Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Shares Set to Ring out 2005 on a High Note; MARKET REPORT

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Shares Set to Ring out 2005 on a High Note; MARKET REPORT

Article excerpt

Byline: MICKEY CLARK

LONDON shares are poised to end 2005 on a high note, producing some of the best returns since the internet bubble in the late 1990s.

Spurred on by a strong run by the Tokyo market, where investors are enjoying their biggest annual returns since 1984, City traders today marked prices higher from the outset.

The FTSE 100 index was up 14.2 to 5637.0 in thin trading - a rise on the year to date of 17%, far better than most brokers and fund managers had dared to hope for at the start of the year but still well shy of its 1999 record of 6950.6.

But London is not alone; the Deutsche Borse has been enjoying its best returns since 2001. Top performer, however, has been the Cairo stock market, up 168% in the past year.

Retailer Marks & Spencer remained cloaked in festive cheer as the shares extended their recent record-breaking run with a rise of 61/4p to 5101/2p - their highest since the end of 1998. Once again, there was reasonable turnover with more than 4.5 million changing hands as City investors pinned their hopes on news of a successful run-up to Christmas. It emerged yesterday that sales at rival John Lewis grew by almost 12% during the month before Christmas Eve.

Mining shares were all the rage in Australia overnight, and that buying spilled over into London.

Despite the strong performance of the sector this year on the back of record copper and zinc prices and heavy demand for raw materials by the booming Chinese economy, the big mining companies still enjoyed double-figure gains. BHP Billiton rose 14p to 949p, Xstrata was up 20p to 1360p, Rio Tinto gained 32p to 2672p and Footsie 100 newcomer Kazakhmys put on 10p at 770p.

Blue-chip housebuilder Persimmon rose 14p to 1267p after mortgage lending numbers showed further signs of revival in the housing market.

Scottish Power was unchanged on 5481/2p following a report that French utility group Veolia has asked investment bank NM Rothschild to find a buyer for its 25% stake in water and waste company Southern Water. The move follows similar withdrawals from the UK water sector by Veolia's French rivals Suez and Bouygues, with financial buyers replacing industrial groups in much of the industry. …

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