Sainsbury's Christmas

Sainsbury’s was the major loser from the Kantar Worldpanel market share figures on Wednesday, as its worst sales performance for a year sent its shares tumbling.

The supermarket’s 1.2% sales decline over the 12 weeks to 22 May, which Kantar attributed to its shift from multipack deals to straightforward price cuts, caused its shares to plunge by 4.3% to 256.9p. Its momentum was further hampered by worsening sales towards the end of the period, with sales for the four weeks to 22 May down by 1.3%, representing a like-for-like fall of about 2%.

Conversely, Tesco shares were up 1.1% to 167p on Wednesday after the retailer recorded the smallest sales drop of the big four. The market was given further reason to believe Dave Lewis’ strategy is beginning to pay off by sales going positive by 0.1% in the four weeks to 22 May, having been at -1.5% over the previous two months.

Analysts at Jefferies suggested Tesco’s “inflection in momentum” was “mostly at the expense of Sainsbury’s”. The broker noted that Sainsbury’s grocery performance in particular “remained poor for the second period running, at least ­relative to that of the other UK majors”.

Morrisons was down 0.9% to 196.5p on Wednesday after its own 2.1% sales drop for the 12-week period, but Bernstein analysts noted grocery sales improved from a 5.1% decline in February to just 2.3% down in May.

Shore Capital summarised: “All in all we deem the overall sector performance … to be a little bit more sound. Volume growth is evident, and in Morrison and Tesco in particular we see demonstrable stabilisation and self-improvement.”

Shareholders of stevia producer PureCircle had a torrid time on Thursday morning after news broke that US Customs officials had seized a shipment amid allegations of forced labour. PureCircle said this was “inaccurate”, adding it was “making every effort to resolve the situation”. Its shares had plunged by 9.2% to 329.5p by lunchtime on Thursday, but Liberum analysts said they “expect this issue to be resolved relatively swiftly”.