Until seconds before the close the FT-SE 100 index was riding above 3,100 points. But then, taking the shine off the day's proceedings, a sprinkling of red ensured it closed at 3,099, just below what would have been regarded as an important milestone.
Disappointed bulls had the audacity to suggest the weak close had been contrived by market-makers keen to lower the investment temperature. Even so, the index ended up 26.5 points in the busiest day's trading of the year. At one time Footsie was up more than 30.
Fund managers, who have sat on the fence for so long, were tempted into the arena. One talked optimistically about the market catching up with the strong fundamentals of the British economy.
Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull drew attention to "an encouraging outlook for earnings" and suggested the index could reach 3,750 by year-end. The conviction the market will enjoy an exciting round of takeover action, following the near-£9bn bid for Wellcome, is also adding to the excitement.
The rally has occurred at a convenient time for the Government as efforts to sell its remaining shares in the two generators gain strength. National Power added 5p to 481p and PowerGen 4p to 511p.
The latest progress was achieved despite another flat performance by the beerage and an uncomfortable ripple among food retailers as Tesco launched the latest salvo in the continuing prices skirmish. The supermarket chain said it was running tests on an "electronic loyalty card" that was immediately perceived as representing further pressure on margins. J Sainsbury is thinking on the same lines and should produce its "perks" card next month.
Tesco fell 5.5p to 244p; Sainsbury 8p to 419p and Argyll 9p to 268p.Asda, in busy trading, slipped 1p to 67p as Hoare Govett put a buy recommendation on the shares.
Beers remained under the influence of the surprise Office of Fair Trading investigation into beer pricing. Bass, helped by a mixed trading statement, held at 518p but Whitbread lost another 4p to 527p and Greene King 6p to 479p.
Electricities again glowed as bid rumours continued to surge through the sector. Yorkshire has emerged as the speculators' favourite bet with the shares up another 7p to 817p.
The theory is that once Whitehall clears the Trafalgar House bid for Northern, the Hanson conglomerate will emerge with a bid for Yorkshire. Other electricities higher included London, 11p to 713p, and Southern 15p to 729p.
Hanson is known to be seeking a UK acquisition, largely to balance its tax position. Argyll and Costain are also among the candidates the market has put forward. Hanson closed 5.75p higher at 243.75p.
BTR's rally from a 275.5p low in December continued with the shares moving up 7p to 321p. There was keen activity in the four warrants, scoring gains of up to 6p, with Salomon Brothers responsible for much of the action.
Waters, overlooked in the electricity excitement, were firm, largely on yield considerations.
Drugs continued to attract attention. Glaxo gained 5p to 659 and its target Wellcome 3p to 1,023p. US interest lifted SmithKline Beecham 4.5p to 494.5p. Fisons encountered another round of takeover chatter, gaining 3p to 112p in busy trading.
Insurances were firm with Sun Alliance, up 14p to 316p, helped by plans to sell insurance through post offices.
Albert Fisher held at 44p. Today analysts are due to visit its Danish operations and it is thought to be planning to make an investment presentation next week.Budgens remained in the takeover spotlight, up 1.5p to 32.5p in brisk trading. At one time the shares touched 34p.
Govett was the big casualty among fund managers, tumbling 74p at one time as details of its US fund management fall-out trickled into the market. Once Govett had given its side of the story the shares rallied to close at 311p, down 38p.
Amstrad continued to benefit from an optimistic analysts' meeting and option buying, up 7p at 148p. Granada gained 14p to 519p on a NatWest Securities push and talk of a new link with the Murdoch organisation.
Northern Industrial Improvement, the obscure investment company that has opted to unitise, gained another 70p to 700p. a 185p advance in two days. Hawtin, the mini-conglomerate, held at 28.75p. Stockbroker Bell Lawrie White, one of the company's brokers,forecasts profits of £3.5m this year with £4m next.Reuse content