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Wages in the U.K. are growing twice as fast as Europe and the U.S. thanks to one simple policy

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The U.K.’s new Labour government has emerged from its landslide election victory, promising to return the country to its economic heights. The latest evidence of worker pay growth will give them a good platform to deliver on that promise.

Wages rose by 7% in the U.K. in the year to June, according to data from the Indeed Hiring Lab. That’s almost twice the rate of the Eurozone, where wages increased by 3.7%, and more than double growth in the U.S., which rose at 3.1%.

The results diverge with the broader economic context of the three economies. The U.K. is expected to grow more slowly than the Eurozone and the U.S. this year, according to the latest IMF forecast

One explanation is likely to be a bumper increase in the U.K.’s National Living Wage, the legal minimum employers must pay staff over 21.

The U.K. government’s remit is to keep the national living wage at two-thirds of the U.K. median wage, in line with recommendations from its advisory board, the Low Pay Commission. This target helps safeguard against workers falling into relative poverty. 

Keeping up with inflation and private sector wage growth meant the National Living Wage increased by 9.8% in April, its third largest increase since it was introduced in 2016. The national minimum wage pay rise was even larger for 16 to 20-year-olds.

Tony Blair’s Labour government introduced the national minimum wage in 1999. The U.K. minimum has grown by 70% since then. The median wage, meanwhile, has only grown by about 20% in that period, suggesting a reduction in wage inequality in the U.K.  

The Low Pay Commission estimated that around 1.6 million people were paid at or below the minimum wage in April last year, so increases in the base could have outsized effects on growth. 

Indeed says the National Living Wage contributed to the U.K.’s fast wage growth last year, but it’s not the full explanation.

“Strong wage growth across all pay ranges suggests that the UK’s National Living Wage increase of 9.8% on April 1st isn’t the sole driver behind rising wage growth, but it is having a lasting impact on lower-paid salaries, alongside sector-specific labour demand,” said Pawel Adrjan, head of EMEA research at the Indeed Hiring Lab.

“With Labour planning to scrap age-specific bands in the UK’s national minimum wage structure, lower-paid occupations may yet receive another boost.”

Labour says it will also allow the Low PAy Commission’s remit to expand to include the cost of living, paving the way for even more significant increases to the National Living Wage in the future.

Inflation headache

While workers will cheer an increase in their paycheck, it could be the latest headscratcher for policymakers who are keen to cut interest rates.

The Bank of England has kept its base rate fixed at 5.25% for almost a year to fight rising prices.

The consumer prices index (CPI) hit the bank’s target of 2% in May. However, the central bank expects inflation to jump again in the third quarter, causing them to hold off on cutting rates.

In the meantime, the country is losing pace against the Eurozone, where the European Central Bank (ECB) became the first major central bank to cut interest rates in June.   

Any hint of hot wage growth in the U.K. might make the Bank of England’s rate-setters rein in their already cautious ambitions on interest rates.

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Chancellor Rachel Reeves hints at above-inflation public sector pay rise

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By Laura Kuenssberg@bbclaurakPresenter, Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg

Reeves: There is ‘a cost to not settling’ public sector pay

The chancellor has hinted that she may give public sector workers above-inflation pay rises this summer.

Rachel Reeves’ comments come after it is understood independent pay review bodies recommended an increase of 5.5% for teachers and some NHS workers.

In her first interview from No 11 Downing Street, she said: “I really value public service workers, in our schools, in our hospitals, in our police as well…

“There is a cost to not settling, a cost of further industrial action, and a cost in terms of the challenge we face recruiting.”

But Ms Reeves told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that “we will do it in a proper way and make sure the sums add up” – emphasising that her spending rules are “non-negotiable”.

The new chancellor promised a decision on public pay this month, saying “people won’t have long to wait”.

Speaking in an interview recorded on Saturday, Ms Reeves also accused the Conservative Party of calling the election because “they weren’t willing to make tough decisions, and they just ran away”.

She said the decision about teachers’ pay had sat on the former education secretary’s desk, and that the Conservatives had allowed an unacceptable situation to build up in prisons.

This was rejected by her predecessor Jeremy Hunt, who said the previous Conservative government had “taken very difficult decisions” in the wake of increased spending demands during the Covid pandemic.

He accused Ms Reeves of trying to “lay the ground for tax rises” by exaggerating the fragility of the public finances, adding that claims the Tories had left the worst economic inheritance since World War Two as “nonsense”.

He admitted, however, that his party would not have been able to make tax cuts it promised during the election campaign “immediately”.

“But I think we would have been able to do it in time, and we had plans in place to do that,” he told the programme.

Extra spending

The estimated cost of pay rises of 5.5% for teachers and certain NHS staff could reach £3bn, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). That would be significantly more than the 2.5-3% the Treasury had expected.

IFS director Paul Johnson said paying for such an increase would require the government to either increase borrowing or taxes, or cut spending elsewhere.

The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) put inflation at 2% in May and June – suggesting a pay offer above 2% would count as being above inflation.

But Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday that the 5.5% figure was “roughly what pay is rising by across the economy”.

Traditionally, governments follow the recommendations of the independent bodies – but ministers are not obliged to stick to their suggestions.

Recommendations for other sectors are yet to be received, but the chancellor does plan to announce the settlements before the end of July.

Ms Reeves also told the BBC that the government will carry out a landmark review of pensions as part of a “big bang for growth”.

“People who make sacrifices and save every month to put something aside for their retirement, they deserve better than the returns they’re getting on those savings today.”

The chancellor also wants to change industry rules so that billions of pounds sitting in pension funds can be used more easily to invest in UK companies to stimulate the economy.

She continued: “If we could unlock just 1% of the money in defined contribution schemes – and invest that in more productive assets [and] fast-growing British companies – that’d be £8bn to help finance growth and prosperity and wealth creation here in Britain.

“That’s why there’s an urgency here from this government, unlocking that investment for our economy and delivering for working people who make big sacrifices but at the moment are being let down by the pensions industry.”

The full interviews with Rachel Reeves and Jeremy Hunt on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg are available to watch back on iPlayer.





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Upgrades for Apple and Shopify; downgrade for Doximity By Investing.com

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Investing.com — Here is your Pro Recap of the top takeaways from Wall Street analysts for the past week.

InvestingPro subscribers always get first dibs on market-moving AI analyst comments. Upgrade today!

Apple

What happened? On Monday, Loop Capital upgraded Apple (NASDAQ:) to Buy with a $300 price target.

What’s the full story? Loop Capital has upgraded Apple based on insights from their Supply Chain Analyst John Donovan. Donovan highlights Apple’s potential to become the leading platform for Generative AI in the consumer market over the next few years. This potential is compared to Apple’s past transformative impacts with the iPhone in social media and the iPod in digital content consumption, both of which significantly boosted the company’s stock performance.

The brokerage’s analysis underscores Gen AI as a potential major growth driver for Apple. They have a price target of $300, which is 33x their projected $9.00 EPS for CY2026. This valuation is positioned at the higher end of Apple’s post-Covid P/E range of 20x to 35x. While there has been speculation about Apple’s potential benefits from Gen AI, Loop’s upgrade is specifically based on Donovan’s detailed assessment.

Despite their optimistic outlook, Loop maintains a cautious approach, noting that the full impact of Gen AI on Apple’s financial metrics will unfold gradually. They emphasize that the upgrade reflects confidence in Apple’s ability to leverage Gen AI to drive future growth, similar to the strategic advancements made with the iPhone and iPod in their respective technological eras.

Buy at Loop means “The stock is expected to trade higher on an absolute basis or outperform relative to the market or its peer stocks over the next 12 months.”

How did the stock react? Apple opened the regular session at $236.20 and closed at $234.40, a gain of 1.67% from the prior day’s regular close.

Shopify

What happened? On Tuesday, BofA Securities upgraded Shopify (NYSE:) to Buy with a $82 price target.

What’s the full story? BofA believes that the company, under the new CFO Jeff Hoffmeister, has turned a corner on balanced growth and margin following years of declining margin. The research team forecasts solid revenue growth and Free Cash Flow conversion from here, driven by solid high single-digit baseline eCommerce growth, steady share gains and disciplined expense spending.

BofA points out that revenue growth and disciplined spending are leading to healthy margin expansion going forward. They forecast a 17.4% operating margin for FY 2026, up from 14.3% in FY 2024.

The research team also notes that normalizing product mix-shift from lower-margin payments should result in a stable gross margin after years of decline (-650 basis points since FY 2017). Shopify is maintaining a ‘disciplined, limited headcount growth’ trajectory as a core tenet for operating leverage.

In an upside scenario, BofA projects FY 2030 revenue and FCF of $29.4 billion (+22% CAGR) and $8 billion (+33% CAGR), respectively.

Buy at BofA means “Buy stocks are expected to have a total return of at least 10% and are the most attractive stocks in the coverage cluster.”

How did the stock react? Shopify opened the regular session at $67.28 and closed at $69.75, a gain of 8.63% from the prior day’s regular close.

1-800-Flowers.com

What happened? On Wednesday, DA Davidson downgraded 1-800 FLOWERS.COM Inc (NASDAQ:) to Underperform with a $8 price target.

What’s the full story? DA Davidson has analyzed FLWS’ performance, noting that the company, which operates in the late-cycle discretionary consumer sector, has experienced year-over-year sales declines since the pandemic ended. Sales have decreased in every quarter since F3Q22, with the declines worsening from low- to mid-single digits to -8% to -18% Y/Y over the past five quarters. Before the pandemic, when the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index was in the 90s and above 100, FLWS reported several quarters of organic sales growth between +8% and +10% Y/Y. Currently, the Michigan index is in the 60s-70s, having recovered from a low of 50 in June 2022.

The brokerage believes that consumer sentiment needs to consistently exceed 80 for FLWS to return to low-single-digit sales growth. Bloomberg debit card data, which is 94% correlated to sales, indicates a worsening trend, with a -15% Y/Y decline in F4Q24 compared to -13% in F3Q24. DA Davidson suggests that the consensus estimate of -6% Y/Y sales for F4Q24 might be too optimistic, potentially leading to a miss. They also anticipate that FLWS could issue FY25 guidance below market expectations due to ongoing recession-level consumer sentiment, weak everyday gifting, and potential cost inflation.

As a result, DA Davidson has lowered its sales and EBITDA estimates for FLWS to below consensus levels. The brokerage has also reduced its target multiple from 5.5x to 5.0x and its price target from $9 to $8, based on a 5.0x CY25E EBITDA of $106M (down from $109M).

Underperform at DA Davidson means “Expected to produce a total return of -15% to +15% on a risk adjusted basis over the next 12-18 months.”

How did the stock react? 1-800-Flowers.com opened the regular session at $10.40 and closed at $10.01, a decline of 9% from the prior day’s regular close.

Doximity Inc.

What happened? On Thursday, Wells Fargo downgraded Doximity Inc (NYSE:) to Underweight with a $19 price target

What’s the full story? Wells Fargo acknowledges that while Doximity has an appealing financial profile with consistent Free Cash Flow margins of over 35%, their biopharma survey indicates a slowdown in growth. This is expected to continue driving a downward rerating in the stock. The research team’s survey suggests that market share gains may be plateauing due to several factors. These include a shrinking percentage of clients reporting digital ad budget growth, a client wallet mix towards Doximity that is approaching a plateau, and the fact that bundling products doesn’t always translate into more same-store sales.

Additionally, a large new account/brand in FY25 is positively skewing growth dynamics, likely creating tough comparisons for FY26. Some clients have also pulled back spend, and some competitors are capturing market share.

Furthermore, Wells Fargo points out that brand lifecycles could increasingly become a hurdle to Doximity’s growth prospects. Surveyed clients reported less desire to rely on Doximity to advertise more mature brands, reflecting the research team’s channel checks. This suggests that the net revenue retention rate could encounter more pressure over time as brands mature, which in turn may lead to declining ad spend with Doximity.

Underweight at Wells Fargo means “Total return on stock expected to lag the Overweight- and Equal Weight-rated stocks within the analyst’s coverage universe over the next 12 months.”

How did the stock react? Doximity opened the regular session at $27.03 and closed at $27.59 , a decline of 4.83% from the prior day’s regular close.

Owens & Minor

What happened? On Friday, Citi upgraded Owens & Minor Inc (NYSE:) to Buy with a $19 price target.

What’s the full story? The bank believes the 40% sell-off since the first-quarter earnings report has been excessively harsh. OMI has demonstrated strong momentum in its core P&HS business, with the de-stocking of PPE seemingly concluded. In the long term, Citi views Chinese tariffs as a potential advantage for OMI’s products manufactured in the Americas. Despite recent headlines concerning GLP-1, the bank notes that PD (pharmacy distribution) continues to grow above market expectations, a trend they anticipate will persist. Citi sees minimal risk to the FY24 numbers, reinforcing their positive outlook.

The new price target of $19 reflects a 9.3x FY25 P/E multiple and a 6.0x FY25 adjusted EBITDA, which is significantly lower than OMI’s peers and its historical valuation. This adjustment underscores Citi’s belief that OMI is undervalued and presents a compelling opportunity for investors with a higher risk appetite. The bank’s analysis suggests that the recent market reaction has been overly punitive, and they expect OMI to benefit from both its current business momentum and favorable long-term factors.

Buy at Citi means “Buy (1) ETR of 15% or more or 25% or more for High risk stocks.”

How did the stock react? Owens & Minor opened the regular session at $14.75 and closed at $14.82, a gain of 1.44% from the prior day’s regular close.





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The retro charm of ‘getting your colours done’

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“Oh, we left the four seasons behind somewhere towards the end of the last century,” Cliff Bashforth, managing director of the colour and image consultancy company Colour Me Beautiful, tells me. “Now, we have a palette of 24 tones, and it’s all about are you light or deep, warm or cool, clear or soft. We don’t tell people what colours to wear any more, we show them how to wear colour.”

“Getting your colours done” — common shorthand for the colour analysis service that famously assigned everyone a season — is as synonymous with the 1980s as leg warmers and leotards. It was transformational for a generation of women. I remember how excited my mother was to have been anointed “spring”, embracing a wardrobe of apricot and peach for the next three decades; my half-sister had hers “done” in the early 1990s, and has been happily wedded to her winter palette ever since, favouring silver over gold jewellery and not being afraid of lilac. “My aunt had it done,” a friend told me. “And she still only wears turquoise.”

I had presumed that the phenomenon of having your colours done died out along with leg warmers. But recently, after hearing that it has been trending on TikTok (#coloranalysis has been tagged more than 278,000 times), where various filters allow you to DIY your own colours, I discovered that it’s also having a moment IRL. On a weekend away with a close friend, I couldn’t put my finger on why she was looking quite so good. “I’ve had my colours done,” she admitted sheepishly, adding, “I know, I know,” before I could say anything about time-travelling to 1984. “I didn’t know you still could!” I replied. 

Carole Jackson’s ‘Colour Me Beautiful’ bestseller came out in 1980 . . .
Rebecca and Angi are seen in a desk mirror, with coloured swatches on Rebecca’s shoulder
. . . and many stick for life with the colours chosen in their consultation © Greg Funnell

She confided that she had visited a woman in north London who had been a colour consultant for many years and prescribed my friend warm autumnal shades, which she instantly espoused, all but doing away with any clothes that were not rust, olive, burnt orange or mustard. Along with a pop of her “wow” colour — a soft red for lipstick and earrings — it all hung together so nicely that I lost no time in signing up for a consultation myself. This is, of course, just how it took off over 40 years ago — as a word-of-mouth hit. 

Colour Me Beautiful, or Color Me Beautiful as it began, has been going strong ever since American founder Carole Jackson’s bestseller of the same name came out in 1980 and remained on the New York Times top 500 list for many years. It took off predominantly with women of a certain age in the US, leading many of them to train to become a “colour consultant” themselves — a popular late career option for women in possession of a garage or spare room, as well as a good dose of get up and go. 

“It was in a time when women were looking for a part-time job that had some glamour attached to it that they could also do from home,” says Mary Spillane, the image and communications consultant who brought Color Me Beautiful — the book and the business — to the UK in 1983, shortly after moving here. 

“No one knew me in this country, so I thought I’d give it a go. It became a runaway success. I set it up in 35 countries.” A host of rival colour consultancy companies sprang up — some of which still adhere to the original “four seasons” doctrine today. 

Spillane is tickled to see how younger generations are embracing it as a retro trend. “I’ve seen it on TikTok and Instagram and it has really cracked me up,” she says. Her take is that eco-conscious Gen Z-ers spurning fast fashion are wanting to shop wisely and invest in pieces that suit them and will last. TikTokers are either videoing professional colour consultations, engendering long comment threads — “I def like the cool WAY better”; “I vote warm 100% 😬😬😬” — or attempting to work it out for themselves using special rainbow filters.

In Spillane’s view, there is no substitute for an in-person consultation. “None of us are objective and women tend to be more negative and have hang-ups . . . we have all these stupid things that we have closed off to ourselves. It’s great to have someone look at you fresh, and say ‘Come on, give it a go.’”

Two hands hold swatches with various colours
A range of swatches help to fins the right shades © Greg Funnell

In response to this surprise uptick, Colour Me Beautiful last year launched an “Express Colour” service lasting about 40 minutes (costing from £40) instead of 90 minutes (from £160), for “attention-shy young people”, says Bashforth. He trained as a consultant in 1988 and has worked for the company ever since, buying it out in 2016. Thousands have been trained over the decades, with a current stronghold of 800-plus consultants across the world. It is a particular hit in South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland — but the French, apparently, aren’t so keen. The demographic has evolved and it is no longer the preserve of that gloriously ’80s cohort “ladies who lunch”, but a potentially lucrative part-time option for those with children at home, or who are simply wanting to diversify. Is it still mainly women who sign up for training, I ask Bashforth. “Ninety-nine to one. I am the exception,” he laughs. 

It costs £2,000 (plus VAT) for 24 hour hours’ online training over six days, but, once you’ve bought your swatches of colour, “you can literally start the next day”. Some have stuck at it for 35 years, but others, such as Spillane, “ran out of puff”. The average tenure is — impressively — somewhere around the 15-year mark, according to Bashforth. 

Angi Jones, who operates out of her bright ground-floor flat in London’s Muswell Hill, has been with Colour Me Beautiful for nearly 20 years. Her living room is set up with a table piled high with neatly pressed samples of assorted coloured fabrics, and a chair placed in front of a mirror. Jones is stylish and smiley with blonde hair, wearing neutrals and a splash of apple green — “as bright as I go”, she tells me, “given my colouring”. She eyes my white T-shirt and pale pink cardigan, but refrains from comment.

I sit down in the chair and Jones covers my shoulders with a sequence of “pelmets” that are divided into colourful segments like Trivial Pursuit wedges. As I look in the mirror, guided by Jones, the pelmets immediately reveal whether I am warm or cool, light or deep, clear or soft (muted is the term preferred by men, apparently). It is clear by how washed-out I look against certain pale tones that I am warm, deep and clear. Jones, now totally in her stride, begins to drape the swatches from the various piles of colour across me. “My mother told me I must never wear beige,” I venture, when she holds up the next set — neutrals. “Raincoats, handbags, basics,” replies Jones, “that’s what they are for.” I’m surprised that charcoal is in my remit, and disappointed that bright white is definitely out — though soft white is allowed. FT bisque is in, but my cardigan is a no.

Jones has strong views about the meaning and power of colour. “Red excites people — children like it,” she tells me. “Purple is a learned colour — people think you are more intelligent if you wear purple.” I admit that purple is the one colour I really don’t get on with. “That’s fine!” she says breezily, putting it to one side and pulling out a deep teal. “Ah! Look at that! That really brings out the contrast between your skin and your eyes and hair, which is what we want.” The teal goes into a shortlist pile of possible “wow” colours. 

People tend to smile when they find a colour that really works for them, she says. I grin like mad when she lays a daffodil yellow swatch across my shoulders — mainly because it is one of my favourite colours, and I’m happy I’m allowed to wear it. 

Then we go into colour combinations — the more striking the better, apparently, for my colouring. Mahogany and primrose: Dalai Lama gravitas. Chocolate brown and lapis — “The French do that, it’s very clever” — is smart, pulled together, like posh luggage. Chocolate and periwinkle is more air stewardess, however.  

At the end of the session, Jones assembles my wallet of personalised miniature swatches — small enough to slip into my beige handbag for a shopping trip to town. I feel myself itching to rashly bin my staple white T-shirts and pale jeans in favour of French navy and ivory. Perhaps with a splash of teal. 

Not everyone responds well to being told what they should and shouldn’t wear: one FT journalist recounted how horrified she had been when her husband bought her a colour analysis consultation for her birthday. Others like to rebel, sporting colours they know aren’t in their wallet.

Having rushed out after my consultation and spent a small fortune on a coral jumpsuit and coffee-coloured trousers, a week later I found myself slipping back into my off-duty uniform. In flaunting Angi’s advice, I felt a pang of guilt, but also an illicit thrill.  

Rebecca Rose is the editor of FT Globetrotter

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