Market Report: Traders fear a crunch for Cadbury Schweppes

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The Independent Online

There will be a few nervous investors ahead of today's half-year numbers from the confectionery giant Cadbury Schweppes. According to the broker Mirabaud Securities, the stock has been the worst performer of its European peers so far this year, and things could get worse thanks to the hot summer, recent salmonella scare and deteriorating margins.

Costs for recalling approximately 1 million chocolate bars after the salmonella case in late June are expected to hit £25m, not enough on its own to produce a profit warning and already priced into the stock. However, any more than that and the shares could go into freefall this morning and see a return of the buyout talk that surrounded the shares a couple of months ago. Shares in Cadbury Schweppes closed 2.5p worse at 521p.

Disappointing production numbers from the mining group Lonmin prompted a bout of selling, with broker Seymour Pierce reiterating its "sell" advice on the shares with a price target of 2,300p. The respected mining analyst Charles Kernot believes that there were several disappointing elements to the numbers, not least of which was the lack of details on the company's recently acquired Limpopo operations.

No mining stocks ended the session in positive territory, with Lonmin 61p worse at 2,863p, BHP Billiton 21p lower at 993p and Rio Tinto 30p weaker at 2,735p. Kazakhmys gave the market a more solid update and Credit Suisse upped its target to 1,500p, but the stock still slid as sentiment turned against miners, closing 2p worse at 1,249p.

Worse than expected US inflation data sent global markets sharply lower, as investors continued to take profits after last week's strong run. The FTSE 100 index closed 47.5 worse at 5880.8 as the Dow Jones opened to a wave of sell orders.

News that a US court has extended a restraining order against suspended online bookmaker BetonSports, preventing it from trading in the US until 14 August, sent shares in rival internet gambling stocks lower.

PartyGaming was the worst performer in the blue chip index, shedding 3.75p to close at 105.75p, while rival 888 Holdings lost another 12p to close at 143p.

Traders said that there is a good chance that the restraining order will be extended a second time, and there seems to be little chance of trading in BetonSports shares being resumed in the near term.

Investors are hoping for a strong set of half-year results from Laird Group today, after an encouraging AGM statement in May. Since then, however, the shares have fallen by more than 21 per cent.

Cazenove was reported to be pushing the stock hard last week, and traders said that the stock will look cheap if pre-tax profit expectations of £29.9m are met. The shares added 10.75p to close at 364.5p.

The broker Citigroup paced a line of stock in Resolution Group, the insurance group that is in the process of buying Abbey's closed end life funds business, on behalf of an institutional investor. The shares, 13.5 million or just over 3.5 per cent of the company, were placed at 554.5p, a 2.3 per cent discount to the opening price. The placing sent the shares 7p worse at the close to 560.5p.

In the small caps, Plusnet surprised very few sector observers by confirming that the broadband price war is having a negative impact on its business. Shares in the small business and household broadband reselling group slumped another 9.5p to close at 111p yesterday. Directors including the chief executive Lee Strafford took advantage of the price weakness and bought a total of 36,459 shares at 108p.

The future looks bleak for Aerobox, the air cargo container manufacturer, after the company said that all of its long-term $3m (£1.6m) debt facility may not be made available. The group recently cut costs through a round of redundancies but has run into more trouble through its reduced manpower. The shares, which were trading at 10.5p just over a year ago, lost 1.62p to close at 1.5p as more than 11 million shares changed hands.

The word in the small cap oil sector is that Aim-listed Gold Oil is poised to make an encouraging announcement on its Block Z34 prospect off the Peruvian coast. The group applied for a drilling licence three weeks ago, and traders are betting that approval will be granted this week. Although the shares only added 0.13p to 6p, volume was good with almost 5 million shares changing hands and market makers said that almost all of the volume was on the buy side.

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