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Market Watch

FINANCE

SHARES in Marshalls rallied late last week after interim results from the landscape products outfit defied gloomy predictions.

Investors had been selling on concerns that a dip in consumer spending following the recent interest rate rise would dog profits but trade sales helped offset this d rop.

Marshalls' interim results, released on Friday, showed a £900,000 gain in pre-tax profits to £25.1 million as turnover edged up to £197.9 million from £185.2 million, which produced a late rally but the shares still closed down.

Upgrading his full-year forecasts, Teather & Greenwood analyst David Taylor said:

'Profits were expected to be down in half one. Our full year 2006 pre-tax profit forecast of £42 million needed a first half component of £23.5 million to get there. Marshalls has done much better than that, so we have an immediate upgrade.'

Amec continued to gain, with investors encouraged by the prospective split into two businesses, focusing on energy and the built environment.

The shares put on 6.5p to 324p as analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort reiterated a 'buy' rating. Describing the shares as 'seriously under-valued', DrKW analyst Alastair Stewart said: 'There are no new writedowns and disclosure is much clearer. We ripped up our old model and started afresh.'

Elsewhere among the contractors, Carillion ticked up 7.75p to 329p after releasing interims, despite Altium re-iterating a 'reduce' rating.

Altium is keener on Morgan Sindall, which ticked up sixpence to £11.23 after the brokers said 'buy' up to £12.70.