Market Report: Lower inflation figures put a bounce in shares

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The Independent Online
SHARES bounced again yesterday. Inspired by a better-than- expected July inflation figure the FT-SE share index jumped 38.8 points to 2,356.8 - a two-day gain of 53.7.

The Germans also contributed to the sudden blaze of stock market blue. A bundle of statistics, including lower wholesale figures, eased still further the pressure for higher UK interest rates.

Brewers, builders, retailers and other interest-sensitive shares were marked higher. But there was no sudden wave of buying.

A few institutions were tempted off the sidelines, but much of the activity appeared to be old-fashioned bear covering and some defensive marking up. Turnover, helped by a Goldman Sachs programme trade, was only 449.7 million shares, below the market's break-even level.

Still, the upsurge caught many on the hop. A dead-cat bounce or is the punishing retreat at last over? The market would, it was long felt, turn on the proverbial sixpence. There are hopes the improved output figures, published on Thursday, and the inflation decline could herald more resilient green shoots of recovery than have been detected in the past.

The market revival follows seven days of ragged retreat. The last time it suffered such a string of reverses was in 1985. It then romped ahead until the crash of October 1987.

Lowered profit estimates forced food manufacturers to miss the revival. Cadbury Schweppes caught another downgrading. SG Warburg lowered its estimate from pounds 358m to pounds 347m. Last year the group achieved pounds 316.4. The shares finished 1p down at 421p.

Hillsdown Holdings was another hit, down 7p to 120p. James Capel did the damage. It reduced its forecast from pounds 210m to pounds 190m. United Biscuits, the subject of recent downgradings, fell 7p to 294p on the suspicion that further reductions are being prepared.

But bullish comments helped other shares. Eurotunnel advanced 25p to 360p as Salomon Brothers said buy and suggested the dispute with the tunnel contractors could soon be settled with, perhaps, the issue of some equity. And Morgan Crucible, the industrial materials group, improved 5p to 252p as Greig Middleton said buy, forecasting profits of pounds 69m against pounds 61m.

British Petroleum ended unchanged at 187.5p, despite some unease over the latest estimate for its important Colombian field. An agency of the Colombian government has put a 700 million-barrel estimate on the development. The market, and it is suspected BP, is looking for much more. A BP estimate is due at the end of the year.

Sears, after Thursday's abortive bear raid, moved ahead 3p to 70p.

Lonrho slipped 1p to 78p. Its new Far Eastern fan, the Genting gaming group of Malaysia, has lifted its shareholding to 5.1 per cent.

Besides the brighter outlook for interest rates, the three leading Scotch whisky groups drew strength from the new North American trade agreement which is expected to improve sales in Mexico, already a developing market for whisky.

Forte pulled out of its long decline, gaining 6p to 133p. It was helped by rumours it had completed a deal to sell its contract catering division, Gardner Merchant. But Forte denied a sale had been arranged.

Besides suffering from the general hotel industry gloom Forte shares have been hit hard by its failure, after drawn-out negotiations, to sell Gardner to the Compass Group. Compass shares rose 4p to 414p.

Bimec Industries, the environmental engineer, crashed when it pulled payment of its final dividend. In hectic trading, with Seaq putting volume at 12 million shares, the price slumped 16p to 3p. It closed at 6.25p.

Acorn Computers had another strong session, at one time reaching 41p. The shares closed at 38.5p, up 5p. The group continued to draw strength from a successful trade presentation for its pocket computer and was also thought to have met UBS Phillips & Drew.

The little communications group MMI fell 3.5p to 7p as it reported losses. Under a reorganisation the investor Bob Morton could end up with a 36 per cent interest and there are suggestions he could seek to pump in some of his private interests.

He has also increased his stake in Ossory Estates, where there is talk of a consortium moving in, to 3.2 per cent. The shares held at 4.5p.

Christian Salvesen, the distribution, brick making and hire group, rose 13p to 281p on suggestions it was near to completing the sale of its oil services division.

BM Group, the harassed construction equipment distributor, fell 2p to 84p, despite bullish comments from Barclays de Zoete Wedd. The securities house believes the shares deserve to be around 170p. The shares, 417p earlier this year, collapsed on the departure of Roger Shute, who developed the group, through ill health. At one time they were down to 64p.

Shares of Plastiseal, which makes windows and doors mainly for the public sector, had a distressing time yesterday, plunging 6p to just 8p. There was talk of a line of stock on offer. In the year to 31 January the company slumped into the red, suffering a pounds 780,000 deficit. The shares came to market three years ago at 90p. In those days profits topped pounds 1m.

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