Market Report: London defies the doom mongers over New York

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The Independent Online
For the second time this week shares defied the prophets of gloom. At one time, as the stock market anticipated another New York bloodbath, the FT-SE 100 index was down 33.7 points. In the event, Wall Street produced a mixed display and the Footsie fall was cut to 20.7 at 2,728.3.

On Monday, there had been widespread fears of a big sell-off after a New York slump. But after a hesitant session the Footsie fall was confined to 1.7 points.

New York, the world's biggest market, will always weigh heavily on London and the old saying that when Wall Street sneezes London catches a cold is unlikely to be removed from market vocabulary.

Still, there is little doubt New York's influence in London is waning and the markets have decoupled to some extent.

The way London has survived the latest US setbacks underlines its new found freedom, although much of the Dow Jones Average discomfort is due to the sudden unpopularity of hi-tech shares, a sector which has not a prominent role in London.

BAA, facing a Civil Aviation Authority price package next week, was the best performing blue chip, up 14p at 485p. The shares have been ruffled by regulatory worries and fallen from a 554p peak in April.

BT, figures next week, gained 4.5p to 351.5p and, even under pressure, Hanson managed to move against the tide, gaining just 1p to 168p. National Power, as its big dividend payments loom, gained 2p to 534p. The dividend is due to be paid on 20 August with the shares going ex-dividend on Monday.

RTZ, the resources group, had a difficult time, falling 25p to 916p. ABN Amro Hoare Govett did the damage, slashing its forecasts from pounds 975m to pounds 780m for this year and from pounds 950m to pounds 900m for next. The downgrading is on the back of the shake-up in the copper market following the Sumitomo fiasco. Last week Kleinwort Benson cut pounds 70m from this year's forecast to pounds 820m. RTZ was 1,074p six weeks ago.

Tesco continued to reflect worries it planned a pounds 2.5bn French supermarket takeover and rights issue, losing 8.5p to 289p. British Airways settlement with its pilots left the market unimpressed with the shares diving 15.5p to 527p.

Orange, the mobile telephone group, dialled yet another low, off 5.5p to 190.5p, and Thorn EMI, as its demerger gathers pace, fell 46p to 1,743p as rumours swirled of alleged US price fixing.

British Biotech managed to struggle above its rights price. The shares closed 27p down at 2,058p after touching 2,030p. The pounds 143m cash call has been fixed at 2,050p. The nil paid shares halved to 18p; they were once 403p.

First Choice, the holiday group, lost 4p to 64p on further consideration of its poor results and pub owner JD Wetherspoon dipped 36p to 944p on US selling.

Legal & General slipped 2p to 685p. Rumours of bid action are likely to intensify following a shake-up among its financial advisers. Schroders and JP Morgan have been appointed financial advisers, replacing SBC Warburg which remains stockbroker but with Kleinwort Benson instead of Cazenove.

Rumours of corporate activity have flowed through the insurance sector with talk of continental strikes. Royal Insurance and Sun Allliance are merging in what is a defensive get together and there is a suspicion L&G, if it avoids a hostile bid, will merge with Commercial Union, down 3p at 566p.

Belhaven, the Dunbar-based brewery, ignored the gloom, touching 201p before closing at 198 against a 180p placing. BATM Advanced Communications, a maker of high speed data equipment, arrived on AIM and after touching 130p settled at its 125p issue price.

Continental Foods, the snack food group, was the day's best performer, jumping 49 per cent to 103p as a group led by chairman David Circurel bid pounds 16.1m to take the company private, offering 108p a share.

BTG, the technology company, staged a remarkable comeback. It pulled back from a 95p fall to close at 1,770p, down 3p.

Avocet Mining fell 5p to 185p despite a glowing report about its Malaysian gold mine development. ViewInn, an AIM high flyer which provides hotel guests with communication and information services through TV screens, slumped 80p to 435p. The shares, floated in December at 100p, touched 625p in May. There was said to be persistent small selling.

Tunstall, the alarms group, clanged 67p lower to 310p after it warned profits would be little changed.