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Market Watch

FINANCE

HOUSE building giant Barratt played host to analysts and investors in the City last Wednesday and this paid off with a number of upgrades.

Barratt hopes to sell around 16,000 homes this year, which prompted Smith Barney to lift its rating on the stock to 'buy' from 'hold'and push its target price up 50p to 700p.

In a week shortened by the bank holiday, Barratt stock rose 14.5p to 587.5p and this increased interest continued into the early part of this week.

Elsewhere, RMC put on 20.5p to 570p after banking £14.8 million to scale down its debt mountain from a sale of shares in Australian rival Adelaide Brighton.

Severfield-Rowen gained as investors bought ahead of the annual general meeting last Friday, when the specialist steelwork contractor confirmed that rising material prices had been passed on to customers.

Mears also rose after issuing a bullish AGM statement that said half-year results would beat analysts'expectations.Broker Arbuthnot reiterated a 'buy'rating on the AIM-listed maintenance contractor.

Elsewhere on the junior markets, flat builder City Lofts gave up a ha'penny to 93.5p despite selling a property at a premium to net book value and Raven Mount dived. Raven Mount owns and is trying to auction Swan Hill but the group's shares belatedly suffered after it opted to release 2003 results for the house builder, which show profits halving.