Market Report: Gloomy display brings back interest-rate fears

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The Independent Online
SHARES suffered their sharpest reverse for more than a month as the first day of September spiked the August advance.

A round of generally cautious trading statements, unchanged German interest rates and a poor New York opening combined to do the damage.

The sudden display of gloom reawakened interest-rate fears with talk that base rates could be hoisted to 6 per cent as early as next week.

Government stocks, after holding steady, gave ground towards the close.

Electricities, after their breathtaking run following the lenient demands of the regulator Professor Stephen Littlechild, encountered the inevitable bout of profit-taking.

Thoughts of continuing profit and dividend progress and the possibility of takeovers and defensive mergers were swept aside as double-figure falls appeared throughout the sector.

The gains, ran the argument, had occurred too steeply and too quickly and on a dull day it was time to quit. Waters took the hint, sinking into double-figure falls.

Reckitt & Colman, Rolls- Royce and Vickers were among the stocks weighed down by results. One to buck the trend was Williams Holdings, a notorious underperformer, which responded to unexpectedly encouraging profits and trading comments with a 10p gain to 365p.

Body Shop International's ethical problems were shrugged aside ahead of the long-awaited report in Business Ethics magazine. The shares rose 8p to 224p. Lonrho, on the statement regarding Tiny Rowland, edged forward 1.5p to 144p.

Strong results from recruitment group Michael Page lifted the shares 24.5p to 114p and dragged other employment groups higher, with BNB Resources up 10p at 185p and Reed Executive 13p ahead at 176p.

The Page figures helped Proudfoot up 6p to 74p. Some wondered whether the tentative management bid that melted away earlier this year was about to be resurrected.

Proudfoot was clearly infuriated by the bid attempt. It abruptly dismissed the approach, which apparently was masterminded by a former executive. The shares rose to 80p on the bid news but quickly drifted lower.

Lasmo, another recently in the bid spotlight, attracted attention as stories circulated that failed bidder Enterprise Oil was attempting to sell the near 10 per cent shareholding acquired in controversial circumstances in the closing days of the bitterly fought battle. Enterprise paid 169p a share and could not expect to collect much above 140p if it rushed into a sale with the shares at 149p, down 4.5p. Enterprise fell 8p to 390p.

A share sale at WPP, unchanged at 119p, was also the subject of discussion. The banks, which bailed out the advertising group by switching debt into equity, are free to sell their shares and seemed on the verge of cashing in. But the placing is now said to be due to take place next week.

Royal Bank of Scotland advanced 4.5p to 430.5p as security houses Credit Lyonnais Laing and Nikko recommended the shares. TSB, up 2p to 224p, enjoyed Hoare Govett support.

Allied-Lyons and Guinness suffered hangovers on the figures from Seagram, the Canadian group ranking among the world's top four drink operations. Although headline profits moved ahead strongly the Seagram drink performance was below expectations.

Guinness fell 11p to 487p and Allied 11p to 615p. The other member of the top drinks quartet, Grand Metropolitan, was unchanged at 445p.

Lilliput, maker of miniature cottage ornaments, was the day's top performer, up 68p to 168p on a US takeover bid. The shares were floated at 135p last year.

Domestic & General, the insurance group, improved 82p to 1,750p. Figures are due soon.

Scantronic, a security equipment group struggling to put together a rescue rights issue, rose 4p to 26p. The cash call, at 10p, will be underwritten by directors and new shareholders. There is talk that once the new finance is in place the group will attract takeover attention.

CRP Leisure fell 1p to 6p. It is raising pounds 900,000 through a placing and open offer at 5p. The cash will be used to repay most of its loans and provide cash to investigate expansion moves. Any subsequent acquisition is likely to produce another call.

Tottenham Hotspur's run continued, up 7p to 151p, highest since 1987.

Interest continues to build in Magnum Power, up 1p to 49p. Seaq put turnover at 561,000 shares. They were floated at 35p last month. Henry Cooke Lumsden, the stockbroker, is said to be unable to fulfill a big buy order from an institution. There is also a rumour that a bidder, possibly IBM, may be lurking for the maker of power supply units for electronic equipment.

Shares of OmniMedia traded at 41.5p on the 4.2 market following a pounds 720,000 cash raising. Stockbroker Raphael Zorn Hemsley placed 2 million at 36p. The issue was 'comfortably oversubscribed'. OmniMedia is said to be a world leader in Video CD software. It is run by Tim Rosen and Leslie Kent, founders of Catalyst Communications, taken over by Holmes & Marchant.

THE FT-SE 100 index fell 34.8 points to 3,216.5 and the supporting FT-SE 250 index 22.3 points to 3,794.3. Turnover, helped by at least two program trades, stretched to 677.2 million shares with 29,323 bargains recorded.

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