Market Report: Four-day winning streak puts Footsie back above 6,000

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The Independent Online
EQUITIES achieved a four-day winning streak with Footsie recapturing the 6,000 high ground.

This week's advance has reduced fears that the Stock Market had run out of steam and was set for a dull, subdued period of indecisiveness.

It was the first time for two weeks that Footsie topped 6,000 points. It started this week with a 141.5 fall as sudden worries of higher US interest rates took their toll.

But since bleak Monday, shares have moved ahead and yesterday's progress, an 82 gain to 6,010.3, means the index achieved a near 150 net gain over the five trading days.

An in-form New York, some encouraging economic indicators and that old faithful, takeover excitement, provided the stimulus. Supporting shares were in form with the mid and small cap indices making headway.

Turnover, however, was low, as befitted a Friday ahead of a Bank Holiday.

EMI, which prompted the bid excitement with its revelation of a bid approach, gave up a little of its takeover-inspired gain, ending 7.5p off at 600p. Allied Domecq, the drinks group, which could be drawn into corporate action if Seagram, the Canadian group, does, as most suspect, emerge as EMI's suitor, firmed 14p to 629p.

Picking the next bid target occupied much of the day's trading. Reckitt & Colman, the household goods group for long suspected of being in Unilever's sights, jumped 52p to 1,257p; Ladbroke, seen as an American target, cantered 11.25p to 340p and Safeway, known to have attracted Asda, put on 11p to 367.5p.

Unilever, helped by results, did its acquisition ability no harm at all with a 31p gain to 668p; Asda, with Dresdner Kleinwort Benson positive, rose 4.5p to 204.75p.

Cable & Wireless was another caught up in the speculation. The shares improved 25p to 710p. Orange, the mobile phone group, also had a speculative ring, up 18p to 447.25p.

Southern Electric, the only one of the electricity dozen privatised eight years ago to retain its independence, held at 550p as SG Securities drew attention to its "rarity value".

Insurers remained in demand. General Accident added 74p to 1,480p with its intended partner, Commercial Union, improving 51p to 1,170p. The insurance merger is still, some believe, threatened by European interest. The shares of the two had a weak time before rallying this week. There is speculation the share retreat could have encouraged an overseas group to consider intervening.

Alliance & Leicester enjoyed a late run, jumping 54p to 890p as some decided it could be the first quoted former building society to feel the heat of a takeover strike. Talk of share buybacks, even a special dividend, was also in the air.

Whitbread, ahead of figures next week, gained 37p to 1,070p. Merrill Lynch expects pounds 358.2m, a pounds 55.4m gain.

Cadbury Schweppes hardened 6p to 878p. Its first-quarter US soft drink sales came in better than some predicted. Volume was up 1.5 per cent, despite a late Easter, with the Dr Pepper brand leading the way.

Abbey National shaded 8p to 1,115p as SBC Warburg trimmed its profits estimates and lowered its target price to 1,220p. Halifax, with Schroders offering a 900p target, firmed to 800p.

Carpetright was unimpressed by more share buying by chairman Lord Harris of Peckham, the Tory Party benefactor. He acquired 290,000 shares at 330p and now has 16.16 per cent. The deal left the shares off 6p at 338p. They were 651p two years ago.

Hambro Insurance Services may not be around long enough to be split from Hambros, the merchant bank falling to a South African strike. The shares rose 16p to 124.5p after the company said it had received approaches. It is owned 52 per cent by Hambros.

Chesterton International, the estate agent, returned to market at 28p against the 36p the shares were suspended at in February when bid talks were announced. The negotiations were unsuccessful.

Streamline, the road maintenance group, advanced 27.5p to 297.5p as Jarvis moved in with a pounds 184.5m agreed cash and share offer. Jarvis, up 21.5p to 685p, is already entrenched in rail maintenance. Its shares were 4.75p three years ago.

Jefferson Smurfit, the paper and packaging group, improved 8.5p to 288.5p. Dublin stockbroker NCB believes the proposed deal between JS's 46.5 per cent US offshoot and another American group could make JS shares worth around 300p.

Capital Radio, up 30.5p to 660.5p, tuned in to the 90 per cent takeover of London's newest rock music station, Xfm. The acquisition cost pounds 14.5m.

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