Banks left in the shade as Footsie ends on new peak

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
The high street clearing banks were pushed to one side as the stock market continued to frolic in the hazy autumn sunshine.

Although surrendering half its gain in late trading, the Footsie blue chips index ended at another high, up 12.1 points to 4,050.8.

But bankers failed to make a significant contribution to the advance. Negative comments from Barclays de Zoete Wedd on Royal Bank of Scotland and Cazenove on Standard Chartered created the unease.

Royal Bank fell 13p to 522.5p and Standard 18p to 693.5p.

BZW is worried about the increasing competition Royal Bank's Direct Line insurance arm is facing. It cut its profit forecasts for this year from pounds 709m to pounds 675m and next from pounds 743m to pounds 690m.

Caz's anxiety stemmed from a suspected slowdown in the Far East which could wipe the gloss from Standard's growth. The stockbroker is thought to have expressed its fears at a series of meetings with institutional investors. Caz is one of the bank's house brokers.

Other banks were caught in the analytical flak. Bank of Scotland fell 6p to 273p and Lloyds TSB 7p to 408p. Barclays, confirming rumours it is merging its investment management arms, was one to ignore the gunfire, climbing 9.5p to 975.5p, a peak.

Analysts did not confine their interest to bankers. Imperial Tobacco, demerged from Hanson, encountered sell advice from Credit Lyonnais Laing.

Researchers Ian Rennardson and Janet Lear declared: "The share price does not fully reflect the risks Imperial faces in its push to grow overseas profits against a declining UK market".

The shares, up to 417p since the split, fell a further 2p to 391p.

Smith & Nephew slipped a further 4.75p to 206.75p as BZW's highly rated drugs analyst Steve Plag turned seller complaining the healthcare group was cursed by "lousy" markets. He said he viewed the pressure it faced in the US with "trepidation".

Burton, the retailer, held at 148.25p. Nick Bubb at stockbroker Mees Pierson believes the group still has much going for it and the shares remain a buy. He forecasts profits for the year ended August of pounds 155m with pounds 225m in sight for 1998.

Waters slipped lower on the prospect of earlier price curbs with Wessex, off 19.5p to 325p, suffering the additional discomfort that a 20 per cent stake could soon be on offer; electricities dimmed on Goldman Sachs caution.

Oils were mixed despite further crude strength. British Petroleum fell 11.5p to 684p in response to an explosion at its Ohio refinery. Enterprise Oils' gusher came to an end with the shares down 11.5p to 567.5p on profit taking. Shell gained 11.5p to 1,040.5p.

Bass, weak recently, rallied 15.5p to 779.5p on hopes its take over of Carlsberg Tetley will be cleared soon and the Brussels' decision to postpone any review of the tied house system.

Sports retailers Blacks Leisure and JJB Sports raced to new peaks with Blacks up 19p to 311.5p and JJB 13p to 335.5p. They were encouraged by the higher than expected flotation price accorded JD Sports. Laura Ashley, the furnishing group, scored a 10.5p gain to 202.5p with vague takeover chatter mingling with hopes its recovery is gathering strength. Dalgety, the petfood group, came in for a round of late buying which lifted the shares off their low to 312p.

BSkyB kept up its progress with an 18p gain to 675.5p. A stock shortage - and Rupert Murdoch's upbeat statement - kept the price on course for 700p. German buying is also likely to be an influence.

Blenheim rose 23p to 496.5p as United News & Media finally stirred into action. Its offer has already been accepted by shareholders representing 56.5 per cent of the capital. United gained 40p to 693.5p. But another United - Manchester - lost its takeover excitement, falling 26.5p to 532.5p.

VideoLogic added 2.5p to 53.5p with Merrill Lynch said to be about to produce a buy recommendation and virtual reality group Superscape soared 162.5p to 565p following a deal with Microsoft.

Wakebourne, the struggling computer group, fell 4.5p to 16p following a cautious statement and Creightons' Naturally, a fragrance and soap business, fell 2.5p to 67.5p on the latest boardroom change.

Hollas, the textile group, firmed a shade to 4.75p after Monday's fall. The company said it was negotiating the sale of its yarn business and should make a statement on the disposal, together with its figures, shortly.

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