(Bloomberg) -- Barratt Development’s cautiously optimistic statement this morning, coupled with Halifax’s flatlining house price data yesterday could give cause for thinking the doom and gloom around the housing sector might be over-egged. It is worth remember that January usually is a busy month for the housing market, in other words, don't get too excited.

Here’s the key business news from London this morning:

In The City

Speedy Hire Plc: The tool rental company is investigating why the total value of non-itemised assets - like scaffolding and fencing it holds — is about £20.4 million lighter than previously thought.

  • The company has since clamped down on the management of its non-itemised assets, through measures like weekly asset counts, and tighter controls on purchases and disposals

Barratt Developments Plc: The homebuilder saw “ early signs” of improved trading in January, after significantly weaker consumer confidence hit its reservation rates in the second half of last year. 

  • Still, the company is treating the change with caution, saying it will need to see the momentum continue in the coming months, before it is confident trading conditions are improving

Ashmore Group Plc: The asset manager expects emerging markets to continue to outperform as the macroeconomic headwinds impacting the asset class start to recede.

  • Chief Executive Officer  Mark Coombs said there’s “an increase in investor risk appetite” which combined with attractive valuations means emerging markets are expected to “continue outperforming”

Vodafone Group Plc: The telecommunications company sold a $1.2 billion investment-grade dollar bond Tuesday after it earlier issued securities in Europe and announced a tender offer.

In Westminster

New Tory chair Greg Hands hinted that the next UK general election will happen in the second half of 2024, suggesting Rishi Sunak intends to maximize his time in office before calling a vote. 

One-in-four UK households will be unable to pay their energy and food bills despite the economy narrowly escaping a recession in 2023, a leading think tank predicted.

Meanwhile, demand for workers accelerated for the first time in nine months in January, piling pressure on the Bank of England as it tries to tame inflation.

In Case You Missed It

Some very traditional UK asset management companies want to sell the British on a very untraditional idea in personal investing: private equity funds.

Shell Plc is investing billions of dollars in zero- and low-carbon energy solutions, but selling oil and gas at record profits is a hard habit to break. Here’s a closer look at the missing details in the energy giant’s plan to fight climate change. 

Finally, wealthy homebuyers are snapping up Mayfair properties at the fastest rate in over two years, as London’s priciest homes defy a slowdown in the city’s housing market.

Looking Ahead

AstraZeneca Plc, British American Tobacco Plc and Unilever Plc will likely dominate tomorrow morning’s earnings headlines. 

Unilever, the maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Dove soap, is expected to deliver underlying sales growth of 9.2%. The results will mark just the second time the company breaks down its performance into five divisions, after a restructuring last year led to ice cream, beauty and wellbeing, and personal care becoming independent units. 

Margin guidance for 2023 will be key, Bloomberg Intelligence’s Deborah Aitken says. Unilever, which gave activist investor Nelson Peltz a board seat last year, is weighing the sale of a portfolio of ice cream brands in the US that could be valued as high as $3 billion, people familiar with the matter have told Bloomberg. It’s possible the company clips a strategy outlook as it awaits the arrival of its new CEO, BI says.

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