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
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star