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The fall of Easter in 2014 continues to distort Waitrose’s weekly sales figures, with sales for the week to 25 April up 9.5% year-on-year thanks to the comparative period last year including Easter Sunday when shops were closed.

The figures bring Waitrose’s sales for the first quarter (the 12 weeks to 25 April) to +0.9% (excluding petrol). Stripping out the contribution of new stores, this looks to represent a like-for-like sales fall of over 3%.

During the same period last year Waitrose recorded headline growth of 6.3%.

However, Waitrose said the current warm weather was helping trading momentum, with its food to go range seeing its biggest ever week of sales – up by 39% compared to this time last year. Sales of charcoal for barbecues were up by 54%, and bags of salad were up by 28%.

“We are now seeing a wider move toward these summer trends across the shop” Waitrose said.

Morning update

It’s a relatively quiet end to the week so far today.

The only news of note on the stock market looks to be the suspension of trading of shares in AIM-listed China-based food preservative firm Sorbic International, which has suspended trading “pending clarification of Sorbic International plc’s financial position”. Last week the company removed Wang Yan Ting as chief executive following ongoing problems with the company receiving funds from its Chinese subsidiary.

The FTSE has opened lower this morning, reflecting the losses in the US yesterday. Marks & Spencer (MKS) has opened 1.2% down at 547p, but Tesco (TSCO) and Morrisons (MRW) are amongst the few of the sectors major stocks to have opened up, rising 0.5% to 222.2p and 0.4% to 187.5p respectively.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 ended the day slightly up after recovering from setting a three week low earlier in the day. The index ended the day 0.2% higher at 6,960.6pts, helped by a 5.3% rise in Royal Mail as concerns over growing competition in the delivery sector eased.

It was a quieter day for grocery stocks, with most multi-national fmcg stocks edging back upwards to reclaim some of the ground lost in recent days on weak economic data from China and the US.

Sainsbury’s (SBRY) was towards the top end of the FTSE’s risers – climbing 1.4% to 272.1p as any fears over the bizarre tale of CEO Mike Coupe’s Egyptian court troubles eased. Morrisons, though, was in the index’s top 10 fallers, dropping 2% to 186.8p.

Kerry Group (KYGA) was down 0.9% to €65.53 after the Irish food group restated full year earnings expectations and said that volumes had risen by 2.5% in the first quarter.

After a roller-coaster ride on Wednesday where Thorntons (THT) managed to recover from a double-digit share price fall, the chocolate retailer was back down 2.1% yesterday to 82p after issuing a downbeat trading update on Wednesday.