Market Report: Good company results push Footsie to a new peak

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The Independent Online
Blue chips surged to another closing peak with the FT-SE 100 index stretching 27 points higher to 3,932.6. The latest round of company results was the decisive influence. A string of better-than-expected figures encouraged some sharp reactions with Footsie constituents such as British Aerospace, BTR and RTZ leading the charge.

Yet most of the doubts about the stock market's current rush of strength remain. Once again, trading levels were relatively low with the market as a whole only just enjoying a profitable session. And there was a decidedly squeezy atmosphere with, it was claimed, some speculators having difficulty closing their positions.

Still, New York contributed to the fun. During London trading it seemed intent on once again confounding the doubters by crossing 5,800 points for the first time.

In London eyes are concentrated on the 4,000 target for Footsie. There is a strong conviction in some quarters that once 3,900 was breached it is only a matter of time before the 4,000 barrier falls.

With elections in the air interest rates in the UK and US are unlikely to damage sentiment. It is widely thought that President Clinton will keep any US rate change on hold ahead of the presidential election and the suspicion remains that rates here will be pushed even lower. With the latest results doing nothing to undermine confidence in the outlook for the UK economy the 4,000 mark could be hit in the next few days.

Whether the looming election then starts to take its toll remains to be seen.

BAe rose 38p to 1,050.5p; BTR 8p to 274p and RTZ 30.5p to 961p. The BTR warrants, which can be exercised in the 30 days following the interim figures, enjoyed a 3.5p uplift to 12.5p. The crucial striking price is 258p.

Wolseley, on building industry prospects , was the best-performing blue chip, up 22p to 464p.

Railtrack, headed by Bob Horton, hit a peak of 284.5p with a 14.5p gain but another of his companies, JKX Oil & Gas, tumbled 24p to 129.5p, as the market sensed Deutsche Morgan Grenfell was testing sentiment before attempting to unload the significant stake built up by Peter Young, the suspended fund manager at the centre of the unit trust debacle.

JKX is only one of the companies where the Young unit trusts have a large exposure. Others include British Biotech and Dana Petroleum.

Unilever, responding to its US investment presentation, jumped 30.5p to 1,373p and Zeneca recovered from recent weakness with a 22p gain to 1,546.5p.

Imperial Chemical Industries was hit by a profit downgrading, thought to be from Barclays de Zoete Wedd. At one time off 20p, the shares closed 5p lower at 840.5p.

Oils were mixed with Tullow Oil clipped 4p at 101p after hitting 94.5p. Drilling at the Sara-West field in Pakistan has so far produced sub-commercial gas but the company remains hopeful of a strike.

Debt-laden Eurotunnel jumped 11.5p to 112.5 on reports it had clinched a deal with its creditor banks.

Matthew Clark, the cider group, remained in the dumps, off a further 12p to 343.5p. PDFM, the fund management group, is, however, still thirsty for the shares. It picked up a further 500,000, lifting its shareholding to 19.6 per cent. In the past three days, as the shares have collapsed a staggering 326.5p, PDFM has added 2.2 million shares to its collection.

Rival HP Bulmer, with a cheerful trading report, gained 15p to 567.5p. Record cruise booking lifted Airtours 7p to 604p.

Danka Business Systems jumped another 55p to 655p. The shares have soared 170p since the group disclosed on Monday the acquisition of Kodak's imaging business for $684m.

A profit warning left TLG (the old Thorn Lighting) 61p down at 109.5p and London Clubs International spun 12p lower at 274.5p following the profit fall at its smaller rival, Capital Corporation, off 20.5p at 196p.

Gartland Whalley & Barker, a corporate consultant which nurses companies for a flotation, arrived on AIM following the reverse takeover of Select Industries. The shares closed at 109.5p.

Westmount, with oil and gas ambitions around the Falkland Islands, held at 29.5p after an 18.12 per cent stake was placed. Easynet, the Internet service provider, had another difficult session, falling 3.5p to a 42.5p low.

Anagen, the healthcare group involved in a cash-raising exercise, rallied 6p to 29.5p.