Derek Pain: City optimist sticks with his all-time high Footsie forecast

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The Independent Online

A month ago I wondered if the benchmark Footsie share index would achieve the optimistic forecasts that were so evident at the start of the year.

Many City experts had suggested it would hit 7,500 points before 2014 closes, but at the start of August the famous share barometer looked incapable of realising City hopes.

The Footsie has since made modest progress and, as I write, resides at 6,825, still a considerable distance from its all-time peak of 6,950 and, it could be argued, streets away from satisfying the optimistic chorus that greeted the year.

But despite the growing international turmoil and the array of company profit warnings, Guy Foster, head of research at stockbroker Brewin Dolphin, is sticking with his forecast, which is a little below the 7,500 mark but still optimistic at 7,400. And he makes a convincing case that shares will buck up and get on a winning track.

Mr Foster admits the index is running a little behind schedule but points out that often the first and last quarters of a year are the most productive, possibly giving some credence to the old stock market adage "sell in May and go away, come back on St Leger Day".

His 7,400 prediction was made early in December when the Footsie stood at 6,600. This year the first quarter was, somewhat irrationally, a wash out, but he sees a number of factors, including the European Union indulging in efforts to try and lift its moribund economy, likely to inspire the final three months.

He says: "There are as many reasons to be optimistic about equity returns from here as there are to be pessimistic. Reducing our forecast would not convey this message."

So far this year the Footsie has approached the 6,900 level on a number of occasions, but each time lost its head of steam. It may be significant that the 6,950 peak was hit in the last quarter of 1999 as the madcap internet explosion sent so-called blue-sky shares rocketing. Strangely, many longstanding Footsie constituents – often described by veterans at the time as "real companies" – failed to join in the fun. I doubt if this time round the hi-tech brigade will lead any advance, although it has displayed a lively disposition.

One trouble with Footsie readings these days is that it is composed of a high number of overseas companies, often prone to a multitude of influences that have little impact on this country. Some reckon the supporting measurements, the Footsie 250 or 350 (although also containing foreign groups), offer a more accurate measurement of Britain's share health.

Stock Spirits, the last recruit to the No Pain, No Gain portfolio, is such a foreign company. It produced the expected indifferent figures, largely reflecting a Polish duty increase and currency problems in the Czech Republic.

The shares eased to 298p against the portfolio buying price of 278.75p. They have been above 300p. Revenue fell 10 per cent to €137.7m (£109.2m) with the Polish tax increase reducing turnover by 1 million cases.

Still, pre-tax profits emerged at €19.5m against a €9.3m loss. The switch from loss to profits is largely due to much lower finance charges, inflated by the group's flotation with the shares arriving late last year.

An interim dividend of €0.0125 a share is declared.

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