Market Report : Reports of phantom copper stocks boost RTZ group

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What appears to be a phantom copper stockpile is giving the RTZ mining group a lift.

Arguments have raged in the commodity market about world copper levels with suggestions a big hoard in Rotterdam, possibly 500,000 tonnes, had escaped inclusion in any of the official statistics.

But there is now a strong belief the Dutch stockpile could be a statistical quirk and does not exist. If it is an illusion it should strengthen prices; indeed, few traders now seem prepared to factor the mysterious Rotterdam metal into their calculations.

The market has been in a state of confusion since the Sumitomo scandal which piled up losses, at the last count, of pounds 1.2bn.

With, however, stocks now thought to be below the estimates being made only last week the copper price is likely to continue to move ahead helping RTZ, the world's largest producer, to offset problems created by the firmness of sterling. The rise in the metal price was the main influence behind RTZ's 13.5p gain to 935p.

Most the stock market remained petrified by the headlights of the looming Budget. The yearly financial exercise usually has an inhibiting influence on shares but the run up to this year's occasion seems to be causing even more indecisiveness than usual.

Trading is thin and although New York offers seductive encouragement shares remain cautious.

They were drifting aimlessly ahead of Wall Street's opening. When, at one stage, it seemed the rampant Dow Jones Average was intent on hitting 6,400 points while London still traded, prices perked up and Footsie closed with a 16 gain to 3,978.1.

Second and third liners, usually indifferent to New York anyway, hardly stirred.

Even power shares were on the blink; London Electricity starred with a 28.5p gain to 665p on talk of a bid from US group, Entergy. British Energy, maiden figures tomorrow, gained 7p to a 133p peak.

The hope is the results - pounds 25m is the guess from NatWest Securities - will be accompanied by some intriguing comments about hidden property riches. It could be said the market, after the Railtrack excitement, expects sparks to fly at Energy.

Eurotunnel fell 3.5p to 88p after the overnight tunnel fire but P&O welcomed the prospect of more ferry customers with a 9p rise to 606.5p.

Manchester Utd shot a 13p gain to 552p on continuing stories of bid action. Granada, figures today, is the latest candidate to strike. The shares shaded 2.5p to 892.5p.

Vodafone dialled a 10.5p gain to 254p. Interim figures came in ahead of expectations; the pounds 77m take over of People's Phone should lock in many Vodafone customers. The group denied persistent market stories of take over discussions with the US giant, AT&T. Orange was spurred by Vodafone, gaining 10.5p to 181p.

The Imperial dawn raid story was rekindled, being quickly stubbed out. The shares managed a 2.5p gain (after 4.5p) to 371.5p. BAT Industries, mentioned as the predator, rose 2p to 438p.

British Petroleum, up 11p to 686p, was largely a beneficiary of US buying; BOC was helped 44.5p higher to 880.5p by results.

Barclays gained 10.5p to 976p, probably on a Kleinwort Benson presentation.

Profit warnings took their predictable toll. Porvair, the synthetic materials group, crashed 57.5p to 207.5p and Country Casuals, a fashion wear group, lost 36p to 64p.

Yorkshire Food, which earlier this month said it was in talks with its bankers and warned losses could exceed pounds 10m, retreated a further 6.5p to 13p (after touching 10p). At the start of the year the shares were 92p.

Cookson, as some still banked on a bid, gained 4.5p to 231p and Zeneca came in for a late speculative run, jumping 41.5p to 1,697.5p.

Matthew Clark, the cider group hit by the growing taste for alcopops, continued to drift lower. The price fell 7p to 273.5p, a low. Before the group's troubles were known in the summer the shares were riding at 801p.

Azlan, the services and training group, fell 90p to 650p following a cash call to fund a pounds 48.5m Dutch takeover. Half-year operating profits were up 40 per cent.

MAID, the on-line information group again reflected worries a funding exercise will soon be under way. The shares fell 20.5p to 230p.

Druid, a management consultancy specialising in IT systems, made its expected firm debut, hitting 298.5p from the 275p placing. The shares closed at 285.5p.

Taking Stock

rCardinal Business, Alan Baldwin's second-time-around office equipment and delivery venture, added 1.5p to 12.5p. Share buying by former director Malcolm Burge prompted the gain. He left the struggling group in the summer, sharing a pounds 500,000 compensation handshake with another director, Peter Dunckley, and the director of a subsidiary company. Mr. Burge has 9 per cent, lifting his stake from 7.9 per cent. Since arriving at Cardinal, the old Business Technology, Mr Baldwin has failed to reverse poor trading. He built Securiguard, taken over by Rentokil.

rEuropean Colour fell 1.5p to 67.5p, a 12 month low, on interim profits up 9 per cent to pounds 1.48m. The group, which now has an anti-graffiti treatment, should produce pounds 4.2m for the year against pounds 2.9m.