Market Report: Footsie unmoved by the Dow celebrations

ONLY A few months ago the sight of the Dow Jones Average riding above 10,000 points would have given Footsie cause for celebration.

Not any more. As New York achieved, if only briefly, the remarkable landmark, London's blue chip index drifted 4.9 lower to 6,201.9. It was the third fall on the trot.

At one time the index was 62.8 higher but then weakened as the ramifications of the European Union shake-up prompted a more cautious approach.

But Footsie has for much of this year drifted out of line with the Dow Jones Average as the US index has turned on a rampant display, climbing from 9,276.

Many blame the decoupling on the launch of the euro and the Government's distinct shift towards the European culture. Although still by far the world's biggest share market, New York could be losing at least some of its dominance.

Talk of a break has been around for years. And every so often London has appeared to flex its muscles and ignore its trans-Atlantic big brother. But such displays of independence have been brief and the slavish dependence on Wall Street has reasserted itself.

The Dow Jones Average has looked a sure fire bet to hit 10,000 from the early days of this year. Footsie moved to new highs in 1999, the last - 6,335.7 - was reached last week.

But it has lacked the eagerness of the Dow Jones Average, and has often been pulled back by events which at one time would have been regarded as dismissible little local difficulties.

Although the stock market had a featureless session, trading was again busy with share volume nudging 1.1 billion. Supporting indices were to the fore with the mid cap up 0.8 to 5,519.7 and the small cap improving an impressive 9.2 to 2,375.8.

Once again takeover bids spurred the small cap brigade. Porter Chadburn, a packaging group, rose 14p to 37.25p as a US group appeared with a 38.5p a share offer, and Eclipse Blinds added 15p to 112.5p after Headlam, up 3.5p at 348.5p, produced a share exchange deal.

Terranova, the food group, duly collected a bid from Unigate, jumping 31.5p to 135.5p as the market geared itself for a possible bid battle or at least an improvement on the 125p offer.

And Albright & Wilson duly collected a higher offer, a 145p shot, from interests related to Rhodia, the French group. But mergers are not always rewarding - as First Choice, the package holiday group, continues to illustrate. The shares fell a further 12p to 161p, against a recent 189p high, on disappointment with the proposed merger with Kuoni Reisen, the Swiss travel group.

After their bashing on Monday telecoms recovered some ground with Colt Telecom up 56.5p to 995.5p although BT lost 19p to 1,039p.

Ladbroke, the betting and hotel group, greeted the start of the Cheltenham Festival with a losing share price, off 12.5p at 295.25p. Warburg Dillon Read appeared to do the damage, reining back its recommendation from buy to hold.

The major banks were firm, helping to reduce the Footsie retreat.

HSBC and Standard Chartered were singled out for attention as Morgan Stanley increased its HSBC target to 2,200p and Standard to 1,050p.

HSBC rose 27p (after 72p) to 1,929p and Standard 9.5p (27.5p) to 907p. Royal Bank of Scotland was up 43p to 1,289.5p as, coincidentally, HSBC lifted its share forecast to 1,500p. National Westminster Bank was 24p higher at 1,472p.

National Power was up 10p at 463.5p following a back handed compliment from Merrill Lynch. In effect it described the shares as too low to sell.

Tomkins, the buns to guns conglomerate, remained under the whip, falling a further 10p to 214.5p.

British Aerospace was lowered 8.5p to 394p as the restructuring of Airbus Industrie, where BAe has 20 per cent, into a commercial company was advocated by John Leahy, the head of global sales.

He says the reshaping is needed for financial reasons and the proposed A3XX airliner. The various parties controlling Airbus are in favour of the restructuring but have been squabbling over management control.

Safeway fell 10.25p to 238.75p as a line of 1.5 million shares went through at 237p. Other supermarkets weakened as the alleged price war returned to haunt the sector. Asda fell 2.5p to 142.75p and Tesco 2.25p to 159.75p.

Disappointment with engineer Bodycote's figures hit the shares 92.5p to 890 and a profit warning from Kelsey Industries smashed the price 125p to 310p.

Hi-tec, the sport shoes group, said it would make a loss and jogged 2.5p lower to 15.5p.

JD Wetherspoon, the pubs chain, frothed 10.5p higher to 283.5p as Merrill Lynch adopted a more positive stance.

Signet, the jeweller, firmed 0.75p to 47.5p in busy trading with Cazenove said to be backing the shares.

UK Land climbed 11p (after 18p) to 118.5p on rumours it had sold London's Elephant & Castle shopping centre for around pounds 17m. The company denied the story.

Morgan Crucible rose 12.5p to 259p following the sale of its maintenance and repair business for pounds 170m. It intends to buy back up to 14.99 per cent of its shares.

West 175, which makes cookery programmes for television, has clinched the acquisition of 60 per cent of Montage Projects, a production company. The shares gained 7p to 63.5p.

Somic, involved in a management buy out, jumped 25p to 105p.

It is selling its fabrics business to its management and turning itself into a cash shell.

SEAQ VOLUME: 1.1bn

SEAQ TRADES: 98,183

GILTS INDEX: N/A

ROBOTIC TECHNOLOGY Systems, the most successful share on the fringe Ofex market, is moving to AIM. It is not raising any new money, and the stockbroker JM Finn appears to be elevating the shares through a simple introduction. Since arriving on Ofex, Robotic's shares have climbed from 35p to around 305p. RTS specialises in automation systems and services for the nuclear industry as well as robotic technology.

SHARES OF Griffin Mining, which has zinc reserves in China, have nearly doubled to 18p since November.

The company has a dual AIM/Toronto share presence and it is thought that much of the advance stems from Canadian interest. Griffin used to be called European Mining Finance.

The present management arrived after a shareholder revolt about a year ago. Charles Stanley yesterday became the company's stockbroker following its acquisition of Burrough Johnstone.

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