Pick of the early market news

Can European politicians really sort out eurozone woes? The markets remained unsure yesterday, with the FTSE 100 slipping 21 points to 5,546 and the German Dax sinking to 5,994, a -0.57% drop. The up-coming two-day talks have been painted as 'do-or-die' - or 'do-or-die' until the next crisis. Meanwhile Standard & Poor's has now threatened a downgrade on European Union credit.
Pound coin handy? Let's pick up a supermarket trolley. For Tesco, not enough people are though with UK sales down for the third quarter in a row. Sales at UK stores open more than a year fell 0.9% in the 13 weeks to November 26 - a bigger drop than some analysts had predicted.

However overall Tesco group sales for the thirteen weeks ending 26 November 2011 increased by 7.2% including petrol, and by 5.4% excluding petrol. Tesco boss Philip Clarke claimed that its Big Price Drop campaign is seeing stronger food volume growth. "We are also seeing positive customer reaction to the improvements in our general merchandise ranges."

"We have seen a good improvement in our rate of customer and transaction growth in absolute terms and relative to our key competitors, with the result that we are being rewarded with a stronger grocery volume performance." Recent Kantar data also shows that Tesco's volume performance is now materially stronger and ahead of the market, Clarke claims.

Next, personal care player PZ Cussons. A trading update claims first-half profits will come in below expectations following high raw material costs and difficult exchange rates on margins. However UK washing and bathing division has seen good revenue growth, despite some pressure on margins.

Trading conditions in Australia, Greece, Thailand and the Middle East have been challenging says PZ Cussons while in Nigeria - a significant market for this company - has seen "strong" revenue growth across all business units.

Lastly, a pre-close trading update from Standard Chartered. The bank says it expects double-digit income growth for 2011, despite Asian exchange turbulence. Client income within wholesale banking is expected to grow at around a double digit rate and income in consumer banking is also expected to grow at a double digit rate.

Asian exchange rates continue to depreciate though against the US Dollar, "and whilst we have seen continued good execution of a strong pipeline in difficult market conditions, income in 2011 for the Group is now expected to grow at just below a double digit rate."

"Since the time of the third quarter Interim Management Statement, Asian exchange rates have depreciated further by between 1-5%."

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