Market Report: Wolseley tumbles as Footsie manages an unconvincing rise

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The Independent Online
Wolseley, the building materials distributor, came under pressure, tumbling 41p to 466p as at least one investment house suggested the shares were too high.

SG Securities, the old Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull, expressed worries about its US and European exposure. There was talk BZW had also turned cautious.

Howard Proctor, SG's analyst, has not changed his pounds 279m profits forecast for the year ending July. Last time the company, with an impressive record, produced pounds 264.2m. But he said: "The shares do not deserve their premium rating".

In October they touched a 535p peak, up from 425.5p in the summer.

The rest of the stock market managed to close with a plus but it was a far from convincing performance. Footsie, at one time up 41.1 points, ended 15.1 higher at 5,083.9, largely unimpressed by a firm New York and a modest Far Eastern revival.

Retailers were mixed. Kingfisher climbed 27p to a 912p peak after a relatively cheerful festive trading report but Boots gave up 58p to 847p as its trading review failed to meet best expectations. Anxiety about Dixons, reporting today, and Argos, on Friday, softened the shares 4p to 582p and 7p to 543p respectively.

Great Universal Stores was the most heavily traded share. Cazenove and Morgan Stanley placed with institutions 36.76 million shares at 719p. They paid 712.5p a share to the vendor, the Wolfson Foundation, which supports educational and medical research. The foundation still has more than 3 per cent of GUS. The price was at one time down 31p; it ended 22p off at 731p.

BT was little changed at 501.25p as chairman Sir Iain Vallance sold 140,000 shares at 500.5p.

WPP, the advertising group, weakened a further 12p to 253p on rumours one of its subsidiaries has lost a major account.

Micro Focus, the computer group which has had a heady romp, fell 40p to 2,550p as chief financial officer Tony Muller quit. In July chief executive Marcelo Gumicio departed shortly after cashing in share options.

BSkyB fell 14p to 418p with Credit Lyonnais Laing cautious. The company said it was on track for a digital television launch in the second quarter of this year.

EMI slipped 11p to 488p. The showbiz group has a high exposure to Asia, and NatWest Securities rates the shares no more than a hold.

Financials, led by Abbey National, recovered some of their poise, and with the crude price firming, oils improved, with British Petroleum in the forefront. Billiton continued to suffer from weak metal prices, off a further 6p at 138p.

Imperial Chemical Industries greeted a new chief operating officer, Brendan O'Neill, from Guinness, with a 9p plus to 934p. Buy advice from investment houses Paribas and Sutherlands was another influence.

Creative Publishing, the greeting card group spun off from Fine Art Developments in October, firmed 2p to 151p. There is talk that a big US greeting cards group is anxious to develop its operations this side of the Atlantic and is casting its slide-rule over CP. The shares have had an eventful time since the demerger. They opened at 172.5p and promptly collapsed to 136p. Oasis, the fashion chain, hardened 8.5p to 135p on bid gossip. The shares were 421.5p last year.

Engineer Meggitt strengthened 5p to 170p, a high. It has won an order to supply standby instrumentation for Boeing aircraft. Financial details were not revealed although there is talk that it could be worth pounds 60m. Merrill Lynch upgraded for the second time in six months. It is has moved to pounds 30m from pounds 28.5m for last year and from pounds 30.5m to around pounds 35m for this year.

Enviromed, the little health care group where takeover action is expected, held at 8p. Equitable Life Assurance has sold its 2.5 per cent stake.

Emerald Energy ended 0.75p higher at 8p, equalling its peak, as excitement bubbled about its deep drilling operation in Colombia. Turnover was again heavy.

Deltron Electronics duly produced a bullish trading statement. It is trading ahead of budget, underpinning profit forecasts of pounds 3.3m for the year. The shares rose 12.5p to 140p.

John Mansfield, the little timber group set for a revamp, rose 0.5p to 9.25p. A deal is near. Northern Leisure, the discotheques chain, danced 40p higher to a 459.5p peak in response to a forecast of an 89 per cent profits jump, which accompanied another cash-raising exercise.