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House prices rose last month, confirming the modest recovery in the housing market, Halifax Building Society reported yesterday.The increase in February followed a drop in prices the previous month. This turned out to have been a one-off adjustment for the big gains at the end of last year, the society said. "The housing market is continuing to recover at a moderate pace. The annual rate of house price inflation is in line with our forecast of 7 per cent for the fourth quarter of 1997," it said. The increase in the 12 months to February was 6.8 per cent, down from 7.1 per cent in January. The average house price now stands at pounds 66,612.

Ivory & Sime, the troubled Edinburgh-based fund management group, has hired a group of fund managers from Scottish Amicable to run its investments in smaller companies to plug the gap left by the sudden departure of its previous team. The new team comprises John Johnston, Stephen Grant and Glen Nimmo and they join the other new faces at Ivory & Sime, which lost many of its senior managers when they quit to set up their own "boutique". Sir James McKinnon, chairman of Ivory & Sime, said: "The appointment of the well-respected UK smaller companies team is good news for the company. The board looks forward to the marked outperformance of the next 12 months continuing."

Higher bonuses and salaries drove up staff costs at CS First Boston and Credit Suisse Financial Products, the investment banking units of Credit Suisse, the Swiss banking group. Staff costs shot up by 25 per cent in 1996 to top 6bn Swiss francs (pounds 2.5bn) although trading income rose 33 per cent to SFr3.9bn. Despite operating income rising 17 per cent to SFr12.9bn, Credit Suisse reported its first ever loss of SFr2.43bn a result of "extraordinary structural and strategic measures". The bank has introduced a new method for calculating the amount of capital it needs to set aside for credit risk which resulted in a charge of SFr3.9bn which led the bank in December to warn it would report a technical loss for 1996.

The Government should stay out of a European single currency, a former member of the Chancellor's panel of independent economic forecasters said yesterday. Professor Patrick Minford of Liverpool University said a floating exchange rate regime was better than economic and monetary union for all EU members. Even if the rest of the EU went ahead, the UK would be better off outside, he said. "Tying the currency to a foreign vehicle exposes the economy to greater macro-economic instability from world and supply-side shocks that floating largely protects against."

Sir Alick Rankin, chairman of Christian Salvesen, said Sir Gerald Elliot, former chairman, should use the support he claims he has from shareholders to convene an extraordinary general meeting if he wishes to replace all or part of the current board. Sir Gerald has asked shareholders to vote against the board's resolution to approve a proposed special dividend of 34p per share, which will be combined with a share consolidation. The vote will be put to shareholders at a meeting on 13 March.

Ibstock has sold five of its brick manufacturing plants, which were the subject of undertakings it gave to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in July 1996 when it bought Redland Bricks, for pounds 53m. It will use the proceeds to reduce borrowings. The plants were sold to Ambion Brick Company.

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