Market Report: Time to backtrack, RBS bear decides

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The Independent Online

The City was blinking in disbelief. Could it be so? Terminal Royal Bank of Scotland bear Ian Gordon has upgraded his rating for the tax payer-owned bank. He thinks there could be "a speck of light in the gloom".

Investec banking guru Mr Gordon has been a seller of RBS for more than five months, and has issued countless diatribes on reasons to sell. But in a shock change of heart, he rated the group a hold," saying: "We are still not yet brave enough to call the bottom… but the passing of time genuinely supports the RBS valuation.

"We now believe that RBS shares may return around 1 per cent over the next 12 months – which beats a UK or Cypriot savings account."

Shares in RBS, which is 81 per cent owned by the taxpayer, have fallen about 11 per cent since the beginning of the year. But, given "the risk of a potentially horrific and dilutive outcome for shareholders after today's FPC [Bank of England Financial Policy Committee] meeting", Mr Gordon is still not a RBS buyer.

The outcome of the FPC meeting on whether they think banks have enough capital will not be made public until next week. RBS has already taken steps to boost its capital ratio by selling some of its stake in Direct Line.

But Mr Gordon reminded punters that RBS has "been (by far) the worst performing UK bank year-to-date", and he still prefers Barclays and Standard Chartered. He has raised his target to 300p, from 290p. The shares dipped 3.7p to 293.6p.

Traders looking for a rumour to punt focused on United Utilities. The group will issue a trading update tomorrow but vague rumours circulated that a bid could be made at 950p a share, and one name in the frame was GS Infrastructure Partners. The shares trickled up 11.5p to 695.5p.

The chat surrounding a potential deal between Vodafone and its US joint-venture partner Verizon surfaced again. This time John Hempton's hedge fund Bronte Capital said: "The only deal that makes sense is for Verizon to buy Vodafone in its entirety. If Vodafone will not sell, there is a solution for Verizon: go hostile."

But analysts at Jefferies played down any immediate deal and said there is currently "no hint of advanced discussions with Verizon". They added: "While we view a merger with Verizon as the economically rational endgame for both parties, currently both view time as an ally." The shares gained 2.65p to 187.6p.

A metal meltdown is on the horizon as Goldman Sachs analysts said the oversupply of metal is happening faster than expected. Goldman slashed its outlook, and the FTSE 100 miners were left digging up places at the bottom of the index.

Goldman thinks the diversified miners like Rio Tinto, Anglo American and BHP Billiton will generate limited cash flow this year and next as global oversupply hits. It has added Rio to its conviction sell list with a share price target of 2,800p, and the shares responded with a 170p drop to 3,107p - at the bottom of the index.

The analysts think that China's domestic ore production and steel recycling rates will lead to a huge surplus, and slashed their share-price target for Anglo, which they retain as a sell, to 1,450p. The shares lost 53.5p to 1,820p.

Investors remained concerned about the eurozone following the Cypriot bailout situation amid news that the Cyprus ruling party announced that it would abstain from the vote on the latest bailout package. The FTSE 100 index lost another 16.6 points to 6,441.32.

Engineer Weir Group worked up a 106p decline to 2,325p to accompany a downgrade to hold from analysts at Berenberg Bank.

Small-cap Beale – which runs 32 department stores and is chaired by Keith Edelman, best-known for his stint running Arsenal Football Club until 2008 – has revealed a very weak trading update. Sales, on a comparative basis to last year, fell 6.3 per cent for the 19 weeks to 16 March. The shares were static at 19.5p.

AIM oil group Nostra Terra has been presenting at investor road shows this week, and the shares jetted up 0.04p to 0.54p. Matra Petroleum sank 0.1p to 1.18p after issuing the results of a survey conducted on its Sokolovskoe oil field in Orenburg, Russia.

Also on Aim, broker Shore Capital reported a revenue jump of 11 per cent to £32.8m, and the shares ticked up 1p to 22p.