Shares rebound as calm returns

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The Independent Online
Shares bounced back on both sides of the Atlantic yesterday as dealers took the view that they had overreacted on Friday to remarks from Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan that had appeared to threaten higher interest rates. Rising share prices laid to rest fears of a rerun of 1987's Black Monday when stock markets collapsed around the globe.

Share traders received heavyweight support as Bundesbank president Hans Tietmeyer, speaking as chairman of the G-10 countries' central bank governors' committee, said financial markets had seen "some over-reaction" to Mr Greenspan's comments on inflation. Eddie George, Governor of the Bank of England speaking in Switzerland, and US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin also made comments designed to calm jittery markets.

The Fed chairman had spooked markets at the end of last week by warning of the dangers of "irrational exuberance" in stock markets. His comments, which were seen as a deliberate attempt to prick the bubble of soaring US share prices, led to the London market's biggest one-day fall in four years, an 88-point drop. At one point shares had fallen 168 points, prompting fears of another crash.

The FTSE 100 index of leading shares closed 48.6 points higher at 4011.6 yesterday as a robust early performance from Wall Street calmed nerves and evidence continued that institutions in the UK and America were still awash with cash.

Good news on inflation at home also eased fears of higher interest rates, with no change in prices charged at the factory gate last month and a sharp drop in manufacturers' input prices thanks to the strength of the pound.

A separate survey showed that the growth of sales on the high street slowed to its weakest for seven months. Andrew Higginson, head of economic affairs for the British Retail Consortium, said: "We are not in boom- time conditions."

City economists said the figures would allow the Chancellor to stave off any Bank of England pressure to increase interest rates. They were "very useful ammunition for Mr Clarke in the debate," according to Jonathan Loynes at HSBC Markets.

In America, some analysts continued to insist that the broad outlook for the Dow remained overwhelmingly positive in spite of Mr Greenspan's words. While the Fed chairman has clearly signalled his concern about a bubble on the financial markets, few expect that he would seek to raise rates to burst it.

"I think we have a friendly Fed through the rest of this quarter and probably for the first quarter of next year," commented Arthur Hogan of Dean Witter. Mr Hogan is among analysts not ready to accept that US equities are overvalued."We still stand by the stance that this level can be justified," he said.

Markets around the world recovered their poise. In Tokyo, shares gained over 300 points, recovering almost half the losses of the previous trading session. The German market also regained about half the losses incurred in Friday's rout and French shares closed higher.

Market Report, page 18