The Business: Thursday March 20 2014

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

FORECASTS LOWERED AS M&S SHEDS SHARE

Concern is rising over the future of Marks and Spencer as the chain shed market share over the past quarter and saw a pair of City brokers downgrade their sales and profits forecasts. The Financial Times reveals that M&S’s share of the total fashion market fell 0.4% in the 12 weeks to February 16. In contrast, rivals Next enjoyed strong gains while Debenhams had flat share. Citi has downgraded its forecast from 1% growth to a 1% decline, with Nomura forecasting a 1.5% fall.

MIXED RESPONSES TO OSBORNE BUDGET

The newspaper’s reaction to George Osborne’s budget is mixed. The Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner welcomes the chancellor’s “belated steps in the right direction” on savings and investments. The Daily Mail says that by radically reshaping the savings landscape, Osborne has “delivered a useful shock to a financial services industry”. However, The Guardian’s Larry Elliott concludes: “The real gist of Osborne's speech was that Britain remains in deep trouble.”

BOOMING BENTLEY SET TO EXPORT

Bentley has announced 100 new jobs and record profits of £140m as it revealed it will begin to expert its engines from next year. The Daily Mail says the luxury carmaker has announced its operating profits were up by a massive 67% to a record £167.7m in 2013 compared to  £83.7m in 2012. Business secretary Vince Cable said: “With more than four out of every five cars made in the UK exported to the rest of the world, the news that Bentley will now export engines as well is another feather in their cap.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY… BIG BUSINESS WELCOMES BUDGET

“We have needed some evidence that business is at the top of the agenda. Dealing with energy costs, encouraging investment — it sounds like the Chancellor is listening.” Tony Pedder, chairman of Sheffield Forgemasters, welcomes Osborne’s Budget.

GOLD TIPPED TO HIT $1,400 AN OUNCE

The crisis in Ukraine and a return of ETFs will push gold prices to $1,400 (£842) an ounce by the end of the year, says German lender Commerzbank. A spokesman for the bank said it has been "surprised by the early timing and scale of the upward movement" in the price of gold, which has risen 15% this year. It said that the turmoil in the Crimea peninsula is “boosting the demand for gold as a safe haven”. Gold is currently trading around $1,340 per ounce.

STARBUCKS LOOKS TO DOUBLE CAPITALISATION

Starbucks is seeking to almost double its market capitalisation to $100bn, says its chief executive. Howard Schultz has set no deadline to hit his ambitious target, saying that the chain is in “the nascent stages of our growth and development”, whil speaking at the company’s annual investor meeting in Seattle. Starbucks is expanding its digital business and trying to dominate the $90bm global tea market through Teavana, the brand it bought in 2012.

THE NUMBERS... AT 0730 GMT


FTSE-100: down -0.49 to 6573.13
Dow Jones: down -0.70 to 16222.17
Dax: up +0.37 to 9277.05
Cac-40: down -0.12 to 4308.06
Nikkei: down -1.65 to 14224.23
Hang Seng: down -1.92 to 21155.63
US dollar: buys €0.72280 and £0.60470
Sterling: buys $1.65350 and €1.9510
Oil: $105.88 down -0.9