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Equilibrium's finance and investment news roundup

Our roundup this week includes news of UK retail sales picking up over Christmas and a strong festive season performance by Tesco. This week has also seen the FTSE 100 reaching record highs and the TUC warning of rising average household debt.


BRC: UK retail sales picked up over Christmas

UK retail sales sped up in December, with increased food shopping around Christmas resulting in retailers enjoying an encouraging finish to the year. This is according to new research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG, which revealed like-for-like sales increased by 1% in December.

Food sales were the major contributor to the upwards movement, although non-food sales remained slow over the period.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, said: "Despite the slow start to the Christmas trading period, the week itself was a bumper one and exceeded expectations." 

Tesco 'outperforms other supermarkets over festive breaks'

Tesco enjoyed a positive Christmas, recording the fastest growing sales of the 'big four' supermarkets over the final quarter of the year. Britain's biggest supermarket was helped by inflation returning to the grocery market, with prices climbing 0.2% during the period - the first such rises since 2004.

New figures from Kantar Worldpanel revealed that sales during the 12 weeks to January 1 at Tesco rose by 1.3%, which compared to falls of 0.1% and 2.4% at Sainsbury's and Asda respectively.

However, the figures were more promising for Morrisons, which recorded sales growth of 1.2% during the period. The retailer has benefited from positive sales figures for food and alcohol, as well as its Nutmeg clothing range. 

'Record highs' for FTSE 100

The FTSE 100 reached an all-time high on Tuesday, climbing to 7,261.16 points before paring back slightly. The biggest riser on the index was Tesco, which was up 4% after reporting better-than-expected sales over Christmas.

Tesco shares also rose - by 3.9% - while hotel and restaurant operator Whitbread saw its shares climb by 3.2% after a rating upgrade from 'neutral' to 'outperform' by Credit Suisse.

In the currency markets, the pound was down 0.3% against the dollar and 0.6% against the euro in early Trading on Tuesday on fears that the UK may pursue a 'hard Brexit'. 

TUC: Average household debt climbs to £13,000

The TUC has warned that average household debt in the UK has reached a record high. Using figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the three months to the end of September last year, the TUC found that the typical UK household currently owes £12,887 - even before mortgages are factored in.

The ONS figures do, however, take into account student loans, which have increased markedly in recent years.

Last week the Bank of England released figures putting total unsecured debt at £192 billion up until the end of November 2016, although this figure does exclude student loans.

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