FTSE poised for a millennium high

STOCK MARKET dealers are eagerly waiting for the market to reopen after the Christmas break to see if they can start the new millennium with another record for the FTSE 100. A last-minute festive buying spree in hi-tech and telecoms stocks sent the index surging through the 6,800 barrier.

The blue-chip index closed on Friday up 29.7 at an all-time high of 6,806.5, helped by an overnight record-breaking performance by the US indexes.

Trading was painfully slow as a combination of last-minute Christmas shopping, lingering fears of the millennium bug and the shortened dealing hours prompted most big investors to remain on the sidelines. But dealers reported strong demand from private investors - one of the key drivers of the recent bull run. "It has been very busy for a Christmas Eve. The punters are refusing to go on holiday," one trader said.

Small investors' interest in small shares helped to drive the junior indexes to a record. The FTSE-250 rose 8.2 to 6,386.9, while the Small Cap closed 11.9 up at 3,064.2.

Most of the attention was focused on the high-flying telecoms and technology stocks. A sharp overnight rise in the tech-laden Nasdaq index in the US fuelled UK investors' passion for the sectors. Among phone companies, COLT Telecom soared 75p to 3,184p amid hopes of corporate action early in the new year. Rival Energis, another mooted bid target, followed suit with a 37p rise to 3,025p. The telecom equipment maker Fibernet jumped 45p to 1,860p. However, mobile phone operator Vodafone AirTouch slipped 1p to 304.75p after officially launching its multi-billion pound bid for German rival Mannesmann.

Telecom giant BT was also on the receiving end of some selling and fell 19p to 1,427p on reports that it might pip Vodafone in the battle for Spanish carrier Airtel.

In the highly rated technology sector, computer chip designer ARM Holdings, a recent entrant in the FTSE 100, soared 311p to 4,050p amid whispers of new contracts in the new year.

Information giant Reuters climbed 27p to 876p on renewed talk of a spin- off of Instinet, its Internet trading facility, while the hi-tech parts supplier Marconi, the old GEC, rose 38p to 1,039p. But some of the technology high-flyers were hit by profit taking. Among the software groups, Sage fell 25.5p to 700p, Misys lost 29.5p to 916p, and CMG ended 101p worse at 4,600p.

The buying frenzy for the small Net stocks continued. Web investor e- primefinancial rose 3.25p to 15.5p, rival Internet Indirect firmed 15.5p to 75p while Jelly Works, another specialist Internet investor, jumped 17.5p to 108.5p. Tarpan, a small cash shell, was the market's highest riser, up 146p to 480p on talk of an imminent reverse takeover of a privately owned Net company.

Among low-tech stocks, mail order retailer GUS rose another 14.5p to 376.5p as talk of a takeover from the US grew louder, while media group United News & Media firmed 20p to 810p on hopes that a rival might trump the agreed bid from Carlton.

Football club Manchester United was kicked 15p higher to 205p as vague talk of a takeover began doing the rounds again. Among pharmaceutical stocks, Glaxo Wellcome shot 22p higher to 1,691p and SmithKline Beecham put on 11p to 782p on hopes that the New Year will bring the much-awaited merger. Rival AstraZeneca jumped 56p to 2,556p on vague talk of corporate action, while biotech group Cambridge Antibody Technology soared 49p to 540p after announcing an alliance with US giant Monsanto.

Two companies took the unusual step of announcing a bid on Christmas Eve. Frozen food group Perkins Food rose 20.5p to 137p after unveiling a bid approach. Dealers think Unigate is not interested and the bidder might be rival Fyffes, unchanged at 124p, a Continental player, or US ketchup giant Heinz.

Hearing aid tiddler Hidden Hearing gained 10p to 79.5p after the news of takeover talks offset the discovery of accounting irregularities.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions