Market Report: Dealers tune into Footsie relegation cliffhanger

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The Independent Online
With Footsie due to welcome two, possibly three, new constituents this month, the stock market busied itself spotting the relegation candidates.

It is likely to be a cliffhanger with the result in doubt until next week's meeting of the selection committee.

Former building societies Alliance & Leicester and Halifax are assured of inclusion with respective capitalisations of pounds 3.5bn and pounds 18bn. Williams, the fire protection and security group, may creep in.

Smith & Nephew, the health care group and Burton, the retailer, are two likely casualties. Imperial Tobacco and Hanson could also be in danger.

Changes to Footsie's composition can be of significance to the so-called tracker funds which devote their activities to index stocks.

At one time shuffles to Footsie were fairly marginal. Nowadays most quarterly meetings produce more than one change with demergers prompting moves between meetings.

Alliance fell 5p to 596.5p and Halifax, at one time off 20.5p, ended at 724.5p, down 10p. Williams, which took over the Chubb security business after its removal early this year, was little changed at 313.5p.

Among the endangered stocks Imperial fell 3p to 372p and its former parent Hanson 3p to 304p.

The market had a volatile session with Footsie at one time down 38.6 points. It closed 5 lower at 4,557.8 with firm gilts and the sight of New York in positive territory offering encouragement.

Although below the Halifax-inspired levels of Monday, trading was again active with turnover edging towards 1 billion. Halifax volume was 21.45 million.

Cadbury Schweppes, the chocolate and soft drinks group, was a weak Footsie constituent, melting 15p to 526.5p. Once again worries about its US soft drinks interests, where it is locked in conflict against the might of Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola, did the damage.

The latest rumour to cross the Atlantic is Coca-Cola is trying to squeeze Cadbury's Dr Pepper and Seven-Up brands out of McDonald's by offering the eating-out chain an exclusive deal.

The removal of Cadbury brands is not seen as a major financial blow to its US operations. Still the latest shot in what has developed into a bitter battle tended to underline the daunting struggle the British group faces in America.

BG, once British Gas, was the day's top performer, flaring 12.5p to 217.5p, highest since the break up.

Talk Deutsche Morgan Grenfell had repeated its 300p target was one influence; another was a legal victory by a group where BG has a 51.18 per cent interest which could lead to damages of pounds 150m. This month's Monopolies & Mergers Commission report is also thought to favour BG over the industry regulator, Ofgas.

Financials steadied a little after Monday's shake-out with Barclays up 26.5p to 1,161.5p. Insurances, awaiting Norwich Union, attracted support with Legal & General putting on 16.5p to 435p and Prudential Corporation 14.5p to 611.5p.

Amstrad gained 13.5p to 277p on the Alan Sugar restructuring and CIA, the media buyer, jumped 14.5p to 174.5p as WPP, the advertising agency, emerged as a 14.4 per cent shareholder. WPP gained 5p to 247p.

Sporting retailers felt the pinch. The Nike profits warning continued to take its toll and the problems at John David Sports added to the unease. JDS fell 21p to 250p, a new low, and JJB Sports 19.5p to 473p. Blacks Leisure, leader of the sporting pack, retreated 47.5p to 471p.

Oasis, the fashion chain, produced the day's profit warning and duly slumped 73p to 267.5p. The shares, which have been 421.5p, arrived at 148p two years ago. Another casualty was Tradepoint, the fledgling group which runs it own little order- driven Stock Exchange. Its admission it needs more cash, probably pounds 1m this week and then a pounds 9m cash call, unsettled the market, hitting the shares 20p to a 75p low.

Kalamazoo Computer, which revealed it is involved in talks which could lead to a bid, rose 13.5p to 92.5p. It is, however, 40 per cent owned by the Kalamazoo Trust which, under its deeds, may not be able to accept any offer.

Ronson rose 1.5p to 15.5p in busy trading after the departure of Howard Hodgson and girlfriend Christine Pickles. Middlesex Holdings, the metal group, held at 8.25p as ABN Amro Hoare Govett took over as company stockbroker, replacing Hichens Harrison. John Mansfield, the timber group, jumped 2.5p to 8p; UKAV subscribed pounds 5m for new shares at 3p and intends to hit the acquisition trail.