SG Warburg's decision to cut 362 shares from its market making book was the first development to hit sentiment. It provided further evidence of the yawning gap developing between the top shares, as represented by the proposed FT-SE share index, and the rest.
Then the Italians raised their interest rates and when some unexpectedly disappointing US employment figures hit the screens the index was down almost 30 points.
Yet another French poll, this time indicating a 'yes' to Maastricht, and some old-fashioned end-account activity helped to restore a little respectability to the proceedings although the index ended 19.7 down at 2,362.2.
The index started the account at 2,365.7. At one time it was down to 2,260.6, its lowest for 18 months. The wild swings have been achieved on exceedingly low turnover with a few programme trades relieving the gloom.
August accounts are traditionally slack. But few traders recall such low trading levels in past holiday accounts.
Institutional investors, astonished at the volatility of the market, were happy to sit on the sidelines. Private investors, already under pressure, often felt the conditions too treacherous to chance their arm.
British Aerospace at one time looked like being the day's biggest casualty. The shares were down to 209p on the fall in orders at Airbus Industrie and the poor take up of K registration cars. By the close the fall had been cut to 12p at 213p.
Glaxo Holdings rose 3p to 749. Smith New Court regard the shares as a buy. It expects year's profits, due next week, to emerge 13 per cent higher at pounds 1,450m.
The group's anti-nausea drug Zofran is closer to gaining US approval for more widespread use, and next week's London migraine conference is expected to indicate positive developments for its Imigran migraine drug.
Northern Foods also responded to SNC support. The securities house said the market had overreacted to recent profit downgrades. NF rose 10p to 227p.
The engineer IMI fell 2p to 245p. County NatWest believes the shares should be sold. Interims next week are likely to be pounds 3m down at pounds 37m. 'The group's overall trading performance will not be good enough to justify the shares' premium rating,' County said.
General Electric Co dipped 5p to 234p following cautious comments to shareholders from Lord Prior, chairman. At least one securities house switched its recommendation from buy to sell. Racal Electronics was heavily traded ahead of the Chubb demerger. The shares rose 0.75p to 66.5p. Thorn EMI, hit by profit downgradings, collected a buy circular from Kleinwort Benson, gaining 8p to 687p.
MB Caradon was at one time higher as the rumoured buy circular, from Hoare Govett, duly appeared. However profit-taking took its toll and the price ended 3p down at 215p. CarnaudMetalbox, where MB has a 25 per cent interest, jumped 75p to 1,925p.
Arjo Wiggins Appleton, the packaging and paper group, fell 9p to 197p in, for the second day running, heavy trading. At least one large line of stock was said to be unplaced.
Norex, as if to prove that speculators who think they have the inside lane can get it wrong, tumbled 23p to 67p. The shipping group, which also invests in loans to off-shore oil rigs, warned that profits would be 'significantly' down on last year. On Thursday the shares jumped 25p, anticipating a bullish statement.
Holmes & Marchant, still reflecting directors' share-buying, improved a further 1.5p to 14p but the ice-cream maker Clarke Foods was hit by stories of production problems and the sudden realisation that August has been a poor month for the ice-cream industry. The shares fell 14p to 69p.
Beers were unimpressed by a 15.7 per cent increase in June beer production. However the Manchester brewer Joseph Holt, an exceedingly tight market, jumped 21p to 2,128p.
Euro Disney had a see-saw session, closing 5p down at 840p. Paribas, the French securities house, regards it as a sell.
Armour Trust, the car accessories and confectionery group, rose 2p to 32p.
Grand Central Investments, a Far Eastern controlled group with confectionery interests, has picked up another 1 million shares, lifting its interest to 17.76 per cent.
The FT-SE share index closed 19.7 points down at 2,362.2 after moving between a 14.5 gain and a 29.8 fall. The FT 30-share index fell 12 points to 1,729. Trading volume for the second day running topped the break-even 500 million shares. It was 546.7 million, with 24,627 bargains logged. Government stocks were firm.
There was speculation yesterday that a block of 6.5 million shares in Mirror Group Newspapers had again been rolled over, thereby deferring payment. The block has already been rolled at the close of the two previous accounts. MGN shares fell 2p to 61p. The only known stake to be built since the reflotation is a 2 per cent holding by the Irish entrepreneur Tony O'Reilly.
A row at Andrews Sykes Group, an air conditioner and heater hirer that used to be called Braithwaite. Jacques Murray, head of the Nu-Swift fire protection group, is seeking to take control of the board. He has a 26.63 per cent stake. David Hubbard, Andrews chairman, urges shareholders to resist the Murray attack. Andrews shares rose 5p to 130p.