Pick of the early market news

Commuters cross bridge in LondonAFP/Getty

Sainsbury and Tesco go head to head with trading updates this morning, and while it's something of a tale of contrasting fortunes, both are still doing very nicely indeed thank you. Results too from Sportingbet and brewer Shepherd Neame, whose beer is bucking a national trend.
Supermarket Sainsbury sales total second quarter sales are up 7.8% with like-for-like sales up 5.4%, both figures excluding petrol. Growth in the general merchandise and clothing business continued to outstrip the grocery business, with back-to-school sales up 40% year on year.

The chain opened 24 new convenience stores, creating 1,500 new jobs. Chief executive Justin King made particular mention of the 'Live ell For Less' drive, and said: "We expect the market environment to remain very competitive for the foreseeable future but we are confident in our ability to grow by doing a great job for our customers."

Tesco reports group sales rose by 8.8% to £35.5bn in the 26 weeks to 27 August, but like-for-like sales were down 0.5%. The store still made £1.9bn in pre-tax profit, an increase of 12.1%. Losses in the US business were down by 23.2%. The dividend is 4.63p, an increase of 5.9%.

Sportingbet's final results reveal earnings before deductions rose 11% to £51.4m last year. Some £2,054m was wagered through the company, providing a group operating profit of £24.4m. A final dividend of 1.1p takes the total dividend payment to 1.7p.

Final results from brewer Shepherd Neame show turnover up 5.2% to £121.3m on the back of a 4% rise in beer volume – a pretty good performance considering beer volumes across the UK are down 7.1%. Profit before tax rose 9.7% to £8m and the final dividend of 19p takes the total divi up 3% to 23.8p.

The FTSE 100 dropped a hefty 131.06 points yesterday to close at 4944.44, knocking £34bn off the value of Britain's top companies. That was the fifth consecutive day of decline, and the lowest close since July. At one stage the index fell to 4868, dangerously close to bear market territory.

On the Dow, however, rumours of the recapitalisation of Europe's financial institutions prompted a 400-point swing that saw the index close up 153 points at 10,809. Moody's decision late last night to downgrade Italy's credit rating by three levels may well take the gloss off though.

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