Morrisons defied analysts expectations this morning by announcing a 1% profit increase, but sales figures were down in line with market expectations.

The UK's fourth biggest supermarket chain - behind Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's - reported underlying profits of £445m in the six months to 29 July, but sales at stores, excluding petrol and VAT sales tax, fell 0.9%.

Chief executive Dalton Philips blamed the slow sales on "sustained pressure on consumer spending", but predicted a stronger second half of 2012.

"By the end of the year our new Fresh Formats will be in more than 100 stores and we are now ready to launch our convenience stores in London supported by our new distribution centre," he said in a statement.

"We have also extended our food production capabilities and will launch wine as our first online category."

Latest industry data from research group Kantar Worldpanel showed Morrisons' sales growth lagging its main rivals, partly driven by Morrisons' lower level of store openings.

It's been a tough year for supermarkets, with customers shopping around in a bid to secure greater value for money.

At the turn of the year, Tesco shocked markets by announcing its first profits warning in 20 years after poorer-than-expected Christmas trading.

Elsewhere, Morrisons also hit industry trade headlines this week after it registered new trademarks for logos which are very similar to a Sainsbury campaign.

According to Marketing Magazine, Morrisons registered two variations of the trademark ‘Morrisons. Making good food cost less’ and a second referring to ‘great food’.

Although a Morrisons spokeswoman said there were ‘currently no plans’ to use the line, a source close to the retailer told the magazine several slogans were under consideration, with ‘Making good food cost less’ among the options.

Up until five years ago, Britain’s fourth biggest supermarket had used ‘More reasons to shop at Morrisons’. However, since then it has used variations playing on the word ‘fresh’, with 'Eat Fresh, Pay Less' and 'Great British Pricecrunch' currently in use.