Following another busy seven days in the world of finance and investment, our roundup this week includes news of Sainsbury's continuing to outperform its rivals, a number of supermarkets slashing petrol costs to levels not seen since 2009, the launch of new personal tax accounts by the HMRC and UK inflation returning to positive territory in November.
Sainsbury's 'continues to outperform rivals'
Sainsbury's is continuing to outperform its rivals, with the supermarket giant faring better against the competition brought by German discount stores than other members of Britain's 'big four' supermarkets. This is according to new research from Kantar Worldpanel, which revealed Sainsbury's has offered greater resilience to the emergence of stores such as Aldi and Lidl than its main competitors Tesco, Asda and Morrisons during the last three months.
The market researcher demonstrated that in the 12 weeks to December 6th, Sainsbury's sales climbed by 1.2% and its market share edged up 0.2 percentage points year-on-year to reach 16.7%. In early morning trading on Tuesday, the retailer's shares were also up by 4.1%.
Despite the upturn for Sainsbury's, the research showed that sales across the three months remained generally subdued for the 'big four' supermarkets, which are seeing sales and profits suffer as they attempt to prevent shoppers from switching to discount stores.
Supermarkets lower petrol to less than £1 a litre
A number of the UK's biggest supermarkets cut petrol prices to less than £1 a litre over the weekend, as the price of crude oil continues to drop. Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons announced they would all be selling petrol at 99.9p per litre, while diesel was cut by 1p a litre.
This represents the lowest price level in the UK since 2009, excluding special promotions. Bryan Burger, Petrol Retail Director at Morrisons, which was the first supermarket to make the reduction, said on Friday: "Today, for the first time in more than six years, we are moving unleaded prices down to below £1 a litre."
He added: "This is a moment where motorists will feel some relief after being clobbered by tax and price rises for the last decade."
HMRC launches personal tax accounts
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced it is launching its new system of personal tax accounts. The system will, in time, replace annual tax returns, and will be similar in style to online banking.
Around two million businesses are already using the new method, and now begins the rollout for people in the self-assessment system. The phasing in of the system means that all personal taxpayers should have personal accounts come April 2016.
One of the main benefits of the new system is that people will be able to make payments and access their tax details at any time. Ruth Owen, Director General of Personal Tax at HMRC, said: "Remember when you started banking online? Well, this is the equivalent shift in service for the majority of our customers wanting to do business with us online."
UK inflation 'returned to positive territory in November'
UK inflation climbed back above zero in November, new figures have shown. According to the Office for National Statistics, consumer price inflation returned to positive territory for the first time in four months last month, climbing 0.1% from the -0.1% recorded in October.
Despite the rise, inflation remains close to zero - a reading that has been an overriding feature of 2015. This is far below the target of 2%, as set by the Bank of England, and can mostly be explained by the decrease in oil prices seen towards the tail end of last year.