M&S misses out on Christmas food spending

A slew of updates from retailer and housebuilders has kept investors busy, but the FTSE 100 has avoided heavy losses thanks to gains by mining shares.

- Markets tiptoe lower as earnings season looms
- M&S finds food sales faltering
- Brent returns to 2015 peak

The FTSE 100 has begun aping the characteristics of its US cousins, inching to a new record each day. The index has managed to hold its ground thanks to the solid performance of its mining names, which helps to offset more declines for retailers and housebuilders. For the latter, it remains a case of ‘better to travel than to arrive’, as Barratt disappoints with a flat sales rate. The company’s protestations about how things have much improved over the past five years cut little ice with a market that is forward-looking, and already the models are being downgraded to anticipate weaker growth in the year ahead. It continues to be a starkly mixed bag for retailers, with Marks & Spencer and
 Tesco sinking fast. Both these UK stalwarts have given investors reason to worry, although Tesco is perhaps more at fault for not being more conservative on guidance. For M&S however, the picture goes from bad to worse. Everyone seems to have abandoned their Simply Food stores for other supermarkets, removing the one real positive in the numbers over the last few years.

Brent crude is knocking on the door of levels not seen since 2015, as the rally continues to defy the naysayers. But OPEC’s fears about US shale storming back in and ruining the party are entirely justified. Soon perhaps, we’ll have to talk about a need to boost output to keep market share, which would at least help consumers around the globe manage their petrol spend. Ahead of the open, we expect the Dow to start at 25,390, up 21 points from yesterday’s close.

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