Market report: Rogue trades push up RMC as market closes

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The Independent Online
RMC, the building materials group, was the subject of what appeared to be maverick trades as the stock market was closing.

Throughout the day the shares rested quietly at 1, 155p. Then the apparent rogue trades appeared, lifting the closing price 245p to 1,400p. One deal, for 300,000 shares, was priced at 1,300p; then came two small transactions, for 1,721 at just under 1,400p and then for 3,700p at 1,400p.

The RMC escapade occurred as the Footsie steering committee was deciding on a replacement for General Accident, the insurance group merging with Commercial Union to form CGU. Dealing in CGU start today, leaving an empty index place. RMC, the most obvious candidate to succeed GenAcc was duly promoted to Footsie membership after the market closed.

The late deals, which could just possibly have been in recognition of the building materials group's elevation, did not influence the steering committee's decision.

British Energy was another under the influence of rogue trades. The shares, according to the controversial order driven system, ended 33p higher at 598p. Not so, was the cry. Two late trades at 598p and 597.4p were responsible with much of the dealing around 568p.

Few dealers believe the changes to the order driven system, announced by the Stock Exchange last week, will eradicate the problem of spaghetti fingered traders. Many fear they will actually increase the number of rogue trades.

The sharp increase in the RMC price lifted the company's capitalisation by pounds 640m to pounds 3.6bn. RMC has had an in-and-out Footsie career, It last lost the coveted status nearly six years ago.

CU ended a few coppers lower at 1,108p with General Accident 4p harder at 1,405p.

As far as the rest of the Footsie constituents were concerned it was a case of the Americans riding to the rescue. Until mid-afternoon blue chips looked decidedly uneasy. Worries about the Far East took an early toll but a firm New York steadied nerves and a 93 points decline was trimmed to a 32.8 fall at 5, 837.9. Supporting shares also gave ground.

Halifax had an active session, closing 29p off at 895p. It seems set to absorb the Birmingham Midshires building society, paying pounds 5m for the privilege to the Royal Bank of Scotland which has given up its exclusivity agreement with Midshires. The market, however, remains on full alert about the possibility of Halifax merging with the Royal Bank which, according to some reports, is suffering from a succession dilemma.

A successful gas discovery in Pakistan by Monument Oil & Gas and Premier Oil sent Monument 3.75p higher to 68.5p; Premier was just 0.5p harder at 47.5p. Slide rule estimates suggest the find could be worth 7.5p a share to Monument and 5p to Premier.

EMI fell 10p to 508p, presumably reflecting the defection of one of the Spice Girls; the singing group has been one of EMI's most impressive earners during what has been a relatively subdued period for the showbiz group.

More, the advertising group, fell 24.5p to 1,108p as BT Alex.Brown and Cazenove raided the market for US bidder Clear Channel which appears to have won the battle with French group Decaux. The Americans now have just under 30 per cent and intend to seek permission today to go above the crucial 30 per cent mark.

The cancer worry about fizzy drinks took its toll. Cadbury Schweppes, which has withdrawn sparkling Malvern water, fell 9.5p to 927p. SmithKline Beecham, the Lucozade and Ribena group, lost 8.5p to 655p. It said sparkling versions of its drinks had gone for analysis.

Storehouse was unchanged at 279p and Kingfisher shaded 12p to 1,073p ahead of Henderson Crosthwaite investment dinners this week.

Two more possible undercard bids materialised. Tinsley Robor, a packaging and printing group, rose 22.5p to 170.5p as it admitted talks which could lead to an offer; Bellwinch, the house builder, gained 4p to 28.5p after construction group Kier, unchanged at 220p, acquired 23.6 per cent and pondered the merits of bidding.

Vaux, the Sunderland brewer and hotelier, frothed up 9.5p to 300p, a little below its year's high. The shares have risen from around 265p since it became known that Martin Grant would leave Allied Domecq to take over as Vaux's chief executive, ending a year long search.

Vodafone, figures today, gained 15p to 688p with SBC Warburg suggesting an 825p target. Profits could emerge around pounds 650m against pounds 514m.

The so-called Falkland flyers staged a moderate recovery. Desire rose 45p to 290p; Greenwich Resources 1.25p to 29.25p and Westmount 12.5p to 177.5p.