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20Jan94 UK: TAXING CONCERNS MARS HOUSING HOPE.

By Bill Fishlock.Premature though it may be, the word within house building circles is that 1994 has started well with buoyant sales in the opening weeks, despite poor weather.A spokesman for Tarmac, the UK's largest house builder, said the company had met its expectations and was enjoying a good start to the year, particularly in the South.At Wimpey Homes Europe, chief executive David Holland said: 'For this year it is early to say, but it has started very well with both visitor and sales levels well up on the same time last year. The trend is now positive and I am increasingly confident that the momentum can be maintained.'Barratt chief executive Frank Eaton said: 'We have had a very positive start to the new year. Visitor levels at our sites during the first week of January have exceeded our expectations and are substantially up on the same period last year.'He said the encouraging start confirmed forecasts of a brighter outlook for the housing market in 1984 and said Barratt was well on course to achieve its target and raise UK sales by 15 per cent to 5,750 in its current financial year.Indeed, most of the omens for the sector remain good - particularly a receding fear of unemployment. But it will be the response of potential customers to April's tax increases that will show whether the fancy share ratings that the stock market has put on house builders can be justified. CONSTRUCTION NEWS