European and US shares have drifted lower, as investors are still waiting for results from the US mid-term elections.
The Republicans’ red wave has failed to materialise but Florida’s right-wing governor Ron DeSantis, who would make a strong challenger to Donald Trump for the next Republican presidential nomination in 2014, has won a landslide re-election victory in Tampa.
“The Republicans are on course to win only the narrowest of majorities in the House, and control of the Senate will probably be decided by another run-off election in Georgia in a month’s time,” said Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics.
Our main stories today:
Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is cutting 11,000 jobs, more than one in eight staff, after a disastrous collapse in revenue has left the company behind Facebook overstaffed and “inefficient”, the chief executive said in a note to staff.
Marks & Spencer has said it faces a “gathering storm”, with next year likely to be more challenging than this after reporting a near 24% fall in profits.
The online furniture retailer Made.com has collapsed into administration after weeks of speculation, leading to 320 redundancies and leaving customers worried about their orders.
The company’s brand, domain names and intellectual property were immediately bought by the fashion and homeware retailer Next.
Shares in ITV fell steeply after the broadcaster forecast a lukewarm revenue boost from airing the World Cup, heightening investor fears that the cost of living crisis will crash the UK advertising market.
The pub chain JD Wetherspoon is planning to sell a further 39 pubs after getting rid of five sites over the past three months amid a slow recovery in trading since the pandemic shut down hospitality.
A strike on London Underground will halt virtually all tube services and slow much of the capital to a crawl on Thursday, in the ongoing dispute over jobs and pensions.
Some London Overground and Docklands Light Railway services may also be affected by the 24-hour walkout by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union, while buses are expected to be extremely busy and roads congested. Elizabeth Line trains will run as normal.
Thank you for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow. Take care – JK
The Russian steelmaker Evraz said today that its auditor EY, one of the UK’s big four accounting firms, has terminated its services because of the sanctions imposed on the company following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Evraz said it had been unable to find a UK audit firm willing to replace EY. Britain sanctioned the Russian firm in May, and its London-listed shares were suspended from trading.
India’s Tata Motors is expecting profits and cashflow to bounce back in the second half of the year thanks to strong demand for its Jaguar Land Rover cars, and a decline in domestic steel costs.
Carmakers have seen a surge in demand for cars since the pandemic, and easing costs of its key raw material, steel.
Tata’s chief financial officer PB Balaji told reporters:
We are seeing continued increase in the demand side at JLR.
The order book is strong because of the new Range Rover, and Range Rover Sport and Defender models.
The company sold 142,755 vehicles, up 69% year on year, while JLR wholesale volumes, excluding its joint venture in China, rose 17.6% to 75,307. This was below analysts’ expectations because of chip shortages. Tata, India’s third-largest carmaker, has doubled its market share in passenger vehicles to 14% over the past two years, according to India’s Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations.
COP27: Nuclear power industry vies for role in decarbonising planet
At the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, nuclear energy supporters are arguing that atomic power can play a safe and cost-efficient role in decarbonising the planet, Reuters reports.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation that promotes nuclear power, opened an exhibit at the UN climate gathering of global leaders in Sharm El-Sheikh, for the first time in 27 years of international climate negotiations. The IAEA said:
Many countries faced with sharply rising energy costs and heightened security of supply concerns are turning to nuclear power.
US special climate envoy John Kerry announced the US Export-Import Bank’s formal interest in providing $3bn in financial support for a nuclear plant in Romania. He told reporters:
We have a viable alternative in nuclear… This is one of the ways in which we can achieve net-zero. We don’t get to net zero by 2050 without nuclear power in the mix.
Kerry also announced the creation of a carbon offset plan designed to help developing countries speed up their transition away from fossil fuels. He launched the Energy Transition Accelerator with the intention of funding renewable energy projects and accelerating clean energy transition in emerging markets.
In the US, the Republicans’ red wave has failed to materialise but Florida’s right-wing governor Ron DeSantis, who would make a strong challenger to Donald Trump for the next Republican presidential nomination in 2014, has won a landslide re-election victory in Tampa.
Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics, has sent us his thoughts on the US mid-term elections – and what they mean for US policy going forward.
While the results remain too close to call, the Republicans are on course to win only the narrowest of majorities in the House, and control of the Senate will probably be decided by another run-off election in Georgia in a month’s time. Perhaps the biggest implication of the midterms is that the chances of Donald Trump returning as president in 2024 appear to have taken a hit.
Despite rampant inflation and President Joe Biden’s low approval rating, the Democrats have avoided the heavy defeat that many anticipated. Although the Republicans are still expected to win control of the House, they look set for a majority of five seats or fewer, leaving presumptive Speaker Kevin McCarthy beholden to Marjorie Taylor Greene and other members of the Freedom Caucus. Recall that the Freedom Caucus scuppered McCarthy’s bid for the speakership after John Boehner resigned in 2015. Boehner’s post-retirement warning that the Freedom Caucus “can’t tell you what they’re for. They can tell you everything they’re against. They’re anarchists. They want total chaos,” could come back to haunt McCarthy.
The race for the Senate stands on a knife-edge, with each party on 48 seats and the remaining four races potentially unlikely to be called for days. As happened in 2020, overall control of the Senate will probably not be decided until a likely run-off election in Georgia on 6th December.
Regardless of which way that race goes, a narrow Republican victory in the House would spell the end for President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, and the potential for further big shifts in fiscal policy. It would also raise the risks of another crisis over the Federal debt ceiling next summer although, for that reason, the Democrats are likely to try and raise the ceiling themselves during the lame duck session. The House Republicans will launch investigations of the administration and could attempt impeachment, but that wouldn’t go anywhere with the Senate set to remain close to 50-50 either way.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from the midterms is the disappointing performances of many Republican candidates publicly backed by Trump, which came alongside a resounding re-election victory for Republican Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis. With DeSantis already seen as Trump’s main challenger for the Republican nomination in 2024, and tipped to beat Biden if he progressed to the final ballot, there may now be a higher chance of a Republican victory in 2024 – potentially heralding the return of market-friendly tax cutting policies, but without the chaos that characterised much of Trump’s first term.
Undertaker Dignity sees spike in deaths in recent weeks, 'reason unknown'
The funeral services company Dignity reported a 14% drop in underlying revenue to £204.7m in the 39 weeks to 30 September, when the number of deaths in the UK fell 3% to 469,000. Underlying operating profits fell sharply, by 68%, to £14.1m.
The group conducted 58,200 funerals in the first three quarters of the year, compared with 59,900 a year earlier. The average revenue per funeral has gone down to £2,095 from £2,505, as more people opted for lower-cost funerals such as direct cremations (with no service, mourners or ceremony). As demand rose, the average price per cremation dropped to £863 from £891.
Dignity noted that in the last few weeks deaths had risen almost a fifth above the five-year average, adding:
The reason for this spike in the death rate is currently unknown.
The impact of Covid-19 deaths in 2020 and 2021 could possibly mean we experience a fluctuating number of deaths than originally anticipated by the Office of National Statistics in 2022 and 2023.
James Brumby, financial analyst at Langton Capital, tweets:
Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said Meta faces a “monumental task” to claw back revenue.
Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘mea culpa’ statement is unlikely to do the trick of reassuring investors, instead they may be further rattled by his admission he over-estimated the company’s prospects. It’s clear he expected the surge in online advertising experienced during the pandemic to continue and under-estimated just how quickly rivals could entice users away.
Given that the jobs cuts were already expected and had largely been priced in, the focus will now be on the monumental task Meta faces to claw back revenue. It faces an uphill battle in its attempt to attract younger audiences who are now dancing to the Pied Piper tunes of TikTok, or setting up groups and channels on Discord and Telegram.
At the same time Meta funds are being poured down into the dark plumbing of the metaverse, and it’s highly unclear when revenues will emerge from this expensive venture. He may have taken responsibility for the current situation, but he is still using the same language of shifting resources to high priority growth areas, and the metaverse still features on that list.
Victoria Scholar, head of investment at interactive investor, said:
Shares in Meta are trading higher by more than 4% after Facebook’s parent company confirmed speculation that it is planning to slash the size of its workforce in an attempt to rein in costs amid this year’s share price plummet. Meta is cutting staff by over 11,000 this year as it grapples with softening ad revenues and cost inflation. It follows Meta’s extremely disappointing quarterly earnings report last month which sent shares down 20% after it forecast a weak Christmas quarter and higher costs next year.
Meta is the latest company in the tech sector to announce major layoffs, following similar moves from Twitter, Microsoft, Netflix and Amazon lately. Within Big Tech, Meta is the standout underperformer this year, shedding more than 70% of its stock market value.
Meta has also been facing criticism for betting too heavily on the Metaverse, a gamble that so far has not paid off. Its Reality Labs division, which hosts its VR headsets has lost over $9bn during the first three quarters of the year.
The wider tech sector has been in turmoil lately on the back of higher inflation and rising interest rates with the removal of the punch bowl of cheap money turning investors away from tech, which has long been the stock market’s favourite sector until an abrupt sea change came about this year.
Here is our full story, by UK technology editor Alex Hern.
Facebook owner Meta to cut over 11,000 jobs, Zuckerberg admits he got it wrong
The Facebook owner Meta said it would axe more than 11,000 staff, equivalent to 13% of its workforce, as its founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg admitted he “got [it] wrong” and things are much worse than he expected.
The job losses come after thousands of layoffs at other big tech companies, including Microsoft and Twitter following the latter’s purchase by the world’s richest man Elon Musk. The pandemic boom for technology companies turned to bust this year with sky-high inflation, rising interest rates and a cost of living crisis.
The first round of redundancies in the company’s 18-year history comes after its workforce peaked this year at 87,314 people. In a message to employees, Zuckerberg said that the company had over-invested at the start of Covid, banking that the increase in online activity would continue after the pandemic.
Unfortunately, this did not play out the way I expected.
Not only has online commerce returned to prior trends, but the macroeconomic downturn, increased competition and ads signal loss have caused our revenue to be much lower than I’d expected.
I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that.
He said the company would shift resources to “high priority growth areas” such as its AI discovery engine, ads and business platforms, and its metaverse project.
Meta said it would pay 16 weeks of base salary plus two additional weeks’ pay for every year of service as part of its severance packages, and all remaining paid time off. Employees will also get cost of healthcare for six months and those affected will receive their 15 November vesting.
The company plans to cut discretionary spending and extend its hiring freeze through the first quarter of next year.
Facebook shares rose 3% in pre-market trading.
“Made.com’s collapse is likely to be the first of many, with online retailers experiencing the perfect storm of supply chain pressures and a looming recession,” warned Sean Moran, insolvency partner at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau.
With the company warning of job losses as early as July this year, it is clear that the business has been struggling for some time.
Brand reputation and customer service are integral to the success of any business, particularly in the current climate. Operating in such a fiercely competitive space as homewares provides additional challenges. After increasingly lengthy delivery times caused by supply chain and logistic issues, it appears that many customers began to cancel orders and seek refunds.
With a business like Made.com much of the value lies in its intellectual property, technology, and branding. The administrators have maximised that value by way of a sale. Popular high street retailer Next has bought the brand, websites and intellectual property after the company’s co-founder and former boss’s offer to purchase was rejected.
Economic pressure continues to mount for the e-commerce sector, with the share price of online fashion giant ASOS also reportedly falling by more than 80% earlier this year, as well as the recent demise of online mattress retailer Eve Sleep. As consumers continue to tighten their belts due to of the cost-of-living crisis, retailers will have to work harder to entice purchasers, particularly for luxury or high-value items.
Nicola Thompson, chief executive office of Made.com, said:
I would like to sincerely apologise to everyone - customers, employees, supplier partners, shareholders and all other stakeholders - impacted as a result of the business going into administration.
Over the past months we have fought tooth and nail to rapidly re-size the cost base, re-engineer the sourcing and stock model, and try every possible avenue to raise fresh financing and avoid this outcome.
The brand will now continue under new owners. I hope that a reconfigured Made will prove to be sustainable and will continue to be loved by customers.
Zelf Hussain, joint administrator and partner at PwC, said:
It is with real regret that redundancies will need to be made. We would like to thank all the employees for their hard work.
We will continue to support those affected at this difficult time, including assisting the HR team’s efforts to secure staff new roles. A small number of employees have been retained to support the orderly closure of the business.
Made.com axes 320 staff
The collapse of the online furniture retailer Made.com into administration will result in 320 redundancies across the business today, according to the administrators PwC.
A further 79 employees who had resigned and were working their notice have been let go with immediate effect.
The business has 573 permanent employees, warehouses in the UK and Belgium, alongside offices and showrooms in London, Europe and Vietnam.
The sale of the brand, website and intellectual property of the company to the fashion and homewares chain Next does not include staff.
You can read the full PwC statement here. It also has some information for customers who are waiting for outstanding deliveries:
Close to 4,500 customer orders in the UK and Europe which are already with carriers are being delivered. However, a large proportion of customer orders are still at origin in the Far East at various stages of production.
Due to the impact of the business entering administration, these items cannot be completed and shipped to customers. In this case you will need to submit a claim in the administration, details about how to submit a claim are available in the creditor section above.
Marks & Spencer also said this morning that there is no threat to Christmas turkey supplies from avian flu.
CEO Stuart Machin told reporters:
We’ve got very strong plans in place so I think we’re in good shape. Christmas is protected around turkeys.
The company typically sells one in four fresh turkeys eaten in the UK at Christmas in its food halls or M&S Simply Food shops.
ITV shares slump amid modest World Cup boost, ad fears
Shares in ITV fell sharply after the broadcaster forecast a lukewarm revenue boost from airing the World Cup, heightening investor fears that the cost of living crisis is set to hit the UK ad market.
The UK’s largest commercial broadcaster said on Wednesday that total ad revenues, including TV, digital and sponsorship, fell 2% in the nine months to the end of September. In its last financial report the broadcaster said it expected income to be “broadly flat” for the period.
ITV’s figures show a steady deterioration in the UK ad market since the middle of the year with August down 21% and September falling 14%. Overall, third quarter ad revenue will be down 14% year-on-year.
Forecasts for November and December - which with the World Cup and the annual Christmas marketing blitz traditionally means an advertising bonanza - will see a modest boost of just 3% and 5% to 10% year-on-year.
“Relative to the overall UK ad market ITV has done ok,” said one senior executive at a media agency. “The problem is the rapid decline in the second half which was not expected. Overall the fourth quarter is going to be flat, and that is with a World Cup, which nobody was expecting when forecasting ad spend in the summer. When the World Cup is in June it drives double digit growth, and ITV’s December forecast will only hold up if England progress to the quarter finals and beyond. ITV will have hoped for much better.”
Rattled investors sent ITV’s share price down more than 6% in morning trading on Wednesday, making it one of the biggest fallers in the FTSE-250.
Strong double-digit growth at ITV Studios, which makes shows including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here. Hell’s Kitchen and A Spy Among Friends, failed to temper market sentiment.
Richard Hunter, head of markets at interactive investor, said:
The pace of transformation at M&S continues to accelerate and is feeding through to some notable progress.
For once, it is not the food business, but the revitalised clothing & home unit which is showing the greatest signs of promise. Previously seen as a dowdy and limited shopping experience, M&S has invested heavily in changing perceptions of style, while also adding an increasingly strong online alternative to the offering. Indeed, the M&S app now has four million users and accounts for 32% of overall clothing & home sales.
For all of the progress, and even with the traditionally strongest final quarter in play, the outlook for the next year is cloudy for reasons which are largely outside the company’s control. The festive period and a rarely timed World Cup competition should provide a shorter term boost, while M&S is at pains to point out that a fair proportion of its customers are ones with a higher income and age demographic.
Even so, the deteriorating economic outlook has ravaged the share prices of retailers in general, and M&S is no exception, with the shares having fallen by 38% over the last year, as compared to a decline of 20% for the wider FTSE-250. Despite an increasingly attractive valuation in historical terms, the tide has not yet turned in the company’s favour, with the market consensus stuck for the moment at a hold [rating on the shares].
M&S shares have fallen 6% as the retailer warned of more challenging times ahead, its first-half profits fell 24% and its joint venture with Ocado slipped into the red.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said:
It’s not been a good year for the M&S share price, down over 50%, and wiping out all its gains from 2021…
While the shares have slipped back in early trading today, on the back of the rise in costs and the losses in the Ocado business, some of the recent pessimism seems somewhat overdone given the changes that have taken place over the last few years under the tenure of previous CEO Steve Rowe, with the current Marks & Spencer a very different animal from the business two to three years ago.
The hope is that new CEO Stuart Machin will be able to pick up where Rowe left off and complete the job. So far, the signs look promising in what is set to be a challenging economic environment.
Last month M&S announced it would be speeding up the closure of some of its main stores, while opening more food halls. This process is expected to do this in the next three years, instead of the previous five-year timeframe.
Here is some reaction to the M&S results.
John Coldham, retail partner at law firm Gowling WLG, said:
M&S is undergoing a significant turnaround as the business restructures its operations. This has consequently impacted on profits, but the retailer is putting itself on solid ground for moving forward.
It is expanding its Simply Food stores which have continued to experience market share growth over the past 12 months, and has acquired its long-term food logistics partner to take full control of its food supply chain. The business will be aiming to create greater efficiency and remove contractual costs through the purchase - a tactical move as external factors are putting more pressure on supply chains.
In terms of clothing, M&S has introduced the hiring of outfits for up to a month to meet shifting consumer demands and combat the cost of living crisis. This provides a more sustainable and economical way for consumers to shop which may well draw in younger customers who haven’t considered the retailer previously.
With an array of economic uncertainties currently being faced, including rising energy costs and interest rates, as well as weaker consumer confidence, shareholders will be hoping the investment that has been made and changes to its strategy will help M&S to maintain its sparkle in the coming years.
The comments came as an interactive guinea pig which has babies and a “booty shaking” disco giraffe are predicted to be among the bestselling toys this Christmas as retailers battle for custom with toy ranges tailored to suit “every budget”.
With the cost of living crisis looming large, the DreamToys list drawn up by the Toy Retailers Association (TRA), features a selection of cheaper toys this year, with eight of the top 12 under £35. The cheapest item on the list is an £8 Squishmallow, a cuddly toy expected to be a popular stocking filler.
Nearly £1bn will be spent on toys between now and Christmas Eve. Paul Reader, chair of the DreamToys selection committee, said that the committee had paid heed to the challenging economic climate. “We know many use the DreamToys list for guidance when it comes to making purchasing decisions and we feel we have selected the best toys to delight children this Christmas while suiting different budgets.”
At the more expensive end of the list is the £65 Mama Surprise guinea pig. Careful grooming makes her heart light up and is a sign that a baby is on the way. The pups arrive behind closed hutch doors (mercifully they drop out of the roof) and in “normal” mode arrive over two days. For shorter attention spans, in “fast” mode they drop every 10 minutes.
M&S says Brits buy Xmas gifts early
M&S co-chief executive Stuart Machin said customers were definitely prioritising Christmas in their spending plans.
Consumers are (cleverly) spreading out the cost of Christmas, buying gifts early so they don’t face a major squeeze in December. Several retailers have noted in recent days how shoppers, desperate to still enjoy the festive season despite the cost of living crisis, have started shopping for presents early.
Katie Bickerstaffe, co-chief executive, told reporters on a call that customers have already bought about 30% of their Christmas gifts.
That echoes similar trends seen at supermarket Sainsbury’s and fashion retailer Primark.
George Weston, the CEO of Primark owner Associated British Foods, told Reuters yesterday:
People are spreading their Christmas purchases across three or four pay days, rather than relying on cash that they have in hand in December.
European shares, oil prices dip
European stock markets are drifting lower as investors wait for more results from the US mid-term elections. The UK’s FTSE 100 index is down 24 points, or 0.3%, to 7,281. Germany’s Dax is also down 0.3%, while the French bourse has edged 0.15 lower and the Italian borsa is 0.4% higher.
Oil prices have dipped after industry data showed US crude stockpiles rose more than expected last week, and amid worries about Chinese demand. Last week, there were hopes that China might move towards relaxing its stringent Covid-19 restrictions but over the weekend health officials said they would stick to the current policy in response to new infections.
Brent crude, the global benchmark, has fallen 36 cents to $95 a barrel while US light crude has lost 48 cents to $88.43 a barrel.
Sterling has inched up 0.1% to $1.1552 against the dollar and is flat versus the euro, at €1.1464.
Wetherspoons to sell 39 more pubs as sales slow
Wetherspoons said it was selling 39 more pubs, as sales slowed and the pub chain warned of “substantially higher” costs for staff, food and repairs.
Like-for-like sales in the 14 weeks to 6 November were 9.6% higher than in the same period last year, and 0.4% higher than pre-pandemic levels. In the last five weeks, sales were up 8.9% year-on-year, but 1.1% lower than the same period in 2019.
Wetherspoons fell more than 4%.
The company, run by Tim Martin, said:
Trading has been broadly in line with expectations, although October has been a slightly slower month.
The company wants to sell 39 pubs that are close to other Wetherspoons and has sold five other outlets.
In my comments on the full year results released on 7 October 2022, I set out various threats to the hospitality industry and these continue to apply. Those caveats aside, in the absence of further lockdowns or restrictions, the company remains cautiously optimistic about future prospects.
Here are our full stories on Marks & Spencer and Made.com:
Marks & Spencer has said it faces a “gathering storm”, with next year likely to be more challenging than this after reporting a near 24% fall in profits.
The clothing, food and homewares retailer said sales rose 8.8% to £5.6bn in the six months to 1 October but underlying pre-tax profits sank 23.7% to £205.5m as its Ocado online grocery joint venture fell into the red and it pulled out of Russia.
The online furniture retailer Made.com has collapsed into administration after weeks of speculation, putting about 500 jobs at risk and leaving customers disappointed.
The company’s brand, domain names and intellectual property were immediately bought by the fashion and homeware retailer Next.
The Guardian understands that Next offered £3.4m to buy the brand but has not taken on the company’s workers or any of its stock of furniture, lighting and homeware.
Made.com’s remaining 500 employees will be told the sad news by administrators at PwC between 9am and 10am this morning, reports my colleague Joanna Partridge.
The failed furniture chain’s shares, which were suspended on 1 November, will be cancelled, any residual value will be distributed to shareholders and the company will be wound up. It stopped taking orders in September, and thousands of customers are anxiously waiting to see if they will get any refunds for items they have ordered.
Susanne Given, chair of Made.com, said:
Having run an extensive process to secure the future of the business, we are deeply disappointed that we have reached this point and how it will affect all our stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders. We appreciate and deeply regret the frustration that MDL going into administration will have caused for everyone.
I want to sincerely thank all our employees, customers, suppliers and partners for your support throughout the past 12 years and especially during this difficult time where we have tried so hard to find a workable solution for the company and all its stakeholders.
Just last year, Made.com was valued at almost £800m when it listed on the stock exchange in June, and was heralded as the future of furniture retail. One of its founders wanted to turn it into an alternative to Ikea, leading a similar revolution in stylish and affordable furniture. Li said in 2017 that Made.com wanted to be the new Ikea, “the pioneer of the next trend of how people shop for their home”.
But while the business enjoyed booming orders during the pandemic when people were stuck at home, sales fell away when Covid restrictions came to an end. The company has also been caught up in the global supply chain crisis, and customers complained about long waits and delayed deliveries of their made-to-order velvet sofas and armchairs.
To help struggling consumers, M&S relaunched its ‘Remarksable’ value range at the start of the year.
The range includes ‘bigger packs, better value’ on 40 lines offering 5% savings per unit volume and this month it locked the prices of 100 family favourites through to 2023.
The dine-in programme has been expanded to include the Gastro range in an ‘always on’ family meal deal for four, for £12.
Taylor Wimpey reports slower sales, cancellation rate up sharply
More evidence that the housing market is entering a downturn: After Persimmon yesterday, Taylor Wimpey, one of the UK’s largest housebuilders, has also reported slower sales for its new-build homes and a sharp rise in the cancellation rate, to 24% in the last six months (its second half) from 14% a year earlier.
Its net sales rate for private homes fell to 0.51 from 0.91 a year earlier, “reflecting customer response to heightened levels of economic uncertainty”. It expects sales over the year as a whole to be flat compared with the previous year, but says it remains on track to deliver a full-year operating profit of £922m.
Taylor Wimpey’s total order book excluding joint ventures has shrunk to £2.6bn from £2.8bn at this stage last year, and is comprised of 9,153 homes versus 10,643 in 2021, of which 79% is exchanged.
Jennie Daly, the chief executive, said:
We have further increased cost control, increased management controls and focused our sales teams for selling in a tougher market.
Customer visits to our website continue to be at good levels, albeit with conversions taking longer. Where customers have locked in mortgage rates, they remain keen to complete their purchase.
With resilient pricing in the order book and a focus on cost discipline, we expect to deliver operating profit in line with our expectations. We expect group volumes to be at broadly similar levels to 2021, given the uncertainty in the market.
Higher mortgage rates will contribute to the wider cost of living challenges affecting our customers.
Veteran property journalist Peter Bill tweets:
Introduction: M&S warns of 'more challenging 2024'; markets await US midterm election results
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of business, the financial markets and the world economy.
Marks & Spencer has reiterated that full-year profits will be below last year’s because of higher costs and pressure on household budgets, and warned that the following year will be even more challenging as it faces a “gathering storm”.
The retailer reported a 24% decline in profit before tax and adjusting items to £205m for the six months to 1 October. Food sales rose 5.6% while clothing & home sales were up 14%.
Stuart Machin, the chief executive, said:
Across all M&S markets it is highly likely that conditions will become more challenging in the financial year 2024.
As we enter what is traditionally our strongest quarter the business continues to trade well.
In the last four weeks, trading has been in line with forecasts, with clothing & home sales up 4.2%, food sales up 3.0% and international up 4.1%.
In other retail news, the furniture chain Made.com has appointed PwC as administrators after failing to find a buyer, and entered into an agreement with Next to acquire the brand, domain names and intellectual property.
On 1 November, it announced that it had lined up administrators and its shares were suspended from trading. The business employed about 700 people then but was in the process of making a third of them redundant.
In China, factory gate prices fell last month for the first time since December 2020, and consumer inflation slowed, as strict Covid curbs, a property slump and global recession risks hammered the economy.
The producer price index fell 1.3% year-on-year, following a 0.9% gain in September, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Consumer price inflation slowed to 2.1% from a 29-month high of 2.8% in September, mainly driven by falling food prices.
Asian stock markets are mixed, as investors await the results of the US mid-term elections, and US inflation data later this week. Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.56% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined nearly 1.9% and China’s Shanghai Composite lost 0.5%. The Australian market gained 06%.
Our politics live blog says:
Only one word is fit to sum up the results from the Senate, House and governorship races that have come in thus far: surprise. The 8 November midterm elections were expected to be rough for Joe Biden’s allies, potentially costing them control of one or both chambers of Congress.
Instead, Democrats are showing surprising strength, holding on to Senate seats and beating back Republican challengers in several crucial House races. Full results are not in yet, and when the dust settles, the GOP may well have eked out the majorities they were expected to have. But it’s plain tonight has not gone as expected for many Republicans across the country – and may end up defying the historical trend of voters using the midterm elections to punish the party in the White House.
8am GMT: European Central Bank Non-monetary policy meeting
Noon: Mexico inflation for October (forecast: 8.46%, previous: 8.7%)
4pm GMT: Russia inflation for October (previous 13.7%)