MARKET REPORT: Financials suffer as Footsie falls into American bloodbath

`It was hardly an encouraging curtain raiser for the huge Halifax launch. Some of the more heady forecasts approaching 750p for the opening price were pulled back with the stock market seemingly settling for a level just above 700p when dealings start on Monday'
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Intel, the American computer giant, changed Footsie's program, at one time pushing the index below 4,600 points.

Before New York opened Intel sounded a second-quarter profits warning. Immediately shares, already looking rather drained, were marked sharply lower as market-makers anticipated an American bloodbath.

The Dow Jones Average duly suffered a sharp reversal but soon began to reduce its falls. Footsie, at one time down 76.4, also rallied to close 51.0 lower at 4,621.3.

It was hardly an encouraging curtain raiser for the huge Halifax launch. Some of the more heady forecasts approaching 750p for the opening price were pulled back with the stock market seemingly settling for a level just above 700p when dealings start on Monday.

Yesterday's auction of the 23 per cent of Halifax that members of the former building society did not want could smooth Monday's opening session although most observers predict stock market pandemonium in early trading.

Financials, as befits a high- flying sector, took the New York rumble badly. Abbey National, closing at 961p a little over two weeks ago, fell 21p to 880.5p. Alliance & Leicester lost 2.5p to 612p.

Barclays, which could find itself with a similar market capitalisation to Halifax, gave up 31p to 1,187p. National Westminster fell 21p to 744.5p and Lloyds TSB 14.5p to 614p.

The rout extended to insurers with Legal & General off 19p to 441p and GRE 12p to 278.5p.

Amersham International, the health care group, was the day's best-performing share, rising 92.5p to 1,392.5p. It confirmed it was in talks to merge its life science operation with a similar business owned by Pharmacia & Upjohn, the Swedish-American drugs group.

GKN the engineer again ignored the gloom. The shares put on 12p to 1,059.5p as another circular appeared, this time from Daiwa, the Japanese investment house. GKN is expected to produce a strategic review in the next few months. Its shares have been weighed down by a US court judgement which could have wiped out last year's profits. The award has been cut to pounds 240m and GKN has put aside pounds 270m.

Daiwa analyst John Buckland is looking for profits of pounds 400.8m this year and pounds 414.6m next. The shares, largely on the US problems, were down to 911p at the start of this month. They have rallied as favourable analyst reports have appeared. TI was the best-performing blue chip, up 11.5p to 572p.

Gallaher's reappearance lifted the tobacco contingent to three. The shares did touch 312.5p but the expected wave of US selling pushed the price down to 271.5p; it closed at 275.5p. BAT Industries, for long the market's only tobacco group, rose 14p to 547.5p, but Imperial Tobacco, which like Gallaher returned to market after a long absence, was little changed at 385p.

BSkyB, off 15.5p to 575p, was hit by the Office of Fair Trading challenge to its football coverage.

Suggestions the Monopolies & Mergers Commission wants to end recommended retail prices by electrical retailers clipped 10p to 465p from Dixons and 6.5p to 713.5p from Kingfisher. A cautious trading statement lowered Laura Ashley 3p to 92.5p, a 12- month low. In September the shares touched 219p.

A profit warning from Nike, the US sports goods maker, took the edge off sports retailers with Blacks Leisure trimmed 9.5p to 539.5p.

Vendome, the luxury goods group, drifted 33p lower to 466.5p on ABN Amro Hoare Govett caution and FKI, the engineer, added 1.5p to 179p on Panmure Gordon confidence.

Century Inns rose 1.5p to 186p; it duly rolled out the takeover of Pubmaster's managed pubs for pounds 35.1m. Lopex, the marketing group, fell 4p to 32p after calling off talks with possible bidder Incepta, a public relations group. Incepta gained 0.75p to 19.75p.

David Glass, a property management concern, rose 13p to 115.5p as rival Safeland acquired a 19.35 per cent at 130p a share from the Glass family.

PizzaExpress, the eating out chain, had another speculative run, up 19p to 682.5p.

Westmount took up the Falkland oil run, gaining 3p to 120.5p and Fortune Oil, with interests in China, firmed 1p to 15.5p, reflecting bullish trading comments this week.

A profit warning reversed Nightfreight 4.5p to 37.5p.

On Ofex, Wellington Market Co, running 22 markets, held at 85p. It is scoring from the fine weather with Easter's trading up 25 per cent; acquisitions are in the pipeline.

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