Footsie's bound catches market makers on the hop

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
A bet on the Budget sent Footsie soaring more than 60 points as a scramble for shares turned what had been expected to be a sedate Friday session into overdrive.

From early trading, prices were squeezed higher as market makers were caught on the hop by the sudden display of interest. Many old takeover favourites were given a whirl and the love affair with utilities became even more passionate. With a stock shortage gains were often exaggerated.

The explosion occurred after weeks of comparative indifference when the stock market seemed frozen in the advancing headlights of the Budget. It was as if pent up demand blew the lid off carefully cultivated oppression.

Footsie, measuring 100 blue chips, ended 64.9 points higher at 4,018.7. It was the biggest one day gain since July last year.

The excitement filtered through at a much more subdued rate to the rest of the market. The supporting FTSE 250 index managed a 14.3 gain to 4,411.3.

New York made a modest contribution to the Friday frivolity - hitting another peak during London trading.

In percentage terms Lasmo, with a 12p gain to 220.5p, headed the blue- chip charge; Enterprise Oil was not far behnd, up 30.5p to 579p. Crude oil prices remain firm, helped by the onset of winter, particularly in America. Lasmo has also been helped by a bulky, enthusiastic research exercise from Panmure Gordon.

Utilities achieved another round of majestic gains. Railtrack managed a 20p advance to 374p; British Energy 15.5p to 150p and British Gas 9.5p to 231.5p.

National Power surged 19p to 471p; Morgan Stanley believe the shares still have substantial upside.

With interim figures next week National Grid managed a 7.5p advance to 194.5p and BT rose 11p to 368.5p. Severn Trent led the water wave, up 16p at 672.5p. Yorkshire Electricity glimmered 12.5p to 771p and Northern Ireland Electricity put on 6p to 362.5p.

The major casualty was Fine Arts Developments, the greeting card group. It made sure even a day of highly charged progress did not escape the seemingly inevitable profit warning and collapsed 177p to 262.5p. Home Counties Newspapers also managed a profit warning - and fell 21p to 240p.

BTR slipped 1p to 239p. The shares were ruffled by a profits downgrading by Merrill Lynch which cut from pounds 1.485bn to pounds 1.371bn on the back of currency influences.

Berisford, the struggling kitchens group, provided the take over excitement, gaining 30.5p to 151p following a tentative approach. Wassall, seen as a likely predator, fell 2p to 284.5p.

EMI was one of the old takeover favourites given another spin. This week's results were better than many had expected and with the gloomy atmosphere created by the PolyGram profit warning rapidly fading it was not difficult to replay some of the old bid stories. Disney is the favoured predator.

Biocompatibles International, which produces medical coatings for such items as heart valves and contact lenses, jumped 72.5p to 702.5p. The market is impressed by the expansion-minded groups latest US takeover and one investment house, said to be Kleinwort Benson, sees the shares going above pounds 20.

Lanica Trust, the vehicle of Andrew Regan (ex-Hobson), jumped 90p to 527.5p as it linked with the Naafi, the armed services organisation, to run a mail-order venture. A further deal, possibly with Littlewoods, is expected.

Sims Foods slipped 0.5p to 28p; Nomura has taken a 4.49 per cent stake.

Select Appointments dived 46p to 342.5p following indications it intended to cut its ADR price following a US downgrading of recruitment shares. Renishaw, a computer group, fell 27.5p to 441p following a slowdown in growth. Another computer firm, Delphi, was little changed at 637.5p; it is raising pounds 7.3m through a placing of 1.2 million shares at 610p.

Tom Hoskins, a brewer, was another share sharply lower, off 6p at 33.5p. The shares were 56p earlier this year. Surrey Free Inns, a long-standing bid prospect, jumped 25p to 365p.

Ask Central, a restaurant group run by the Kaye family (creators of a number of successful catering concepts) gained 17.5p to 135.5p. It raised pounds 1.25m, placing 800,000 shares at 100p for expansion. A further 450,000 shares were issued at 100p for three London properties.

Pet City fell 22.5p to 427.5p. The shares have fallen from 560p since the PetsMart share exchange bid. The weakness stems from the poor performance of its shares in the US.

Taking Stock

Display IT Holdings looks like being the Ofex share of the year. Placed at 100p in June the price climbed 175p to 1,525p. The group offers financial information through the Internet and there are indications its equipment is being well-received. It has decided to get a Nasdaq listing for its main subsidiary and is making a four-for-one capitalisation.

Aquarius, a home improvement group, is heading for market. Profits in the year ending January are likely to be around pounds 4.6m. It is the creation of Gartland Whalley and Barker, a corporate developer. Aquarius consists of four main groups, a maker of wooden bathroom accessories, a bath mats maker, a lighting business and a producer of luxury baths. GWB is traded on AIM - the shares were unchanged at 90p.

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