Market Report: French support for Maastricht turns the tide

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The Independent Online
THE MARKET turned its back on the present and looked to the future yesterday, helping the FT- SE 100 share index to reclaim a position above 2,400 on the second leg of the account.

Trading volumes were dismal, with only 330 million shares turned over, but buying of September FT-SE 100 contracts and a French opinion poll showing support for the Maastricht Treaty spawned a late afternoon rally.

Disappointing results from Abbey National, down 3.5p to 255p, and yet more gloomy reports on the economy knocked 10.6 points off Footsie early in the day.

However, the double kick from France and the futures market rescued the FT-SE index from the doldrums to 2,420.2, up 20.6 on the day. Late dealings in the September FT-SE futures contract were being struck at 2,445, up 31 points.

'Investors are short of cash,' said one dealer in a simple summing up of the market's performance yesterday. Fewer than 16,500 bargains were dealt-in, and some eyes in the City are beginning to focus once more on job, rather than book, positions.

For once, however, there was something of a respite from analysts' downgrading pens and from company profit warnings.

John Mowlem, though, did not escape and dipped 4p to 81p on talk that SG Warburg had reduced what was left of a pounds 5m profit forecast to just pounds 2m.

Overall, and without the hand of Warburg, contracting and construction stocks were weaker on the latest string of economic surveys. MJ Gleeson was one of the biggest fallers, losing 30p to 718p. Declines elsewhere were confined to a few pence.

Drinks companies had a better session, benefiting from reports of a rise in exports of Scotch in June, particularly to the key US market. The EC accord on duty continued to add buoyancy.

Grand Metropolitan, favoured by County NatWest, gained 12p to 422p. Allied-Lyons firmed 3p to 618p.

Guinness, owner of United Distillers, which makes Bell's and Johnnie Walker, continued where it left off last week with a 9p rise to 544p. Sales to Spain are said to be receiving a fillip from the Olympics.

In a different vein, Christies International hardened 1p to 126p after it confirmed it had invited Sir Anthony Tennant, outgoing chairman of Guinness, to become a director.

Takeover rumours saw Hoskins Brewery 3p higher at 38p. There is talk that an unknown pub operator in East Anglia is stake-building. Shortage of stock pushed Scottish & Newcastle up 12p to 446p.

Concern over attendance levels continued to overhang Euro Disney, and the shares, above pounds 16 in the spring, fell dangerously close to 800p in early dealings. A bout of sell advice in the weekend press also undermined sentiment.

However, the price, off 15p to 860p at the close, tempted some investors to punt on a revival of fortunes, with calls produced in the options market.

Eurocamp, the camping specialist that has trading links with Euro Disney, lost 5p to 320p.

Inchcape shrugged off a placing of a line of 2.2 million shares by Warburg at 404p to close 2p better at 417p. Total volume was 5 million.

Speculation of a large tank order for Kuwait hepled Vickers to rise 4p to 125p. Sectoral neighbour TI Group advanced 6p to 314p on anticipation of good interim results today. Analysts expect pre-tax profits to rise, albeit modestly, from pounds 54.2m to pounds 55m.

Other companies reporting today include National Westminster Bank, which was ahead 6p to 224p. Interim profit estimates are strung out between pounds 100m and pounds 300m, against pounds 101m last time.

Barclays, due on the result treadmill on Thursday, was also better, firming 3p to 317p.

Main movers elsewhere included MEPC, up 10p to 246p, on gossip that Hongkong Land had made an approach. WPP, the advertising company, rose 7p to 47p as institutional opposition to its restructruing plans caved in.

British Gas eased a further 4p to 236p on Friday's call for a Monopolies investigation. British Petroleum, weak in the morning on fears of huge write- offs and a dividend cut, closed unchanged at 212.5p.

Business services group BET continued to jangle some nerves ahead of today's rights issue result. The shares closed 0.5p up at 110.5p, marginally ahead of the 110p rights price.

The late release of results on Friday caught up with Enterprise Computers, which slumped 8.5p to 14.5p.

British Data Management rose 5p to 133p on talk it was close to cutting its acquisitional teeth.

The bears continued to get their claws into Spring Ram yesterday. Shares in the Yorkshire bathroom and kitchen group, which hit a high of 181p in May, dropped another 4p to 115p, a low for this year. Trading was brisk with one million shares turned over. Some investors are said to be switching out of Spring into MFI, steady at 120p with 3.8 million shares traded.

Betterware, the door-to-door catalogue group, was a star performer, spurting 28p to 338p. The buoyancy was provided by upbeat comments on prospects at the company's annual meeting yesterday. Trading rose 50 per cent in the first quarter, aided by a 20 per cent expansion to 9,000 in distributors. Average spending per customer has increased from pounds 7 to pounds 8.

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