Upturn eludes troubled market

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THE stock market is steeling itself for another week of falling share prices, amid deepening gloom over the timing of an economic recovery and the prospect of more bad company results. City analysts warned that the market was likely to drift lower. 'No one can see when the economic turn is coming,' said Bob Sempel of County NatWest.

At one point during last week the FTSE index fell more than 50 points, though recovering slightly on Friday amid desperate hopes that an interest rate cut might be on the way. The index closed the week at 2,497.1, well below the level analysts had expected only a few weeks ago.

Gloom among investors does not bode well for the massive pounds 3.3bn share issue by Wellcome, the drugs group, which opens on Monday. Leading institutions said that the issue might be too large for the market to absorb. 'People will have to stop and think about the size of the issue,' said Hugh Jenkins, head of the Prudential's investment arm.

News that several leading retailers are continuing to suffer from a lack of sales confirmed that there was still no sign of the return in the consumer confidence needed to stimulate the economy. John Lewis, the department store group, said that it had experienced the worst trading of the year two weeks ago. At pounds 17.5m, sales were 4 per cent lower than at the same time last year.