Morrisons, the UK's fourth largest supermarket group, today reported a 5.6% rise in quarterly underlying sales.

However the group's rate of growth was slightly behind forecasts and a touch slower than in the previous period. 

The grocer said total like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 5.6% in the 13 weeks to November 4, its fiscal third quarter - a twelfth quarter of underlying growth in a row. 

The performance compared to analysts' average forecast of growth of 6.1% and growth in the previous quarter of 6.3%, which, helped by hot weather and the soccer World Cup, was its best sales performance in nine years.

Morrisons said it had expected a slight easing in like-for-like sales. 

David Potts, chief executive since 2015, has overseen a steady improvement in trading through more competitive prices, improved product ranges and availability as well as better customer service in refurbished stores.

This has pushed Morrisons' shares 18.5% higher so far this year.

Potts has also overhauled Morrisons' online strategy through a renegotiated agreement with distributor Ocado and struck wholesale supply deals with Amazon and the McColl's convenience chain.

Prior to today's update analysts were on average forecasting an underlying pretax profit of £409m for the full 2018-19 year, up from £374m in 2017-18.