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Equilibrium's Finance and Investment News Roundup

This week, we bring you up to speed with the latest developments in Greece, including a decisive rejection of international bailout terms by Greek voters, as well as news of a sales dip for M&S, suggestions of a Sunday trading hours extension by George Osborne and new research indicating a Treasury tax windfall from pension changes.


Bailout offer rejected by Greece

The Greek people have in the last week decisively voted against the terms of an international bailout submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The referendum, which was held on Sunday, resulted in 61% of people voting 'no' when asked whether they accept the terms of the bailout, with 39% voting 'yes'.

Alexis Tsipras, Greece's Prime Minister, said in a televised address following the outcome of the vote that the Greek population had voted for a "Europe of solidarity and democracy". His Syriza party had earlier dismissed the terms of the proposed deal as humiliating, and encouraged people to vote 'no' to the terms.

However, there have been suggestions that a major consequence of a 'no' vote could be Greece's ejection from the Eurozone. Last week, Greece failed to make a £1.1 billion payment to the IMF, and its latest bailout also expired. 

M&S reports general merchandise sales drop

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced a dip in general merchandise sales for the first quarter of this year. The retail giant reported that, in the 13 weeks to June 27th, underlying sales for its clothing, footwear and homewares business reduced by 0.4%.

However, the movement comes after M&S had returned to growth in the previous quarter and is considered a minor blip as the group currently focuses on profit margins above sales growth. Shares in M&S, which have climbed by 25% over the past 12 months, closed at 547 pence on Monday.

Marc Bolland, M&S Chief Executive, commented: "In a challenging and promotional quarter, we continued to focus on improving product quality and style. We remain on track to deliver the improvement in gross margin previously guided." 

Sunday trading hours to be extended?

New plans expected to be announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in his Summer Budget could see trading hours extended on Sundays in England and Wales. The proposals are intended to help local economies, with councils and elected mayors granted the option of relaxing laws should they believe it beneficial.

The move has also been earmarked as a way to help high street shops compete with online retailers. Mr Osborne said there is increasing demand for shopping on a Sunday, adding: "There is some evidence that transactions for Sunday shopping are actually growing faster than those for Saturday."

Pension changes 'to provide Treasury tax windfall'

The Treasury is set to receive an additional tax windfall following changes to the pension system in the UK. This is according to new research carried out by Hargreaves Lansdown for BBC News, which predicts the changes - over-55s can now receive their pension pot in cash instead of buying an annuity - will result in the Treasury receiving an extra £700 million in 2015-16 because of the income tax associated with withdrawing all pension savings at once.

Tom McPhail, Head of Pensions Research at Hargreaves Lansdown, commented: "It is important to bear in mind, though, that this will simply bring forward tax revenues and consumer spending, which would otherwise have been paid out over the years and decades to come."