closed up 22 points at 5,340 yesterday, finishing on the rise after a choppy day. An early rise of around 40 points petered out at lunchtime, with market back down 45 points by mid-afternoon. A good start on Wall Street saw stocks rally as world markets waited for the big speeches from the US.

President Obama unveiled the American Jobs Act, a raft of measures aimed at stimulating growth. Quoting President Kennedy he said: "Our problems are man-made – therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants." The contrast with the UK approach could not be starker.

Whether that boosts market confidence remains to be seen, although disappointment that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's earlier speech did not contain stimulus measures has driven equity prices down. It's going to be a very interesting Friday.

Pub chain J D Wetherspoon starts us off this morning, with a set of preliminary results showing record sales and profits. Like-for-like sales were up 2.1%, pushing revenue up 7.6% to £1,072m. Operating profit rose 8.3% to £96.9m, taking pre-tax profit up 1.5% to £61.4m.

Chairman Tim Wetherspoon used the publication of the results to darw attention to the "tax disparity between supermarkets and pubs", which he said creates "a serious and unsustainable competitive disadvantage". He's not too happy with VAT and excise duty levels either, but says the board is hoping for "a reasonable outcome" to the year's trading.

HMV is not in quite such good health. This morning's interim showed like-for-like sales down 15.1%, with total sales down 21.8% – a figure fuelled by the closure of 29 stores. But attendances at the summer's HMV Live events was up 30% in total, and sales in the new Fast Forward technology stores are encouraging.

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