Updates from Sainsbury's and Berkeley Group

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A lift for the FTSE 100 yesterday, climbing almost 41 points to 6,568.3. Sports Direct was the Board's biggest riser, up +4.06% to 858.50p while Persimmon also rose strongly, up +3.66% to 1361p. Diageo however saw sales slide 2.25% to 1780p.

The Dow Jones climbed 1.13% to 16,247 on Monday, buoyed by better factory output figures.

First, a new fourth quarter trading statement for the 10 weeks to 15 March from Sainsbury's. Total sales for fourth quarter are down 1.5 per cent with like-for-like sales for the fourth quarter tumbling 3.8 per cent (down 3.1 per cent ex fuel). This is Sainsbury's first sales slump for nine years.

Sainsbury's says store sales, more broadly, are growing at their slowest rate since 2005. The late timing of Easter and Mother's Day and unseasonable weather have also contributed to lower market growth year-on-year, it claims.

"Growth in our convenience business," says Sainsbury's, "remains strong at over 15 per cent, and for the first time, during the quarter we saw one million transactions in a day."

Next, an interim from Berkeley Group Holdings. Sales of new build properties across Berkeley brands are claimed to be strong. Cash due on forward sales is now in excess of £1.9 billion, up from £1.75 billion at 31 October 2013 it says.

This reflects continued demand for new homes in London and the South of England. Berkeley has paid £1.64 per share of dividends, equivalent to £215 million. This leaves further dividends of £2.70 per share to be paid by Berkeley's first milestone date.

"The Board reiterates its previous guidance that full year earnings are likely to be towards the top of the range of analysts' current expectations," says the company.

Lastly, digital inket printing operator Xaar says 2013 revenues climbed 55% to £134.1m while margin growth is up 5.5pp to 52.9%. Operating margin climbs 30.4%, an increase of over 100% in R&D investment Xaar claims.

The company is mid-way through a £30m investment programme to up production capacity at its Huntingdon manufacturing facility by 75%, it said in a statement.

"Looking further forward the opportunities for digital print continue to develop," says chief exec Ian Dinwoodie, "with industry forecasts projecting that the conversion to digital over the next 10 years is expected to be twice that seen in the last 20 years.""