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London pre-open: Stocks to rise as retail sales beat expectations

(Sharecast News) - London stocks were set to rise at the open on Friday following upbeat sessions in the US and Asia and better-than-expected UK retail sales data. The FTSE 100 was called to open around 35 points higher.

Figures released earlier by the Office for National Statistics showed that retail sales rose 3.4% in January following a downwardly-revised 3.3% drop in December, coming in comfortably above economists' expectations for a 1.5% increase.

Heather Bovill, deputy director for surveys and economic indicators at the ONS, said: "After a very weak December, retail sales rebounded in January with the largest monthly rise since April 2021.

"This means that overall sales have now recovered to pre-December levels, although if we look at the broader picture, they are still below where they were pre-pandemic."

Capital Economics said: "Overall, today's release was stronger than expected and suggests the drag from higher interest rates on consumer spending is fading fast and points to the economy soon moving out of recession. As a result, after a depressing 2023 for retailers, a better year should be in store in 2024."

In corporate news, NatWest Bank reported a 20% rise in operating profit and confirmed Paul Thwaite as chief executive on a permanent basis.

The bank said 2023 operating profit came in at £6.1bn. Total income rose to £14.7bn, up from £13.1bn a year earlier.

Thwaites had been given a one-year contract last July after the departure of his predecessor Alison Rose, who resigned after she broke client confidentiality in relation to the closure of hard-right political activist Nigel Farage's bank account.

Elsewhere, TBC Bank Group reported significant increases in net interest income, of 26.8%, and net fee and commission income, of 27.8%, in its full-year results, leading to total operating income of GEL 2.37bn (£0.71bn), up 14.6%.

Despite a 36% increase in its total credit loss allowance and a 24.2% rise in operating expenses, the bank still achieved a profit before tax of GEL 1.33bn, up 7%. After a 20.3% fall in income tax expenses, the bank reported a profit for the period of GEL 1.14bn, up 13.6% year-on-year.

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