Updates from Michael Page and Barratt


The FTSE 100 climbed 17.2 points yesterday, finishing at 6,757.1. Morrisons shares surged - following recent falls - on talk of an asset sale, ending at 251.30p. Fresnillo climbed +3.61% to 703.50p. Tullow Oil took the biggest dip, down -3.46% at 878p.

The Dow Jones ended the day at 16,257.9, down almost 180 points, partly due to more Fed tapering worry.

We commence with a full-year trading update from recruiter Michael Page. The Weybridge-based company says total Q4 profits dipped -1.2% to £125m while full year profits are clipped -2.5% to £526.9m, both numbers coming under pressure from currency gusts.

The EMEA region, which takes the lion's share of revenues, saw its first quarterly year-on-year growth in reported currencies since Q1 2012 says Page. The UK, with a steadily improving job count, saw two consecutive quarters of 5% year-on-year growth.

"For the full year 2013, we reiterate our statement of October that we expect operating profit pre exceptional to be around £68m." However conditions in Brazil continue to deteriorate for the company.

Next, a trading update from infrastructure operator Balfour Beatty. Overall trading of its continuing businesses remains in line with Board's expectations. Balfour claims the year end order book for continuing businesses to be in line with the £13.5 billion from 31 December 2012.

The order book has been impacted by foreign exchange movements, and a continuing shift in the mix of its Construction order book from the UK to the US says the company. There has been some progress on strategic disposals.

In Professional Services, performance overall was as expected. "We saw," says Balfour, "a strong cash performance in December 2013 which resulted in an actual net debt balance of under £100 million at the year end."

Finally, a trading update from house builder Barratt. In the last six months the Group delivered 6,195 (2012: 5,194) completions, an increase of 19.3% on last year. Private completions were up 22.7% to 5,202 (2012: 4,241) and affordable completions totalled 751 units (2012: 844 units).

The Help to Buy scheme continues to have a positive impact on demand for new homes claims Barratt. Around 29% of its total completions utilised the scheme. With improved market conditions and stronger consumer demand, there's an increase in underlying sales prices it says.

"We continue," says Barratt, "to see excellent opportunities in the land buying market across all divisions, and in the first six months approved the purchase of 11,394 plots (2012: 9,320 plots)."