Market Report: American freeze stokes the oil sector's fires

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The Independent Online
THE FREEZING weather that has brought large areas of the US to a halt helped to fuel another record-breaking advance.

Oils were among the best performing shares as the FT-SE 100 index closed at a new peak, up 14.2 points at 3,484.2.

The cold snap has already prompted power and gas operators to warn of a catastrophe unless demand is reduced. Such happenings should push depressed crude oil prices higher, a development that would quickly flow through to profit levels.

Yesterday, however, there was no sign that US influences had filtered through to crude prices. But the stock market was prepared to anticipate an increase and happy to chase oil shares.

In brisk trading British Petroleum, due to report quarterly results next month, gained 7.5p to a 380p peak. Shell rose 4p to 737p and Enterprise 12p to 484p.

BP has made an astonishing recovery from the despair it encountered when losses piled up and the chairman, Robert Horton, was forced to leave. In August 1992, the shares were down to 187.5p, with some forecasting the slump to continue to 150p.

Elsewhere best levels were not held. In early trading it looked as if the main index would break through 3,500 following encouraging Whitehall figures. But the sudden appearance of profit-takers ensured that what has been a remarkable week ended on a confident, rather than triumphant, note.

Turnover at 979.7 million shares was again impressive. The market has enjoyed its busiest week for years.

Standard Chartered continued to make a significant contribution, gaining 44p to 1,360p as its Hong Kong connections, plus takeover and trading hopes, continued to pull in investors. HSBC gained 22p to 990p.

Inchcape, another with Hong Kong links, was pursued 34p higher to 589p as Panmure Gordon turned buyers.

The stockbroker believes a strong performance by the group's Toyota car operations has not been recognised by the market.

Goldman Sachs joined in by naming Inchcape as one of the main beneficiaries from developing countries.

The US investment house offered a selection of shares for investors who did not want to get involved in what could be risky emerging share markets.

Television shares encountered busy trading as some of their investment appeal was dimmed by a government decision that Carlton Communications and Granada will have to give undertakings if their bids for Central Independent TV and LWT (Holdings) are to escape a Monopolies and Mergers Commission reference.

In confusing trading Carlton was at one time down 32p, closing 12p lower at 1,006p. Central fell 50p to 3,065p.

But takeover speculation remained the main influence. Granada rose 16p to 591p on the extension of its offer for LWT, up 11p at 699p. The market is convinced Granada will lift its offer.

Ulster gained 24p to 609p and Yorkshire 10p to 228p on speculative buying.

Siebe, the engineering group, improved 16.5p to 592.5p as some took the view it had not shared in this week's market euphoria, which lifted Footsie more than 80 points.

Iceland, the frozen food retailer, melted 20p to 187p as James Capel moved from hold to sell, and Kingfisher fell another 12p to 666p after its trading statement.

Klearfold, the US packaging group, jumped 19p to 107p on hopes of a big profits advance.

A hectic week ended with the FT-SE 100 index at 3,484.2 points, up 14.2. The FT-SE 250 index was 0.4 higher at 4,105.8. Volume was 979.7 million from 41,888 deals. The account ends on 28 January; settlement is on 7 February. Gilts weakened.

Edinburgh New Tiger, the latest investment trust from Edinburgh Fund Managers, has received a joyous welcome from institutions. It had hoped to raise pounds 50m but it looks as though more than pounds 100m has been pulled in. Private investors can apply until 18 February; dealings start on 24 February. A free warrant is provided with every five 50p shares. EDF jumped 49p to 622p.