Revival in UK's leading stocks falters

 

THE revival in Britain's leading stocks over the past few days following Friday's slide, ran out of steam yesterday.

The government's political woes over Europe and cash for questions, and the disappearance of its Commons majority, caught up with the market and prices fell back. An early plunge on Wall Street added to the gloom.

The FTSE index tumbled 53.2 to 3982.5, with only a handful of top companies bucking the trend.

There are renewed fears that the stock market bubble is about to burst in New York, where crucial bond prices - which heavily influence equity prices - flagged.

Losers included HSBC, down 45p to 1245 1/2p, EMI, 29p off at 1300p, GKN, down 15 1/2p to 1055p and GUS, 20p worse off at 626p.

Imperial Tobacco stood out against the crowd with a 3p improvement to 381p, on continued hopes of a takeover bid and the fuel and lubricants group Burmah Castrol maintained its recent appeal with a 20p rise to 1083 1/2p.

Hanson spelled out more details of the proposed demerger in February of The Energy Group and reported its latest annual results. The shares dropped 3 1/2p in line with the market to 80 1/2p.

There was not much other company news from the FTSE stocks and dealers had to look elsewhere for guidance.

Profits at Airtours, the UK's second largest tour operator, took off to record levels in the last financial year.

The company brushed aside worries over its recent referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission over alleged anti competitive behaviour to paint a rosy picture for the future.

It made a pre tax profit for the year to September 30th of £86.8 million sterling, a 46 per cent lift from the £59.4 million in the previous 12 months and the shares responded with an 11 1/2p improvement to 714 1/2p.

Brewer Greene King announced a shake up costing £14 million over the next 18 months and slipped 4 1/2p to 659p.

Chairman Mr David McCall said: "Trading in the second half of the year, has begun well."

He added that the planned rationalisation of its brewing and distribution business would provide a major improvement in the group's competitive strength.

Logistics group NFC demonstrated the benefits of its reorganisation with its annual results, but eased 5p to 175p.

The company delivered a pretax profit before exceptional items of £105.7 million for the year to September 30th, a 39 per cent boost to the £76.2 million it made in the previous 12 months.

David S Smith, the paper and packaging group, warned its profits would fall in the second half of the year as it reported a dip in earnings for the first six months of the year.