Nervousness about Christmas trade shakes retailers; MARKET REPORT

Judging by the crowded state of the country's high streets a bumper Christmas is in sight. But such thoughts did not win unanimous support in the stock market yesterday as retail shares retreated, with some dealers fretting about the array of pre-Christmas sales and reports that one retailer had expressed disappointment with the level of trade.

The Christmas unease was shrugged off by NatWest Securities. Analyst Sean Eddie described the reaction as "an attack of traditional Christmas nerves". Today's November retail sales figures were another unsettling influence. Governor of the Bank of England, Eddie George, felt trade was building up as expected and the UK would indulge in its best spending spree since 1988.

The cautious stance appeared to come from Bentalls, the department stores group. No comment was available from its main store at Kingston-on-Thames but there was talk the more sobering Christmas tale had emerged during a meeting with analysts.

Next, as if to steady market anxiety, let it be known it would not engage in pre-Christmas price cuts and was trading well. In busy dealing Next was down 15.5p, settling at 553p, off 9.5p.

Other leaders lower included Burton (3.25p to 149.25p); Argos (10p to 747.5p) and Dixons (6.5p to 533p). Bentalls was unchanged at 129.5p.

The rest of the market had an uneventful session with Footsie down 14.2 points at 3,979.6. Volume was swollen by tax-efficient bed and breakfast deals. Takeovers, real and rumoured, provided much of the action. Insurances remained the centre of attraction with Commercial Union again leading the charge, up 13p to 693p, another peak. General Accident put on 21p at 716.5p. Among insurance brokers Willis Corroon gained 5p to 140.5p. The shares were 118p last month.

The bids which did arrive came from engineers Fairey and FKI. Fairey offered pounds 51m for Burnfield, a quality control equipment group, and FKI followed its signalled interest with a pounds 196m offer for building materials group Newman Tonks. Both offers were rejected. Burnfield moved up 36p to 136p against the 135p offer and Newman jumped 20.5p to 149.5p, around the bid level.

The 18 million Severn Trent share buy-back, conducted by HSBC James Capel and UBS, left the price up 13.5p at 667.5p against the 675p buy-in. The action encouraged Thames Water 18p higher to 586.5p.

BSkyB, on the Government's digital rules, rose a further 29p to 518.5p and media group Pearson, ahead of a trading statement today, slipped 11.5p to 689.5p. Rank, another where a trading statement is expected, shaded 3.5p to 430p.

British Aerospace continued to shrug off the Boeing take-over, rising 19p to 1,155.5p. The feeling is the US deal could provoke a more competitive edge in Europe, particularly at BAe associate Airbus Industrie.

British Gas fell 6.5p to 223.5p. ABN Amro Hoare Govett, the company's stockbroker, cut its target price by 20p to 220p ahead of an investment presentation due tomorrow. Hoare also trimmed its Imperial Chemical Industries estimates, leaving the shares 6p lower at 767p.

Shell weakened 10p to 972p on worries about its Nigerian involvement and Lasmo was little changed at 219.5p as Merrill Lynch posted a 250p target price.

Compass, the contract caterer, fell 8p to 612p; Accor, the French leisure giant, trimmed its shareholding by 6 million shares and rests with 21.53 per cent, approximately the level it intends to retain.

Sherwood, the clothing group, again had that threadbare look as its shares fell 17p to 41.5p on another profits warning. But Coats Viyella reversed an early fall to close 5p higher at 127p after a cautious trading statement was seen as less pessimistic than feared. The Sherwood setback ruffled Courtaulds Textiles, off 10p at 221p.

Highams, a business services group floated at 72p on Monday, had another strong run, romping ahead 34p to 121.5p. Oxford Biomedica again strived to close the gap on its 88p placing price, moving ahead 5p to 55.5p.

Lanica Trust's remorseless progress seemed to gather pace; the shares surged a remarkable 172.5p to 1,150p after touching 1,200p. They were 56p in the summer, before Andrew Regan and friends acquired control. It has fixed up a mail order deal with the NAAFI and there is talk of links being established with Littlewoods. The behaviour of the shares should prompt the Stock Exchange to insist on a progress statement.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride