Market Report: Investors cash in as volume recalls 1987

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The Independent Online
DEVALUATION was rapturously embraced by the stock market yesterday. In the busiest day since the 1987 crash the FT-SE share index soared 105.6 points to 2,483.9 as investors, big and small, scrambled to cash in on the floating pound and the interest rates somersault.

Datastream calculated that approaching pounds 22bn was added to share values.

Almost any share with a hint of export earnings was suddenly in demand. And same-again interest rates left many contemplating the prospect of cuts to fuel consumer spending in the run-up to Christmas.

Forgotten, at least for a time, were the French Maastricht referendum and the old bugbear, inflation.

From the opening bell the market seemed keen to let Whitehall know it was ecstatic and did not regard devaluation as a defeat. Just as the opening surge seemed set to run out of steam, the Bank of England ensured further exuberance with its interest rate announcement.

At its highest the index was up 109.4 points, its best performance since the euphoria which followed the Tory election victory in April.

Trading was even more frenetic, offering the market its most profitable day for almost five years and nullifying some of the damage done in days of low turnover. Seaq put volume at 1,368.1 million shares, with blue chips commanding much of the attention. The election figure was 1,345.4 million.

But, despite the excitement, Footsie is only at a level last seen in early July.

Although there was evidence that some fund managers had reversed their policy and were prepared to sell government stocks to buy equities, short-dated gilts turned in a heady display with gains topping pounds 2.5. But longs fell by up to pounds 1.25.

UBS Phillips & Drew believe a 10 per cent sterling devaluation will add 6 per cent to industrial profits next year. Among the securities house's recommendations was Imperial Chemical Industries, up 38p to 1,105p.

There were suggestions that the US house Goldman Sachs may have used the upsurge to unload some of the 10 million shares it has been stuck with since its bought deal with Hanson.

Not all shares joined in the fun. The safe haven defensive stocks, such as the electricity and water utilities, were largely ignored in favour of the suddenly more exciting counters. UK investors did not have the field to themselves. There was keen foreign interest, with US fund managers making their presence felt.

British Petroleum, however, was a conspicuous non-performer. A recent meeting with analysts has reinforced worries about profit margins at its refining and retailing activities. In heavy trading the shares gained just 1.5p to 212p. Unwanted lines, thought to represent about 10 million shares, hovered.

J Sainsbury, seen by some as a defensive stock, fell 4p to 411p after touching 430p. Argyll Group, ruffled by rumours of a bearish circular, managed a 3p gain to 307p and Tesco ended 12.5p higher at 210p.

British Steel, up 7.5p to 61p, was heavily traded as analysts earmarked it as a big beneficiary of devaluation. Forecasts of losses topping pounds 100m have been dramatically pulled back.

Some think it may quickly reach a break-even position and is now in a much stronger position to meet the threat of cheap foreign steel.

Guinness, at one time down 35p on its cautious statement with interim figures, ended 5p higher at 634p.

Reed International spurted 45p to 531p on its surprise merger with Elsevier. The deal prompted Barclays de Zoete Wedd to switch from hold to buy. The mini-conglomerate Tomkins gained 29p at 271p, largely reflecting a confident statement.

Banks were firm, with stories of huge foreign exchange profits achieved by some dealing rooms.

Mirror Group Newspapers was subdued, gaining a mere 0.5p to 56p. With the account ending today there is speculation over the fate of the 6.5 million shares which have already been rolled over, at considerable cost, at the end of three accounts.

A fourth roll would be unprecedented. The syndicate behind the block, dubbed the 'Gloucestershire Farmers', is thought to have paid more than 70p for much of its holding. Tony O'Reilly, the Irish tycoon, has also been in pursuit of MGN shares since the reflotation in July. He has 2 per cent.

P-E International, the management consultant, rose 6p to 54p. The shares have been weak this year. Interim profits are due today and there is speculation that they will emerge around pounds 500,000 against pounds 1.8m.

Airtours jumped 18p to 203p, helped by the Hoare Govett enthusiasm, and little LGW, a luxury goods and marketing services group, jumped 13p to 56p on its return to profits and dividends.

It was all systems go yesterday, with the FT-SE share index roaring ahead 105.6 points at 2,483.9. The FT 30-share index rose 98.8 points to 1,815.2. Trading was hectic. Seaq put volume at 1,368.1 million, best since the dark days of the 1987 crash. More than 37,000 bargains were recorded. Government stocks were mixed.

Expect Huntleigh Technology, the highly rated health care group created and run by Rolf Schild, to produce scintillating interim profits next week. There is speculation that they could be around pounds 2m. In its last full year profits were pounds 2.3m. The shares, placed at 150p seven years ago, closed up 3p at 638p yesterday. They have climbed 283p this year.

As if the shock that Tottenham Hotspur, the quoted football club company, made a profit last year was not enough, it seems to be set to pay a dividend. Rumours suggest the payment will be 3p a share. Confirmation will probably come at the shareholders' meeting next month. It will be called a special interim and there may be more in store at the end of the year.