The Business: Friday May 9 2014

Company news, markets and financial talking points, available from 8am Monday to Friday

THINK TANK: UK RECESSION ‘IS OVER’

The recession is over, an influential think-thank will declare this afternoon. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research will announce that the ground lost in the financial crisis has been recovered. The monthly estimate of growth from the think-tank will show that GDP is back at, or just fractionally short of, its March 2008 record. “We are incredibly close to the pre-recession peak. Whether we make it in the April estimate will be a matter of 0.1 per cent,” said a spokesman.

MPS' FEAR OVER TAX POWERS

The treasury committee has expressed “considerable concern” over the plan to allow HM Revenue and Customs to settle unpaid demands by taking money from people's bank accounts. The plan was unveiled by chancellor George Osborne at this year’s budget. But a committee spokesman said: "Some taxpayers may find money taken from their accounts that later should be paid back. That would be unacceptable."

MILD WINTER HITS BRITISH GAS PROFITS

The mild winter has squeezed profits for the owner of British Gas. Centrica says the average British Gas residential energy bill was around 10% lower this winter than last. Despite this, the company insists it has no plans to raise household bills this year. It said: "Assuming that energy market conditions remain benign, and recognising the competitive conditions in the UK energy supply market, we do not currently expect to change our residential energy prices during 2014."

MORRISONS REVEALS SALES PLUNGE

Morrisons has revealed a significant fall in sales - the day after its share price took a hit of more than 5% on the FTSE 100. Excluding fuel, like-for-like sales fell 7.1% in the 13 weeks to May 4. With fuel included, the drop extended to 8.2%. The performance has prompted further declines in the chain’s market when the FTSE 100 opened. However, it later recovered some of the ground it had lost over the past 24 hours.

HOUSE PRICES FELL IN APRIL

House prices fell by 0.2% last month, according to the latest figures from Halifax. This is the second successive monthly price fall and the third in the past six months. However, the building society’s figures also show that house prices between February and April this year were 2.3% higher than the previous three months and 8.5% higher than the same time last year. “On an annual basis housing demand still remains strong," said mortgages director Stephen Noakes.

PRET POSTS 15% JUMP IN SALES

Pret A Manger has posted a 15% jump in sales as the popularity of the sandwich lunch remains strong in large cities like Hong Kong and New York. The 352-strong chain reported sales of £510 million and a growth in underlying profit up 9% to £67m for the year to January. The company said that demand for non-sandwich items such as porridge, bananas and vegetable juices was boosting sales. It now plans more stores in New York, Washington, Chicago, Boston, Paris and Hong Kong.

THE NUMBERS... AT 0715 GMT


FTSE-100: up +0.63 to 6839.25
Dow Jones: up +0.20 to 16550.97
Dax: up +0.90 to 9607.40
Cac-40: up +1.37 to 4507.24
Nikkei: up +0.38 to 14217.09
Hang Seng: down -0.01 to 21835.39
US dollar: buys €0.72260 and £0.59070
Sterling: buys $1.69300 and €1.22340
Oil: $108.03 down -0.1