Market Report: Footsie hits a new high despite some late selling

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The Independent Online
After all the huffing and puffing Footsie made it to a new high, scoring a 46.3-points gain to 5,372.6.

US buying and perhaps a little shamefaced catching up by the City's reluctant fund managers prompted the advance, which even extended to the stock market's second and third-liners.

At one time Footsie was riding confidently above 5,400, up a remarkable 89 at 5,415.3. New York, still suffering from the Clinton carbuncle, failed to live up to best expectations and with interest rate fears never far below the surface the last few hours of trading were tarnished by some aggressive selling.

The FTSE 250 index closed with a 29.9 gain to 4,819.1 and the FTSE SmallCap index was lifted 4.2 to 2,360.7.

Blue Circle Industries, struggling from its year's low, led the advance with a 22p gain to 330p. The Far Eastern-influenced banks, HSBC and Standard Chartered, contributed to the Footsie advance; so did such tired old financial plays as Woolwich, up to a 358p peak with a 15p gain.

Barclays, shorn of its BZW encumbrance, climbed 74p to a 1,763p peak on stories it could be tempted to return cash to shareholders. Bank of Scotland, up 24.5p to 626.5p, and insurer Legal & General with a 22p gain to 632p (largely on Panmure Gordon support) were other financials in fine fettle.

Henderson, the fund management group, underlined the vulnerability of the cash industry by indicating it was involved in talks which could lead to a 1,650p a share offer. The shares rose 115p to 1,660p as the market sensed yet another bid conflict.

Takeover talk embraced under-pressure showbiz group EMI, spinning the shares 17.5p higher to 463.5p.

Energy rose 8p to 739p as Japanese investment house Nomura, famed for owning the nation's biggest pub spread, confirmed its interest in bidding by buying 2.2 per cent of the capital. US groups have made no secret of their interest and the market also suspects the intentions of generators National Power, up 1.5p at 652p, and PowerGen, down 16.5p to 834p. They are regarded as likely bidders.

The two generators must also be seen as contenders for the last remaining electricity distributor, Southern Electric, up 12p to 543p. Southern was one of the dozen electricity distributors privatised by the Tories.

London Clubs International, the casino group, had a rocky time, falling 14p to 288p. The shares were ruffled by stories of bouncing cheques, some said to be for pounds 6m.

Hanover International, the hotel chain, jumped 10p to 130p. There was active trading, largely on the back of suggestions that Jarvis Hotels, twice rebuffed, was keen to resume hostilities. The smaller companies fund Montanara has turned positive, picking up more than 1 million shares, lifting its stake to 11.79 per cent. Most of the shares came from Equitable Life Assurance.

GGT, the advertising group, jumped 29p to 202.5p as Omnicom, the US group, emerged as the signalled bidder. Some feel a counter offer could appear.

Ronson, once a brewer, now a luxury goods purveyor, crashed 3.5p (after 5.75p), as it produced yet another profits warning and, after six months of talks, disclosed that the management was prepared to buy out the company at 5p a share. In the past year Ronson shares have fallen from 26.5p, and they touched 65.75p in 1995.

Armour Trust, the car accessories to confectionery group, held at 17.25p. Charles Montanaro, the small companies fund supremo, who has 18.1 per cent, has joined the board. Intriguingly, he has got another major shareholder, with 8.3 per cent of the capital, to give his Montanaro fund the first refusal on its stake.

Premier Farnell continued to feel the impact of the latest profit warning and the departure of chief executive Howard Poulson, falling a further 21.5p to 275p.

Powerscreen, the other Tuesday casualty, managed a 12p gain to 266p.

Applied Holographics jumped 18p to 90p as it unveiled a deal with Microsoft. Topps Tiles rose 21.5p to 361.5p following interim figures.

John David Sports, the subject of director buying, rose 7p to 129.5p. There is talk of bid action. One suggestion is that Arcadia, the chain stores part of the Burton demerger, is interested in launching a bid. Arcadia dipped 3.5p to 434p. JD Sports said John Wardle, chairman, had picked up 100,000 shares at 123.5p. Other directors have added to their interests in the past few days.