MARKET REPORT : Shares look set for a springtime run

The FT-SE 100 index jumped 47.1 points to 3,094.1 and the supporting FT-SE 250 index 21.4 to 3,367.6. Turnover was 702.7 million shares with 28,073 bargains logged.
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Shares galloped ahead although many of the City's big players missed the fun - they were at Cheltenham. Spurred by another strong New York display the stock market was in rampant form, with the FT-SE 100 index achieving its best gain since October with a 47.1-point surge to 3,094.1.

So far this week Footsie has romped ahead more than 90 points in often busy trading. Although turnover faltered yesterday it was probably high enough to support the hope that investors had been tempted out of their self-imposed hibernation.

Whether the stock market is ready for a springtime run is any body's guess. The more optimistic souls believe it is but many bears remain.

Encouraging US figures and technical factors relating to today's expiry of the March options contributed to the upsurge.

So did the success of Glaxo's takeover bid for Wellcome. With the final regulatory hurdle cleared the market can expect a huge cash injection as much of the £9bn outlay is reinvested. Glaxo shares put on 11.5p to 701.5p; Wellcome 12p to 1,062p. Zeneca, now the most obvious bid target on the drugs pitch, gained 22p to 879p.

Wellcome has already been removed from the blue chip index. Its replacement, Tate & Lyle, the sugar group, celebrated its elevation with a 13.5p gain to 439.5p.

The Takeover Panel pulled the plug on Northern Electric by blocking, at least for the time being, any new Trafalgar House bid. Consequently Northern fell40p to 781p. Other electrical shares edged ahead with Yorkshire 2p higher at 670p. The market is becoming convinced that Hanson is keen on Yorkshire. Indeed there are suggestions it was about to bid when Professor Stephen Littlechild fused the electricity excitement by threatening tougher price curbs.

The partly paid generators were little changed. There is talk the Government may be encouraged to temper the disappointment of private and institutional investors by shading the final payments.

BTR rose 2.5p to 331.5p on Salomon Brothers support; Powell Duffryn gained 15p to 468p as a stock overhang was cleared.

Lucas Industries edged ahead another 2p to 200p with the warrants 3p higher at 29.5p.

Guinness slipped 1p to 421p (after 414p) as Seagram, the Canadian drinks group, fretted about pressure on margins. Year's results are due next week. Around £900m is expected compared with £875m.

SG Warburg was back in the takeover frame, up 19p at 729p; HSBC, helped along by NatWest Securities, improved 27.5p to 696.5p. Legal & General's attempts to free its "orphan" funds helped the shares to an 18p gain at 477p, pulling Prudential 11.5p higher at 320.5p. Perversely Govett, the fund manager, rose 16p to 280p on the collapse of its planned US financial takeover.

Shandwick, the PR group, improved 1p to 34.5p as BZW suggested the shares had underperformed and had "at least 30 per cent upside".

Building shares had another firm session, largely on hopes interest rates will not be forced higher. Caradon led the way, up 11.5p at 257.5p; Blue Circle Industries rose 12p to 287p.

Newcomer Datrontech, a computer group, achieved a comfortable premium but not as good as some expected. The shares reached 138p from a 130p placing price. Montanaro, a smaller companies trust, placed at 100p, traded at 93p.

United Energy duly produced the rumoured US expansion, holding at 12p. The acquisition should lift group reserves by 110 per cent and production by 120 per cent.

Hampden, the Ulster do-it-yourself group, rose 3p to 51p. The shares have climbed 16p this week. J Sainsbury, following its acquisition of the Texas DIY chain, has almost 30 per cent of Hampden.

Signet, the jewellers previously called Ratners, dipped 1.75p to 15.25p, reflecting unease over the possible sale of the US operation, Sterling. Last month Signet's finance director quit; so did a director of the American operation. Signet shares hit 45.5p in April as recovery hopes strengthened.

Ron Trenter, the former head of the Texas do-it-yourself chain, has become chairman of the struggling retailer Upton & Southern; he replaces Jim Hodkinson whose main business is running Kingfisher's B&Q operation. Mr Hodkinson remains on the board. The former Texas chief has acquired options on 4 million Upton shares at 5p. The price held at 3.5p.

Unigroup is rumoured to be near to clinching its long- signalled reverse takeover. The cash-rich group is regarded as one of the most desirable shells in the stock market. Two Malaysian groups have almost 50 per cent of the capital and support the take-over policy. Unigroup's modest trading operations are in profit. The shares held at 34p.

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