Footsie flirts with all-time high in brisk trading


Share prices soared with the mercury in London yesterday, driving the leading FT-SE 100 share index tantalisingly close to the 3,500-level last attained 18 months ago. The all-time high was 3,520.3 set in February 1994.

The index closed exactly 50 points higher at 3,499.9, although its briefly touched 3,505 in mid-afternoon dealings. Volume trading was very good for the holiday season, with more than 874 million shares changing hands in 27,494 bargains.

Dealers said there were several factors behind the surge. They included the Japanese government's surprise relaxation of restrictions on institutions investing overseas, which unilaterally boosted the dollar and sterling in the currency markets; the Bank of England softening the tone of its concerns on inflation; and an unexpected improvement in the UK trade figures.

Investors also paid scant regard to the Bank maintaining that interest rates would have to rise to keep inflation in check, and took more notice of speculation that German rates may soon fall.

Rises in share prices were recorded from the opening bell and were given an additional boost in afternoon dealings from a strong opening on Wall Street.

The gossip pot for take-over bids also remained at boiling point, pushing several stocks sharply higher.

And fuel for the fire was provided by David Lloyd Leisure, up 15p to an all-time high of 324p on confirmation its was in bid talks.

Rank Organisation, ahead 8p to 430p, and First Leisure, down 1p to 324p, remain the market's favourite suitors for Lloyd, an operator of tennis and fitness clubs.

First Leisure tried to buy the company before it floated on the stock market just two years ago.

There is talk of a pounds 164m, 350p-a-share bid for Lloyd, and a long list of other potential predators, mainly the big guns in the brewing and pubs sector.

They are Whitbread, 3p firmer at 633p, which has virtually no borrowings and is expanding its leisure operations, Bass, 3p higher at an all-time high of 674p, and Boddington, also 3p better at 278p.

The latest big name to be added to an already long list of speculative bid targets is Mercury Asset Management, which was recently released from its parental ties when SG Warburg was bought by Swiss Bank. MAM climbed 18p to 837p, valuing the company at more than pounds 1.5bn. The bid rumour started early in the day, and centred on a possible offer by Munic Re which acquired a 4.5 per cent by converting its Warburg shares into MAM stock as part and parcel of Swiss Bank's take-over of the merchant bank.

The electricity sector was awash with yet more rumours of imminent takeovers despite fears the Monopolies and Mergers Commission might be asked to investigate the industry.

London Electricity stood out, rising 29p to 774p at which price it is valued at pounds 1.53bn. Pacific Light & Gas of the US was widely tipped as the predator in waiting.

Eastern Group rose 9p to 918p but remains well adrift of the 975p cash offer on the table from Hanson, up 2.5p to 216.25p. South West, on the end of an aggressive 900p bid from Southern Electric of the US, added 4p to 903p. Manweb eased another 1p to 867p, and looks increasingly likely in the market's eyes to lose its fight for independence against Scottish Power, up 2p to 318p.

Similarly, Smith & Nephew, rumoured to be in the acquisitive sights of Johnson & Johnson, gained 2p to 193p.

Zeneca, which has also featured strongly in recent bid rumours, advanced 9p to pounds 11.20. Interim results are due today. Analysts at NatWest Securities expect pre-tax profits to rise from pounds 451m to pounds 505m.

In electrical equipment, BICC closed 3p ahead at 330p on revived speculation of a bid from Siemens.

Best recorded rise of the day was Eurodis Electron, which returned from suspension following the deal with Electron House and promptly climbed 33p to 214p.

Among the main fallers was Airtours, the UK's second-largest tour operator. Shares fell 3p to a fresh year's low of 381p amid concerns that holiday companies will have to slash prices to clear their books of unsold holidays.

Late bookers using Airtours can now get pounds 100 each off selected brochure holidays, take children for pounds 1 each, and enjoy a 10 per cent discount on holidays to the US and other faraway destinations. Those who have already had a trip abroad can already get a 12 per cent discount off a winter ski holiday, and also book their sojourn on the slopes for only a pounds 5 deposit.

United Biscuits finished 3p better at 304p on hopes of a quick sale of Keebler snacks.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
ebooksNow available in paperback
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Sr Wealth Manager - San Francisco - Inv AdvisoryFirm

$125 - $175 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Senior Wealth Manager – In...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum