Stock market shows signs of fatigue


NOT even a scintillating performance by the market's latest takeover target, Pearson, the media group, was able to resuscitate a British equity market suffering from signs of fatigue in the run up to the Easter holiday.

A general lack of interest by the big institutions ahead of the long weekend, and a widespread reluctance by the big market making firms to take on any large trading positions ahead of the US non farm payroll report tomorrow, were other factors affecting market sentiment.

And there was little help to London from Wall Street's early showing, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average down some 25 points shortly after the opening of US markets. After London closed for business, the Dow moved into positive territory.

A twitchy performance by gilts was an additional unsettling factor, with the market displaying increasing nervousness over the domestic political situation.

The day was not entirely without incident. Omnicom, the US group, sold its entire stake 75 million shares and 50 warrants in British advertising and media company Aegis via Morgan Stanley and Cazenove.

At the end of the day, the FTSE 100 was left with a 3.4 loss at 3,725.1, bringing to an end the market's recent strong run which has seen the index put on 64.2, or just short of 2 per cent, over the past five trading sessions.

The FTSE Mid 250 index, on the other hand, registered its sixth successive rise, climbing 11.2 to a new all time high of 4,359.9

The trading session began on a positive note, with Wall Street's 33 point rise overnight, amid a fresh bout of takeover/merger speculation, lifting stock prices. Opening around six points ahead the Footsie failed to attract any substainal support from the institutions and quickly began to lose ground, in spite of good gains in a number of specific sectors, notably food retailing and brewing.

The Footsie's other big winners over the session included Pearson, where takeover rumours returned to drive the shares back over the 700p mark.

At its worst of the day, in midmorning, the Footsie posted an 8.7 decline, before rallying and falling back again as Wall Street fell away.