Market Report: Clarke's maiden Budget bowls institutions over

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The Independent Online
SHARES romped with seeming relentless abandon to a new high as the stock market indulged in an astonishing response to Kenneth Clarke's maiden Budget.

The FT-SE 100 index surged to a 3,233.2-point peak, a gain of 66.3. At one time it was recording an 83.2 advance. In five trading days it has surged 160 points.

The soaraway performance was not due to a knee-jerk reaction by market-makers trying to head off an expected wave of buying.

Although private investors were conspicuous by their reluctance to chase the Clarke bandwagon, there was clear evidence of institutional buying.

Turnover, at 1,235.1 million, was the highest since March and nudged the dramatic levels achieved when the UK was forced out of the exchange rate mechanism in September last year.

Datastream calculated the stock market gain at pounds 16bn, with banks and drinks leading the advance. After yesterday's heroics the market is valued at approaching pounds 770bn. The supporting FT-SE 250 index joined the party atmosphere, gaining 80.7 to a 3,565.6 high.

The London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, so often the tail tries to wag the cash market, for once went along with the euphoria rather than strive to dominate the proceedings.

Nicholas Knight, strategist with Nomura, the Japanese investment house, and the market's most determined bull, remains confident. Although he has trimmed his earlier exuberant forecasts he is looking for the index to hit 3,700 by the end of next year.

Besides registering its approval of what it perceived as a clean-cut Budget the market is increasingly confident that more interest rate reductions are pencilled in in the Clarke calculations.

Ladbroke, the betting, do-it- yourself and hotel group, was one lamentable absentee from the Budget party. A variety of influences pushed the shares down 20.5p to 151p, lowest for more than a year. UBS said sell.

In busy trading the market again fretted about the dividend being held. The yield is currently an astonishing 14 per cent. The group's position, following the Budget changes, means many institutional investors will be unable to claim tax relief.

Ladbroke surprised its followers by producing a statement that referred to 'the loss to pension funds who are investors in the company', and expressing the hope that the Government would reduce damage in the future.

The leisure group, already under the whip because of restrained trading prospects and the question mark over its dividend, was ill- prepared for such a statement. After all it is not the only leading share to be caught by the Budget changes. It was, however, the only one to draw attention to its discomfort.

Ladbroke's breathless retreat was also related to share sales by Michael Hirst, who runs the Hilton Hotels subsidiary. He unloaded 125,000 shares at 161p. The group also faces pounds 233m of bond repayments next year.

The decline - the shares topped 300p three years ago - has occurred at a time Cyril Stein, founding chairman, has signalled his intention to resign.

The leisure group was not the only leader to miss the party. General Electric Co, as its abandoned target, Ferranti, slumped into receivership, fell 13p to 320.5p. Its results depressed.

Elsewhere, the Budget held sway. Drinks shares were strong, as were banks, insurances and retailers. Even cider shares managed to resist the increase in excise duty. There had been fears the fast-growing, impressively lucrative, high-strength ciders were going to be signalled out for special treatment.

Financial shares were in top form, encouraged by the latest rush of share buying. Perpetual, enjoying a little encouragement from James Capel, jumped 60p to 853p.

Scapa, the industrial fabrics group, rose 6p to 216p. There is talk an acquisition is imminent.

The FT-SE index soared 66.3 points to a 3,233.2 peak and the

FT-SE 250 index rose 80.7 to 3,565.6. Turnover topped a billion - 1,235.1 million from an impressive 48,746 bargains. Government stocks scored gains approaching two points.

Birkdale, the advertising, marketing and public relations group that used to be called Brunnings, seems to be attracting powerful support. Two institutions, London & Manchester and TSB, disclosed stakes of more than 3.5 per cent. The shares edged ahead 0.5p to 8p. In September the revamped operation raised pounds 2.78m through a rights issue.

Durlacher & Co, the stockbroker, has produced the first new issue to test the market's Budget euphoria. Millgate, parent of Laserline Car Alarms, is arriving through a pounds 7.1m USM placing. Shares have been sold at 40p with most of the income going to existing shareholders. After the float Millgate will have cash in the bank. In the year to November 1992, profits were pounds 1.25m.

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