Investors have welcomed today's IMS which reports that brand sales ex VAT for the first 14 weeks were up 2.2 pct of which 1.5 pct came from the opening of profitable new space.

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NEXT Plc remains cautious about the consumer environment and anticipates that the continuing decline in real earnings will depress discretionary spending for at least the next 18 months, if not longer.

NEXT added that it remains confident in its sales guidance for the full year of +1% to +4% and profit range of GBP615m to GBP665m.

Ahead of the results Sam Hart at stockbrokers Charles Stanley said:

"Market expectations are for dividend growth of 13% this year, predicated on solid sales growth, modest operating margin expansion, a flat interest charge and £250m of share buybacks.  Attention today will focus on the first quarter sales performance and guidance for full year sales and profit before tax; the share price level suggests investors are confident that sales will be resilient despite the challenging consumer environment and intense competitive landscape."

J Sainsbury plc (LON:SBRY): Dividend lift not enough to tempt buyers

J Sainsbury plc (LON:SBRY) shares have sold off this morning; at 9:20 in London SBRY is seen 1.5 pct in the red at 390.4.  It is worth noting that the stock has had a strong run leading into today's results release.

Sainsbury Final Results saw underlying PBT up 6.2% to GBP756m on total sales including VAT ex fuel ahead 4.3 pct and lfl sales including VAT, ex fuel up 1.8 pct.

The dividend is raised 3.7 pct to 16.7p a share and noted that it was well-positioned for future growth.

SBRY separately confirmed that it was taking full ownership of Sainsbury Bank by acquiring the outstanding 50% shareholding from Lloyds Banking Group for GBP248m.

According to J Sainsbury this will be funded from internal resources, adding that it had a well defined, 42 month transition plan in place to move onto a flexible, modern banking platform.  

"The share price level suggests investors believe Sainsbury can deliver steady growth in earnings and dividends over the medium term despite the challenging operating environment," says Hart.

BRC reports falling retail sales

As SBRY and NXT report back to market we get some ominous news from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The BRC has said British retail sale values fell 2.2 percent from a year earlier on a like-for-like measure, which strips out changes in stores' floor space and is favoured by company analysts.

That was the steepest drop in a year and confounded analysts' forecasts for a 1.8 percent rise.

The total value of sales dipped 0.6 percent in April, breaking an almost year-long run of growth.