Business and City Summary

'Equal footing' plans dropped

Plans to make banks and securities houses compete on an equal footing in international securities markets have been dropped, largely because of objections by the US and Canada, according to the Basle- based committee on banking supervision.

The Bank for International Settlements, of which the committee is part, is to go ahead with consultations on three new proposals of its own for harmonising the standards for policing banks that trade in the securities markets.

US orders fall

Orders received by US factories fell during March as demand weakened for most categories of manufactured goods, especially aircraft, according to the Commerce Department. The 1.5 per cent decline in March orders to a seasonally adjusted value of dollars 254.5bn followed a revised 1.3 per cent gain in February orders.

PEPs pep up

Investors poured pounds 914m into unit trust personal equity plans (PEPs) in the first quarter of this year, pushing the amount of money under management in the plans to a record pounds 4.4bn. This was pounds 1bn more than the amount invested in unit trust PEPs at the end of the previous quarter.

Shell going well

Shell Oil, the North American arm of Royal Dutch Shell, raised net profits in the first quarter to dollars 239m from dollars 189m in 1992. Higher crude and natural gas prices, better refined product margins and cost- cutting helped operating earnings rise by dollars 195m.

Surplus lower

France had a seasonally adjusted trade surplus in January of Fr3.13bn compared with a revised surplus in December of Fr5.69bn.

Sugar price soars

Falling output in key producing countries sent sugar prices soaring to their highest for three years this week, to 13 cents a pound. Further gains can be expected, with demand expected to outstrip production this year.

Disclosure demand

Details of payments to directors of all Irish building societies are being demanded by the Dublin central bank following revelations of undisclosed dealings worth more than Ir pounds 700,000 involving Edmund Farrell, who was removed last month as chairman of the country's largest society, Irish Permanent.

Cider dollars

HP Bulmer, the cider company, has raised dollars 45m ( pounds 28.7m) of borrowing in the US at interest rates between 6.6 and 7 per cent. The debt has been exchanged into sterling and used to reorganise group borowings.

Conrad Black

World Markets

New York: Blue chips closed slightly higher after a long rally was extinguished by a Treasury bond sell-off. The Dow Jones average finished up 2.43 at 3,427.55.

Tokyo: Oil and telecommunications stocks were among the strongest as the Nikkei average jumped 464.61 points to 20,919.18.

Hong Kong: Profit-taking sliced 53.54 points off the Hang Seng index, which closed at 6,830.51.

Sydney: A late wave of buying turned round earlier declines to leave the All Ordinaries index 1.2 points to the good at 1,681.5.

Paris: After a volatile session the CAC-40 index finished 18.48 points up at 1,939.03, the day's high.

Zurich: Interest centred on the drug sector and selected financial blue chips. The SPI gained 5.29 points, ending at 1,323.71.

Frankfurt: Thin trade as investors closed positions at the end of the month left the DAX index 3.25 points firmer at 1,627.19.

Milan: With sentiment depressed by the resignation of four ministers in the new government, the MIB fell 2.35 per cent to 1,163.

London: Report, page 19.

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