Business and City in Brief

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Construction orders leap by 22%

UK construction orders jumped by 22 per cent in the first quarter and were 2 per cent higher than the level of orders during the same period a year earlier.

After adjustment for seasonal variations, new orders for private housing shot up by 26 per cent while public housing and housing association orders rose by 11 per cent, the Department of the Environment said.

US stagnation

Orders for US durable goods were unchanged in April after expectations of a 1.4 per cent increase. The figures were viewed as further evidence that the US recovery is moderating.

Yen rises

The yen strengthened again yesterday, reacting to a recent US Treasury report which suggested that Washington wants a higher yen to curb the widening US trade deficit with Japan. The Japanese currency rose to Y108.60 to the dollar from the previous close of Y109.60.

Blazer rethink

Storehouse has shelved its plans to sell Blazer, the small menswear chain. Several offers received for the business were not high enough, it said.

Overseas surge

Almost as many overseas shares were traded on the London Stock Exchange in the first three months of the year as UK and Irish equities. The busiest-ever quarter for overseas equities saw trade rise by 34 per cent to pounds 116bn, or pounds 1.9bn a day. Turnover in UK and Irish shares rose 18 per cent to pounds 130bn, while trade in gilts rose 24 per cent to pounds 395bn.

Buy-in at BP

British Petroleum has reached agreement to sell its consumer products division for pounds 250m to a management buy-in team headed by Sir Allen Sheppard, chairman and chief executive of Grand Metropolitan, the food and drinks giant.

Volvo tax bill

Volvo, the Swedish car manufacturer, has received a demand for more than Skr500m ( pounds 44.5m) in back taxes after allegedly declaring income Skr2bn too little in tax year 1990, the national news agency TT reported.

Pipeline project

A group of seven oil companies, including British Gas and British Petroleum, plan to built a 215km gas pipeline linking the UK with the Continent. The project, which involves a pounds 290m investment, is aimed at meeting the rising European demand for gas. The first gas could be transported in October 1997.

Apple in Russia

Apple, the US computer company, announced the launch of operations in the former Soviet Union. It said it wanted to snap up 20 per cent of the overall market share in the next two years.

World Markets

New York: A strong performance by the bond market helped shares climb to a record high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 23.53 points up at 3,540.16.

Tokyo: Prices closed sharply higher in the wake of a late rebound in stock futures. The Nikkei average gained 264.23 points to 20,895.99.

Hong Kong: In a technical correction after three successive record- breaking sessions, the Hang Seng index eased 18.46 to 7,349.72.

Sydney: The continuing advance by gold shares and offshore buying interest combined to push the All Ordinaries up 20 points to 1,717.4.

Bombay: Shares ended lower as mutual funds sold and worried speculators followed suit. The index dipped 33.93 points to 2,251.69.

Zurich: Selling in some heavyweight stocks including Nestle and Ciba-Geigy limited overall gains. The broad Swiss Performance Index added 3.3 points to 1,399.9.

Frankfurt: In quiet trade the DAX index edged up 3.82 points to 1,622.

Paris: Prices finished little changed, with the CAC-40 index 0.66 of a point lower at 1,890.43.

Milan: Weighed down by the Fiat group's troubles, the MIB fell 1.22 per cent to close at 1,219.

London: Report, page 35.