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Equilibrium's Finance and Investment News Roundup

The latest instalment of our weekly roundup includes new research suggesting many small UK businesses are confused about their new pension responsibilities, estimates of the winter floods bill reaching £1.3 billion, a fall in industrial output for November and Sainsbury's being crowned the big winner of the supermarkets over Christmas.


Small businesses 'confused about pension responsibilities'

Many small businesses in the UK are confused about their responsibilities regarding workplace pension schemes, new research has suggested. According to the survey from the Federation of Small Businesses, almost half of employers who are required to set up such a scheme for their workers in the next two years are not certain about what they must do to make this happen.

Despite more than one million small firms being required to enrol employees automatically into a workplace pension in this time, 45% of those questioned are unclear of the rules.

The poll also revealed that 25% of respondents harbour reservations about their ability to cope with the extra cost that the move will bring. As part of the changes, all employees over the age of 22 who earn more than £10,000 a year should be offered such a pension. 

Winter floods bill 'to reach £1.3bn'

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has estimated that serious flooding seen across various parts of the UK this winter will result in insurance claims for related damage reaching £1.3 billion. This figure has been calculated based on the damage caused to homes, businesses and vehicles by Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank.

Speaking to the BBC, ABI Director Huw Evans said the figure was "our estimate of the total cost, but clearly these numbers could change as future claims are made but this is broadly what we expect the cost to be for the damage caused by the storms of the last month".

It was calculated that the average pay-out for each domestic flood will be around the £50,000 mark - notably higher than the £31,000 figure recorded following storms in the winter of 2013-2014. 

Industrial output fall 'due to mild weather'

Milder-than-usual weather was partly to blame for significantly reduced industrial output in the UK in November. This is the suggestion of new research from the Office for National Statistics, which found that industrial output dropped by 0.7% month on month in November, representing the sharpest fall since January 2013.

The dip has been attributed to reduced demand for heating gas due to the unusual lack of cold weather for that part of the year.

The research also painted a similarly disappointing picture for UK manufacturing, which contracted for the second month in a row in November, with output in the sector slipping by 0.4%. 

Sainsbury's 'won the supermarket battle this Christmas'

Sainsbury's was the big winner of the major UK supermarkets this Christmas, new research has revealed. According to the findings from Kantar Worldpanel, Sainsbury's was the only one of the 'big four' retailers - which also includes Tesco, Asda and Morrisons - to enjoy a growth in sales and market share over the festive period.

After Kantar Worldpanel revealed Sainsbury's total sales had risen 0.8% in the 12 weeks to January 3rd, shares in the major retailer climbed by 3%, while its market share increased by 0.1%.

Other retailers that enjoyed a successful Christmas period included John Lewis, Waitrose and the Co-operative, as well as discount retailers Aldi and Lidl.