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Market Watch

FINANCE

SHARES in Ben Bailey have hit a 12-month high after positive media coverage that suggests the Yorkshire's house builder's forthcoming annual results will include pre-tax profits of £6.5 million.

ROK was hit hard by the market's recent pounding but shares in the Devon-based contracting and development group finally rebounded last week.

With the results season about to start, traders are holding their positions and just 16 of the 105 companies on the Construction News index were off last week.

Two heavyweight contractors - Alfred McAlpine and Mowlem - were among the handful of losers, both sailing downwards on thin volumes towards 12-month lows.

Wilson Connolly and Wilson Bowden, the two firms that got the house builders' results season under way yesterday (Wednesday), firmed 3.9 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively.

Trading was heavier in Wilcon's shares after Merrill Lynch upgraded its rating to 'neutral' from 'sell'.

Merrill analyst Mark Hake said: 'The shares are trading close to the three-year low of around 140p to 150p and have underperformed the house builders as a group.'

The week's biggest losers were two of the smallest firms on the index: consultant SWP and house builder Artisan.

Tiny changes by brokers between the price at which the two firms' penny shares are bought and sold - known as 'the spread' - left the pair both off 15 per cent.