Market Report: Shares elect to continue longest bull run in four years

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The Independent Online
Equities have enjoyed their longest bull run for more than four years. Blissfully ignoring the gunfire of the election and happy to draw inspiration from a robust Wall Street display, Footsie has moved ahead for seven consecutive trading days reaching 4,387.7 points with a 41.6 gain.

The unexpectedly strong display has lifted the index to its highest since blue chips took fright last month when John Major announced the dash to the polls.

In the main the election has been a crushing bore for the stock market although the sudden narrowing of Labour's lead in one of the opinion polls may have produced a little enthusiasm among private clients.

New York has been the real spur. The overnight performance by the Dow Jones Average, its second-biggest gain, put shares in a cheerfully receptive mood when trading started and they made further progress despite a mixed New York opening.

Alliance & Leicester remained the most busily traded share as the final Cazenove auction produced an overall average price of 533.7p for the members who elected to sell through the Alliance system. The price, at one time was 556p; it closed at 545p, a 12p gain. BZW issued an Alliance covered warrant giving the right to buy at 557p in October next year. The warrant costs 82.75p.

Centrica, the distribution arm of the old British Gas, was actively traded, attracting a recorded 47 million turnover with one 10 million-deal going through; the price held at 58.25p.

Imperial Chemical Industries, first-quarter figures today, put on 16p to 720.5p with SBC Warburg, according to sources, buying 800,000 shares. The results will not be exciting, probably around pounds 75m against pounds 202m. There are hopes of better things to come and some even ponder the possibility of ICI pulling something spectacular out of the hat, such as an intriguing acquisition.

EMI, up 17.5p to 1,220p, was given another whirl on take-over speculation and on the financial pitch Schroders and Mercury Asset Management moved ahead on the sudden realisation they may have been overlooked in the recent financials surge.

Beers made modest headway. Bass experienced a two-way pull. NatWest Securities talked about possible acquisitions and said hold; Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull suggested the shares should be sold because of the unresolved Carlsberg Tetley saga. The shares rose 8p to 792p.

Insurances were strong, largely on trading prospects. Hays, the transport group, continued to score from UBS support, up a further 20p at 560p. Molins, the tobacco machinery maker, was stubbed 97.5p to 645p on a warning last year's profits were over-stated. Eurodis Electron, a components group, skidded 37p to 133.5p following another profits warning, and Scruttons, a transport firm, fell 70p to 260p on forecasts of lower profits. Waverley Mining crashed 15p to 39.5p as it put its once highly regarded Montonhall coal mine in Scotland into liquidation.

Reckitt & Colman, the household goods group, continued to advance, up 9p to 832.5p, on talk of a US strike.

Somerfield, the supermarket chain held at 180p, with MeesPierson hanging a 220p target on the shares, and Carpetright had that threadbare look, off 42.5p to 480p, with talk ABN Amro Hoare Govett had turned negative.

GB Rail, one of the privatised rail companies, steamed ahead 13p to 171.5p on suggestions the group is trading above expectations and results could be better than expected. One stockbroker apparently claimed the shares were 100p under-valued.

Umeco, an industrial fasteners group, gained 38.5p to 297p as ex-Burnfield men Brian McGowan and Clive Snowdon moved in following a pounds 9.2m placing to buy a distributor of glass fibre and polyester resin.

Arthur Shaw, the troubled hardware business, rose 0.75p to 4.75p; Ashley Levett, the Monaco-based commodities trader who controls Richmond Rugby Club has emerged as a 12 per cent shareholder.

AND International, paying pounds 1m for a map business, gained 5p to 312.5p. Forminster, the Kookai clothing group, rose 40p to 125.5p following results.

Jarvis, the construction group which is involved in rail maintenance, improved a further 6p to 270p. Stockbroker Killik say the shares are selling on a prospective multiple of 13. "This is", it says, "arguably too low for such a dynamic growth company". Jarvis is thought to have a big acquisition in the pipeline.