Morrisons, Britain's fourth largest supermarket, today reported a further improvement in quarterly underlying sales.

The rise suggests that its chief executive, now over a year into the job, might have stabilised the business. 

David Potts, a former Tesco executive who joined Morrisons as CEO in March last year, has cut prices, improved store standards and tailored product offerings to local tastes. 

Morrisons, which trails UK market leader Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda in annual sales, said sales at stores open over a year, excluding fuel, rose 0.7% in the 13 weeks to May 1, the firm's fiscal first quarter. 

That compares with analysts' forecasts of flat sales in the latest quarter and a rise of 0.1% in the fourth quarter of Morrisons' 2015-16 year which was its first quarterly rise in four years. 

Potts also surprised the market in March by announcing a wholesale supply deal with Amazon and agreeing the outline of a new deal with online grocer Ocado to serve its own online offering. 

"We are of course pleased with a second consecutive quarter of positive like-for-like sales, which demonstrates our aim to stabilise trade is taking effect," said Potts. 

Morrisons said like-for-like transactions grew 3.1% in the quarter, while volume growth was described as "strong". Deflation, including the supermarket's own price cuts was 2.6%.

Morrisons has reported four years of profit decline in a row. 

However, before today's update analysts were on average forecasting an underlying pretax profit before one-off items in the current year of £318m, which would be an increase on the £302m made in 2015-16.