At one time it seemed a bewildered and demoralised stock market was set for a veritable blood bath. Within 11 minutes of trading starting the index had crashed 259.8.
But that was as bad as it got. After early hysteria shares firmed, helped by the occasional bargain hunter.
At one time Footsie even managed to achieve a touch of blue - in the form of a 2.5 gain.
It was not only a woeful day for blue chips. The rest of the market also beat the retreat. The mid cap index fell 111.7 points to 4,786.2, lowest this year. And the small cap shares crumpled again with their index off 61.3 at 2,126.1, another low for the year.
At its close Footsie was only 117.1 points from the level it started the year. It was once again subject to rogue trades. Alliance & Leicester enjoyed an illusionary 83p jump to 915p, thanks to a spaghetti fingered trade. Schroders, up 123p to 1,500p, was another late trade oddity.
Amvescap, the investment group with strong US links, was one of the major casualties, tumbling 72p to 471p.
Billiton was another under intense pressure. The mining group arrived at around 220p last year and subsequently nudged 250p. Since then it has been a sad, downhill slide with the price falling a further 9.5p to a 103p low in heavy trading.
Cable & Wireless and Compass, the contract caterer, were other blue chips to suffer in the storm.
Blue Circle Industries bucked the trend. A heavy faller on Thursday the shares rose 22p to 283p helped by the pounds 176.5m Malaysian acquisition. Centrica climbed 6.75p to 92.5p.
Food groups, manufacturers and retailers, put on a brave display, encouraged by their perceived defensive qualities.
Tesco led the resistance, up 8p to 168p. J Sainsbury put on 10p to 515p.
Associated British Foods was 5p higher at 515p.
But Booker, the cash and carry chain, was hit by the end of takeover talks with Somerfield. The shares slumped 36.5p to 209p although further corporate action, possibly with Budgens, seems likely.
Somerfield, displaying relief, recovered 14.5p to 379.5p. Other food shares showing their resilience included Northern Foods, up 6.5p to 177.5p and Hillsdown, still expected to be the subject of a three way split, which hardened 1p to 141.5p.
Enterprise Oil, due to roll out interim figures next week, was at the head of another oil retreat. The shares plunged 23p to 377p, worst for more than two years. Last year they approached 720p.
The slide in the crude oil price has hit the industry and BT Alex.Brown expect Enterprise to suffer an 88 per cent fall in its clean net income.
British Petroleum lost 26.5p to 753.5p and Lasmo 7p to 164p.
Bass was as flat as yesterday's pint, relapsing 68p to 802p. Besides worries about the slow down in consumer spending it has to contend with the impact of the Asian crisis on its hotels. Rank, the struggling leisure group, lost 13p to 282p.
Henlys shaded to 468.5p. Volvo continues its relentless build up and has reached 8.76 per cent. It has pledged to go to 10 per cent. Henlys target, Dennis, slipped 4p to 465p. Mayflower, which has barged into the cosy, share-exchange Henlys/Dennis merger, gave up 3p to 167p. It is offering 450p cash for each Dennis share.
Essex Furniture found a new low, falling 9.5p to 20.5p after warning it had fallen into the red. Allied Carpet, still recovering from its accountancy problems, gained 2.5p to 49p, encouraged no doubt by a 50,000 share buy at 47.5p by managing director Ray Nethercott who now has 1.7 per cent. The shares hit a 44p low on Thursday.
Tie Rack managed a 0.5p gain to 29p after US investment house Fidelity International picked up shares, taking its holding to 9.67 per cent.
The day's star performer was Bucknall, up 65 per cent at 98p. A pounds 15.4m bid to take the construction and facilities management consultancy private, did the trick. The management, supported by a US buyout specialist, is offering 103p a share.
Doeflex, a chemical group, was another to break through the gloom. An admission it was in talks which could lead to a bid produced a 21 per cent advance to 286.5p.
SEAQ VOLUME: 884.8m
SEAQ TRADES: 74,553
GILTS INDEX: n/a
IT IS looking increasingly likely that the JJB Sports pounds 105m cash call, which closes on Tuesday, will be a huge flop. The shares fell below the 440p rights price on talk the issue will attract only a 10 per cent take up, with underwriters forced to subscribe for the rest. The shares fell 8.5p to 432.5p. Last year they were 820p. JJB wants the cash to help fund the takeover of rival Sports Division, which is costing pounds 290m.Reuse content