Market Report: Footsie suffers another fretful Friday after rate surprise

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The Independent Online
Delayed reaction to the surprise interest rate increase left Footsie nursing another three-figure fall. More turbulence in overseas markets and sterling's new lease of life ensured blue chips were in for another fretful Friday as soon as the stock market opened.

Then New York, unsettled by the monthly payroll figures, piled on the agony with the Dow Jones Average falling by more than 100 points shortly after the opening.

Footsie was at one time off 164.2 points. It ended at 4,764.3, down 99.5, a fall of 79 over the week.

The stock market has been tense and nervous since it hit its 5,330.8 peak last month. Its decline has, however, steepened since the controversial order-driven trading was introduced three weeks ago.

Since the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, launched the new order Footsie has fallen more than 500 points in, often, relatively thin trading.

The much criticised system is not, of course, responsible for the decline. But there is no doubt it has dramatically increased volatility. And with Footsie calculations based on the last order-driven trade questions have been raised about the accuracy of the Footsie calculation.

In yesterday's mayhem complaints were still being heard, particularly from agency stockbrokers - "we are now no more than robot order takers," said one.

Much of Footsie's trading is still taking place outside the order book which, they argue, is allowing market-makers to quote spreads which are far removed from the indicated market price.

Market-makers no longer have to display a price. The broker is often asked what he is prepared to offer and then told to go away. "At the end of the day it is Joe Public who is being ripped off," said the broker.

Calls continue to be made for the Stock Exchange to rethink the order- driven system which is clearly here to stay but, many hope, in a rather more sensitive form.

Unilever, reflecting results above expectations, was one of three blue chips to make progress, up 12.25p to 449.5p. Elsewhere double-digit falls were the order of the day. Exporters suffered particularly savage treatment following sterling's performance. GKN slumped 53p to 1,280p; Smiths Industries fell 35p to 838p.

Elsewhere BSM, the motoring school, comfortably outpaced the market with a near 50 per cent gain to 190.5p. The group, which has had a sluggish time, has attracted a pounds 54.4m offer from the RAC which quickly picked up a 28.8 per cent stake.

Ivory & Sime, the fund manager, was suspended at 197p as Friends Provident said it would pump its fund management side into the Edinburgh group.

Prestbury Leisure, little more than a cash shell, was also suspended. As expected it has become a vehicle for the combined talents of Nigel Wray and Nick Leslau. It is acquiring a property company run by the duo for shares.

Costain, the struggling construction group, returned after a year's absence. The shares closed at 36.5 after touching 42.5p. During the suspension the group went through two rescue refinancings and sold its important US coal business. The shares were halted at 46p. As a result of the latest reconstruction Swedish group Skanska has a 7.6 per cent stake with the option of going to 40 per cent. If exercised it would trigger a bid.

Chelsea Village enjoyed only a muted celebration following its Tromso triumph, edging forward 1.5p to 105p.

Revelation, the luggage and leather goods retailer which also takes in The Leading Edge novelty gift shops, held at 6p. It has reported interim profits of pounds 156,000 against a pounds 132,000 loss. There are hopes the company, which is paying a maiden interim dividend, could approach pounds 1m for the year.

Devro, a sausage skin maker, continued to benefit from ABN Amro Hoare Govett support, gaining 6.5p to 399.5p and Compass, the contract caterer, was squeezed 9p higher to 565.5p.

Eadie Holdings slipped 0.5p to 12p. Stockbroker Greig Middleton suggest a buy for recovery. Four years ago the shares were 46p. A disposal has left the group with around pounds 2.2m in the bank. Profits this year will be around pounds 1m.