MARKET REPORT: Manufacturers retreat in the face of rate rise fears

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The prospect of higher interest rates rattled equities. They fell for the third day running as the stock market braced itself for an increase, perhaps by as much as half of a percentage point, tomorrow.

Once again it was the remnants of Britain's industrial might which suffered the hammer blows. Most of the manufacturing groups still in Footsie were hit and producers accounted for more than half of the heaviest fallers in the supporting FTSE 250 index.

Engineers and the rest had to contend with yet another storming, profits- sapping display by sterling on the foreign exchange market. Higher interest rates are likely to increase their agony. Yet the stronger-than-expected June inflation figures merely strengthen the case for dearer money.

General Electric Co led the retreat, although most of its 24.5p fall to 353p reflected disappointment its reshaping moves were not as clear cut as hoped. Others suffering the direct impact of sterling included TI, off 19p to 456.5p, Weir, 15p to 221.5p, and Glynwed International, 9.5p to 211p.

Footsie ended down 52.2 points at 4,758.5 with the supporting indices also weak.

Superstores was one of the few sectors to make headway. Asda rose 2.75p to 137.5p; Safeway 7.5p to 375p; J Sainsbury 8.5p to 388p and Tesco 8p to 408.5p.

BZW created the interest. Its analyst, Bruce Hubbard, said food retailers were relative Budget winners, faring better than the market as a whole. Burton, on its demerger, gained 10.5p to 125.25p.

Financials had an indifferent session, weighed down by the collapse of Woolwich, off 33p at 301p. The shares touched 373.5p in first time dealings.

The Woolwich decision to auction shares after the market has closed clearly gives institutions an irresistible chance to dampen exuberance and the price they then offer.

Abbey National softened 31p to 845.5p; Prudential Corporation 17.5p to 605.5p and National Westminster Bank 37.5p to 843.5p.

There were some intriguing trades in Cater Allen, the financial group which has attracted an agreed Abbey bid. Deals went through at a little below the bid price; indicating Abbey buying, or, just possibly, a counter bidder was preparing for action.

Royal Bank of Scotland eased 6.5p to 615.5p; Tiger Management, a New York fund manager, has lifted its stake to 5 per cent. It has acquired 2 per cent of the capital since February.

Lasmo flared 10p to 277.5p after chief executive Joe Darby warned the abolition of foreign income dividends would leave Britain's international groups "sitting targets" for overseas predators.

Cairn Energy rose 5p to 484.5p; Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull said the recent 25 per cent fall provided a buying opportunity. Shell fell 17p to 426.5p with US securities house Bear Stearns said to be negative.

SmithKline Beecham and Zeneca shaded as NatWest Securities was thought to have lowered profits estimates. It cut SB figures from pounds 1.74bn to pounds 1.66bn and from pounds 2bn to pounds 1.95bn and Zeneca from pounds 1.15bn to pounds 1.11bn and from pounds 1.35bn to pounds 1.31bn. SB fell 1.5p to 1,168.5p and Zeneca 11.5p to 2,020p.

BT lost 8p to 483.5p. Lehman Brothers cut its forecast but thinks the shares will outperform.

BSkyB's retreat continued, off a further 11p at 428.5p.

Various trading warnings took their toll. Dalgety, the pet food group, fell a further 39p to 222.5p after producing its second negative statement in three months. Among others sounding warnings was Renishaw, an electronics group, off 62.5p to 280p. It said profits would be down around pounds 4.5m because of sterling,

Warnings also hit Gresham Computing 8.5p to 36p and Tie Rack 2p to 144p.

Warnford Investments, a low-profile property group, hardened 22p to 250p as rival Shaftsbury acquired a 10.32 per cent from Co-operative Insurance. Engineer Norman Hay jumped 8p to 36.5p; the company said its Heathrow site had been cleared for redevelopment by the Environment Agency and the property would be sold.

Haemocell, the struggling healthcare group, held at 3.25p; chairman Brian Long picked up 200,000 shares, lifting his stake to 4.3 per cent. The company has launched a German range of wound treatment products.

On Ofex Display IT, the Internet financial information group, slumped 50p to 310p; the shares have come down from 810p. Another Ofex company, Aberdeen Steak Houses, held at 69.5p after reporting year's profits down from pounds 2.2m to pounds 227,000.