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Updates due from easyJet, WH Smith and AG Barr

Budget airline easyJet will provide the latest snapshot from the sector this week, while WH Smith reports Christmas figures as the flurry of festive retail updates draws to a close.

Luton-based airline easyJet reports on first quarter trading on Thursday as it faces the challenge of building on a stellar performance in the previous financial year, when profits rose 51%.

Efforts to attract more business passengers saw the carrier fly more than 60 million passengers for the first time, helping earnings soar above £478 million in the year to September 30.

But it signalled a tougher start to the new year as it came up against comparisons with a year earlier when pent-up demand after the Olympics drove a leap in business.

Retailer WH Smith publishes its latest figures on Wednesday.

It has already said that during the first 10 weeks of the financial year to November 9, like-for-like sales were down 4% compared with the same period in 2012, with high street stores off 6% and travel units down 2%.

Investors have shrugged off the declines, which continue a trend over the previous full year, when sales across its 615 high street locations fell by 6% but profits rose 4% to £56m.

Overall earnings were up 6% to £108 million, enabling the group to promise a £50m return to shareholders.

Irn-Bru maker AG Barr will confirm how it fared amid a cut-throat soft drinks market on Thursday.

The Scottish firm revealed last month that sales growth had picked up to 8% in the 18 weeks to December 1, with volumes up 6.4% and the rest made up from price hikes.

But it cautioned the soft drinks market remained "highly competitive" in the run up to Christmas, while festive trading figures from the "big four" supermarkets have shown it was a tough market for grocery sales.

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