A 7.2% improvement in Christmas trading prompted Sir Ken Morrison of the eponymous UK grocer to predict continued strong sales growth this year.

The statement implies sustained growth across the sector following the vital Christmas period. Morrison is the first listed major to report on the festive trading period and reported that sales in the key six weeks to 6 January rose 11.6% minus petrol revenue. Like-for-like sales rose 7.2%.

However, when petrol sales are included, like-for-like sales rose by a more modest 5.15% as lower prices hit revenue.

Morrison#;s year-end is 2 February, and the 11-month figures show that total sales are ahead by 13.4%.

According to the Financial Times, supermarket multiples are generally enjoying an unexpectedly buoyant period last year, bolstered by customers trading up to better products amid the foot-and-mouth crisis and fears about the economy.