Market Report: Hopes for US-Japan deal prompt late rally

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THE unpredictable nature of the stock market was emphasised by a sudden late rally that made a nonsense of what had been a lacklustre, typically end-of- quarter session.

At mid-afternoon the FT-SE 100 index was holding, none too convincingly, a 3.7-point gain. Ninety minutes later at the close of trading the advance had been extended to 33.8 at 3,026.3.

Indications Japan and the US had reached an initial trading deal provoked the upsurge. But once again trading was thin; defensive marking-up was a big influence. And the second-line stocks again missed the party.

Government stocks, however, rose by up to half a point.

Until the possibility of a US/Japanese accommodation started to filter through it seemed the market could have been heading for its quietest session so far this year on an allegedly normal trading day.

Reduced forecasts from SG Warburg and, it was believed, Hoare Govett, added to the lethargy. Warburg has reduced this year's FT-SE expectation from 3,500 to 3,250 - a 'more plausible' level - and next year from 3,700 to 3,500. Hoare is said to have cut this year's hope from 3,600 to 3,400.

Turnover, some fretted, would not reach 400 million shares. With 500 million regarded as the break-even level the difficulties that have afflicted ShareLink, the country's largest execution- only stockbroker, were assuming a threatening dimension.

In the event, the late trading rally lifted the total to a relatively tolerable 551.1 million.

However, there is no doubt that many houses, big and small, are feeling the pinch. When shares raced merrily to their peak early this year the market was convinced it had put the bleak days of cutbacks and redundancies behind it.

Worries are beginning to surface that some of the recent securities expansion may be difficult to sustain.

The more expansive approach spilled over, encouraging a rush of new issues. With the likes of McDonnell Information Systems and Aerostructures Hamble quickly disappointing their followers the lucrative new issue market could turn difficult.

Once again the atmosphere was blighted by the now- expected crop of company reverses. Hi-Tec, a footwear group, trundled into the red at the halfway mark, collapsing 33p to 45p.

Gestetner, the office equipment group, admitted that follies in interest-rate swap contracts had cost it dollars 6.1m.

The shares touched 118p, closing at 123p, off 23p. Inchcape, the international trading group that is a significant Gestetner shareholder, suffered an early knee-jerk fall but ended the session little-changed at 427p.

The builder YJ Lovell tumbled 10p to 65p, disturbed by an investor unloading stock at 60p.

The group, which has suffered cruelly from the recession, was once a powerful constituent of the building industry. It went through a refinancing early this year but there are hopes it will return to the dividend list shortly.

VSEL, awaiting the takeover strike, lost a little of Thursday's upsurge, closing 18p lower at 1,210p. British Aerospace, the favourite to bid, rose 3.5p to 452.5p.

General Electric Co, also in the frame, improved 3p to 292p and Vickers, a late runner, was steady at 174.5p.

British Airways recovered from Thursday's slump, prompted by the renewed difficulties of its USAir associate. The shares rose 17p to 360.5p.

Manchester United, which accompanied its results with the expected share bonus (four-for- one), rose 9p to 694p.

Charter, the conglomerate, suffered from a Smith New Court downgrading, off 13p to 772p. The securities house has cut from pounds 62.7m to pounds 58.5m and from pounds 88.9m to pounds 85.9m.

Regent Corporation, a revitalised builder, was suspended at 31p ahead of the reverse takeover of Rayford, a property group.

William Sindall, also a builder, was another suspended before a deal. Trading was halted at 90p as its already-signalled acquisition turned out to be Morgan Lovell, an office refurbisher, for pounds 12.2m.

Baris slipped 6p to 33p as the entrepreneur Bob Morton, who already has 29.9 per cent, moved to increase his influence at the building services group. He intends to subscribe for up to 36.4 per cent of new shares being offered at 25p.

The Union Square property group held at 9p. It announced a pounds 9.6m cash call at 5p. It is e family of David Thompson, the co-founder of Hillsdown Holdings, the food group. The shares reached 450p in 1987.

Alliance Resources, a little oil and gas group headed by the Cork businessman John O'Brien, rose 1.5p to 9.25p, a fraction below the peak. Hopes run high that it has achieved a rich gas find in Louisiana. Drilling of a 14,000ft well is complete and tests will start soon. The result should be known within three weeks. Some think Alliance's prospects will be transformed.

French Connection, the fashion group, slipped 5p to 245p. It produced the expected impressive interim figures - pounds 3.1m against pounds 2m - but the market is more intrigued by suggestions the controlling shareholder, Stephen Marks, intends to cut his stake from 80 per cent to allow a full listing. The shares slumped to 7p two years ago; then the company doctor George Wardale arrived.

The FT-SE 100 index rose 33.8 points to 3,026.3 but the supporting FT-SE 250 index lost 9.2 to 3,494.8. Turnover was 551.1 million shares with 23,904 bargains recorded. Government stocks scored gains of up to pounds 1 2 .

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