Rogue trades hit Smiths Industries

Market Report
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The Independent Online
ROGUE TRADES continue to haunt shares subjected to order-driven trading. Smiths Industries, the engineering to medical group, is the latest example of spaghetti-fingered deals.

Late on Friday two maverick trades went through at 711p against the 753p price the shares had enjoyed during the rest of the day.

Yesterday it was a case of repairing the damage. The shares quickly recaptured a more realistic price and ended the session at 770p, a 59p gain.

The Smiths revival was, however, not enough to prevent another Footsie fall; it lost 27.3 points to 5,809.7. The closing calculation was rather better than seemed likely at one stage when Footsie was nursing an 85 decline. A firmer than expected New York opening helped swing the index.

It was a lacklustre, typically holiday-season session. Trading was modest, with the stock market still in a sweat over the Far East and getting increasingly jittery about Wall Street's ability to continue to defy gravity, particularly if President Clinton comes to grief.

August is notorious as an uneventful month for equities. And, at the moment, there seems little chance of any investment enthusiasm breaking out to make this August an exception.

Footsie, despite its recent decline, remains a significant 677.4 above its year's opening and is still riding at a level well above many of the forecasts made at the start of the year.

Still there are growing fears that blue chips have already seen their best levels of 1998 and will not make much, if any, further headway in the remainder of the year.

Smiths' 8.3 per cent gain was followed by Pearson, reflecting figures, up 80p to 1,200p. BSkyB, the satellite television station, ended little changed at 436.5p after Pearson let it be known its indirect 4 per cent shareholding, worth some pounds 300m, is likely to be sold in the next six months.

Compass boiled up 33p to 665p with bid stories for once in the background. A Ministry of Defence contract, which could produce pounds 500m in turnover in the next seven years, was behind the contract caterer's progress.

GKN also benefited from an MoD order. The shares put on 18p to 753p after a joint venture with Boeing won a pounds 650m 30-year helicopter training contract.

Lasmo stood out in a flat oil sector, adding 6p to 216.5p in brisk trading as takeover speculation returned.

Banks were mostly down in the dumps. HSBC's results left its shares 33p off at 1,490p and sell advice from Credit Lyonnais had Woolwich floundering 18p off at 329p. National Westminster Bank, results today, dropped 21p to 1,039p and Standard Chartered, figures tomorrow, lost 25p at 653p.

Lloyds TSB attracted an array of buy signals (although CL was bearish) and rose 18p to 852p.

Rank, the leisure group, another reporting today, gave up 9p to 328p. Diageo, the spirits group, weakened 16p to 712p as the "fat cats" row intensified over its bonus plans.

There was an outbreak of excitement in second-line chemicals. Takeover hopes lifted Albright & Wilson 12p to 133.5p and Inspec 24p to 243p. Both shares have had a torrid time. Chemical group Zotefoams underlined the problems facing the industry with a trading warning which hit the shares 59p to 152.5p.

Car dealers, despite the apparent August sales boom, were on a dead-end road. A profit warning from Perry did the latest damage. It said growth had skidded to a half, prompting the shares to reverse 24.5p to 161p.

Parkland, a textile group, was another ruffled by trading caution, falling 10p to 30p.

Ionica, the fledgling telephone group, produced unexciting figures but more importantly said it had yet to find an investor willing to pump cash into the group. It currently has around pounds 80m in the bank. The shares, floated at 390p, fell 16.5p to 26.5p.

Cable & Wireless Communications dived 72.5p to 598.5p after it became known that 18.5p per cent shareholder Bell Atlantic planned to "mortgage" its stake by offering $3bn notes exchangeable into the C&W shares.

A possible takeover bid lifted TLG, the old Thorn Lighting, 25.5p to 135.5p and reports that multi-millionaire Trevor Hemmings may pounced on under-performing Burden Leisure (Bolton Wanderers) produced a 2.5p gain to 22p. Radius, the computer group, firmed 2p to 60.5p as Torex, down 15.5p to 136p, made a share exchange offer.

Insurance broker Willis Corroon improved 7p to 207.5p on reports of a counter-bid. The US group Aon is said to be pondering the possibility of challenging the agreed pounds 850m offer from Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts, the break-up specialists.

Matthew Clark, the cider maker, was sliced 4p to 177.5p as Merrill Lynch took a cautious stance. It sees profits falling from pounds 32.1m to pounds 28.8m this year.



GILTS INDEX: 105.75 +0.45