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Market Watch

FINANCE

THE BEARS got stuck into construction shares last week with the FTSE Construction index off 3 per cent as concerns focused on the house building community.

House builders have outperformed the FTSE All Share index by 8 per cent in the last year but blue chip broker Schroder Salomon Smith Barney has cut its rating on the sector to 'underweight' on fears that falls in consumer confidence will hit house prices.

Analyst John Carnegie advised selling. He said: 'We believe investors should lock in these gains.'

Among the firms marked down by SSSB were Persimmon and Wimpey, which finished down 3.4 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively last week.

SSSB also cut its rating on Barratt by 6.8 per cent, along with Wilson Bowden, off 10.7 per cent and Westbury, down 10.9 per cent.

Among the major house builders, only Crest Nicholson held firm, off 0.5 per cent, after solid results and the sale of its contracting arm, Pearce.

On the Construction News index, 76 firms sank. Just 13 firms managed a rise while 16 stocks remained static on thin trading.

CRH was among the handful of shares crawling upwards, firming 2 per cent after investment bank JP Morgan upgraded its rating on shares in the Irish materials giant to 'overweight' from 'neutral'.

But JP Morgan reversed its rating on another materials outfit, glass maker Pilkington