Market Report: Top 100 lead way as new indices get an airing

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THE STOCK market got its first look at the two new share indices yesterday.

They indicated, on a day when prices moved ahead and there was just a hint that confidence was at last improving, that it was the top 100 shares which attracted most of the buying attenton.

The FT-SE 100 share index was up 14.6 points at 2,313, whereas the new FT-SE Mid index, reflecting the next 250 shares, was down 6.1 at 2,167.3. So the combined FT-SE 350 index ended only 4.9 higher at 1,112.4.

The indices are due to make their official debut soon, perhaps later this month. In the meantime trial runs are being held. Whether the new indicators will retain their present form is not clear. They could, said a spokeswoman, be re-based.

It was, however, clear that all the indices would have been higher if building and building material shares had not suffered yet another crumbling session.

More downgradings following Tuesday's profit setback by housebuilder Persimmon provoked the latest gloom. And Kleinwort Benson underlined the deep despair in the sector when it suggested Tarmac would suffer a pounds 15m interim loss and not pay a dividend. In busy trading Tarmac fell 9p to 56p.

Others under pressure, which eased in some instances towards the close, included Bellway, Bryant and Westbury.

Elsewhere currency markets and interest rate considerations continued to influence activity. But it was a US investment house closing some of its bear positions in the futures market that was largely responsible for Footsie recovering from an early 16-point fall.

The market also had to contend with chunky lines of stock on offer, some the residue of recent programme trades. Cadbury Schweppes, interim figures next week, reflected the spill over from heavy US ADR trading. The shares fell 8p to 421p.

Large lines also hovered over Kingfisher and Tesco. And an attempt to place 1.5 million London International Group at about 182p failed as the shares fell 16p to 178p. They closed at 183p.

British Airways was also under the impact of US influences. A transatlantic belief that air fares are to be increased helped the shares 10p higher to 234p. BAA, the airports group, enjoyed the slipstream, gaining 19p to 652p.

P&O was another transport stock displaying confidence. The market is growing convinced that it will hold its dividend with next week's interim results. The shares gained 14p to 334p.

Rank Organisation felt the impact of yet another downgrading, falling 13p to 477p. Barclays de Zoete Wedd axed its estimates from pounds 260m to pounds 246m and pounds 320m to pounds 285m.

Tate & Lyle also collected another downgrading. James Capel cut from pounds 207 to pounds 195m and from pounds 235m to pounds 227m. Last year T&L achieved pounds 234.6m. The shares were unchanged at 294p.

MTM, the troubled chemical group, improved 7p to 30p, on hopes next week's interim results will show new chief executive Ken Schofield has got to grips with the group's problems. But the weak share price makes the expected rights issue unlikely.

Wellcome slipped 5p to 803p. US investors have declared a 7.8 per cent interest. Glaxo Holdings perked up on the expectation that next week's London migraine conference will contain positive news about its Imigran migraine drug.

General Accident improved 9p to 418p on its pounds 140m preference issue. Commercial Union was also firm, up 9p at 455p.

Water shares again attracted attention but electricities were hindered by the package unbundling which will be completed tomorrow. The package, created largely for the benefit of institutions, ended 100p lower at 3,055p.

A score of blue chips and FT- SE Mid companies report today. Ladbroke Group rose 5p to 148p on expectations of interim profits of pounds 103m against pounds 98.3m and an increased dividend. County NatWest say given the company's 25 years of dividend growth 'we would not be surprised to see a small increase squeeze through'.

Regalian Properties held at 3p as Provident Mutual was revealed as last week's big seller. It has cut to less than 3 per cent from 11.4 per cent, selling at 0.75p.

Moss Bros held at 125p. The ubiquitous Brierley Investments disclosed a 3.05 per cent interest. Struggling marketing consultants Holmes & Marchant managed a 0.5p gain to 8p. Finance director E W Jones picked up 400,000 shares at 7.5p.

Euro Disney, ahead of an expected trading statement, rose 52p to 805p.

The FT-SE share index rose 14.6 points to 2,313 yesterday, swinging between a 16-point fall and a 15.7 gain. The FT 30-share index rose 12.8 to 1,682.8. Trading volume was 431.6 million, with 16,753 bargains recorded. Government stocks, at one time up to pounds 1 higher, ended with gains around pounds 3/4 among long dates

An institution, thought to be Norwich Union, yesterday sold 9.5 million shares in Enterprise Oil. They were placed among other institutions by Hoare Govett at 318p. If Norwich was the seller it still has about 6 per cent of the oil group's capital. Enterprise shares took the placing badly, tumbling 21p to 324p. They have been as high as 458p this year.

Shares of the Tomkins conglomerate jumped 15p to 219p before an announcement it intended to increase its year's dividends by not less than 7.5 per cent. Some observers expect at least a 10 per cent increase. The statement, after the market had closed, was made to encourage holders of the 5.6 per cent redeemable preference units to convert into ordinary shares.