Updates from Morrisons and Halfords

The FTSE 100 finished five points lower at 6,741 on Wednesday. Experian was the biggest faller, down -6.41% to 1182p after it aired plans to snap up a US health care business; Mondi slipped -4.12% to 1070p.

Stateside, the Dow Jones notched up a record finish, hitting 15,746.88, up +0.82%. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%The big news this morning is Morrisons. The UK's fourth-largest supermarket operator saw a -2.4% dip in like-for-like sales - though excluding fuel - in the three months to November. Morrisons blamed the third quarter downturn on fewer convenience stores and no online presence (yet).

Overall sales though climbed +0.1% in the period (including new store openings). In a statement, boss Dalton Philips said he expected the market to remain "challenging" and that he was addressing key weaknesses.

"Many of our customers," Philips said, "will be able to experience our distinctive online food service early in the new year and we expect to be able to serve 50% of UK homes by the end of the year."

Next, a half-year update from bikes-to-tents-to-car-repair high street operator, Halfords. Total group like-for-like revenues climb +6.2% to £490.6m though its auto-centres saw like-for-like sales growth dip -2.1%, taking £66.6m overall.

Cycling and Car Maintenance performed well says the company; autocentres performance was driven by "market and operational challenges" though a new Autocentres CEO is to be drafted in; there's an interim dividend of 5.2p.

"These are early days in our three-year transformation plan," says boss Matt Davies, "but it is encouraging to see the Retail business deliver a strong first-half performance...The performance in Autocentres by contrast was impacted by both operational and market challenges."

Lastly, half-year numbers from Tate & Lyle. Bulk Ingredients adjusted operating profit is 9% lower (down 11% in constant currency) at £92 million (2012 – £101 million) as a result of lower US sweetener volumes the company says.

However there's Speciality Food Ingredients sales growth of +10% (7% in constant currency) with adjusted operating profit up +3% (1% in constant currency) at £112 million (2012 – £108 million). There's a +5.4% bump in the interim dividend to 7.8p.

"While our overall results," says boss Javed Ahmed, "were held back by a soft beverage season in the US which affected both divisions, the business performed solidly in the first half with good sales growth in Speciality Food Ingredients."

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