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The Independent Online

BLUE CHIPS improved for the eighth day running with Footsie gaining 21.5 points to 6,453. Hopes of a base rate cut today spurred the advance although trading was again subdued. The Mid Cap index edged forward 4.3 to 5,784.6 and the small cap was up 11.7 to 2,595.4.

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch detergent and food giant, led the blue chip pack, gaining 27.5p to 572.5p with some determined buyers, probably American, in the market.

Derek Pain, page 23


THE DOW JONES was down 55 points at lunchtime at 10,710.87 as caution over bond interest rates at 6.03 per cent chipped away at the benchmark index. Sales projections from Procter & Gamble also added to market nerves but technology issues moved up with the Nasdaq rising 1.3 per cent to 2,507.25 on word of two potential mega-deals. An analyst said: "The market is second guessing itself. Trading is light and when markets start second guessing you get this kind of disparity [between the Dow and the Nasdaq]."


THE BENCHMARK Nikkei 225 average closed up 59.58 points or 0.36 per cent at 16,622.50 as optimism gathered about Japanese economic data to be released later today.

An analyst said: "There is a feeling that Japan's GDP figures might be better than expected. That is the rumour going through the markets now."

Traders said the market will receive a lift if January-March GDP data shows positive growth above the market consensus of around 0.1 per cent.


THE BLUE CHIP Hang Seng index closed marginally up 0.07 per cent after a choppy session in which the market was buffeted by fears of an interest rate rise but rescued by last-minute bargain hunting.

Analysts said the index, which ended at 12,874.42, remained trapped in a range with no one willing to take a big position ahead of the US Federal Open Market Committee meeting later this month.

"It's more or less in a holding pattern," a trader said.


THE CAC-40 closed higher but failed to break the psychological barrier of 4,450 as gains were capped by a nervous opening on Wall Street. The blue-chip index finished up 0.34 per cent at 4,422.39, lifted by a firmer euro currency and the strong performance of some utilities, technology, oil and banking stocks.

Telecom operator Alcatel finished up 5.13 per cent at 123 euros, coming back from a recent underperformance as the market welcomed recent contracts for mobile phone infrastructures and looked to its AGM today.