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Market Watch

FINANCE

SHARES in some house builders retreated last week after influential institution UBS downgraded Wilson Bowden, one of the sector's big players.

UBS kept its target price on the firm, parent of house builder David Wilson Homes, but cut its rating from 'buy' to 'hold'.

Wilson Bowden's shares had been trading close to a record high of 1,625p but at one point last week were off 17p at 1,576p.

Shares in Berkeley, Crest Nicholson, McCarthy & Stone, Taylor Woodrow and regional Yorkshire player Ben Bailey all fell back early last week as the market thought the news through.

Among the consultants, shares in WSP slipped early last week despite analysts at German bank DrKW running the rule over the group and re-iterating a 'buy' rating up to a target price of 460p. DrKW analyst Ed Wright said: 'The outlook remains attractive.

'Besides the likelihood of further bolt-on purchases to augment the portfolio, the group is active with organic expansion.

'New branches are being opened and new services added in more countries around the world. We feel the discount to the sub-sector and peer group is unjustified.' Not everyone else in the Square Mile agreed, with WSP's shares off 16p at 41p at one stage before Easter.

Another consultant, WS Atkins, gained on a bullish end of financial year statement.

Among the contractors, north east-based M&E outfit Metnor gained on strong endof-year results.

On the junior markets, there was interest in AIM-listed Artisan after disclosing that results for the year to March 2006 will be well ahead of expectations due to a strong performance from house building arm Rippon and the firm's commercial activities.