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McAlpine's home comfort as rate cuts inspire confidence

ALFRED McAlpine raised stock market hopes for the housing and construction sectors last week with an upbeat trading statement.

It said visitor levels at its new housing sites were holding up well against a background of subdued house price inflation. The firm added that cuts in mortgage rates had underpinned buyer confidence.

McAlpine exceeded its operating margin target for its housing business in 1998 and ended the year with a higher quality land bank in terms of site locations and potential margins. The firm's contracting division also made an increased contribution, helped by higher-margin negotiated contracts and PFI work.

Following the sale of its US businesses last October, McAlpine has embarked on a share buy-back programme and acquired around 7 per cent of its stock.

Chief executive Oliver Whitehead said: 'We remain confident that the strategy we are following, the quality of our forward order book and the strength of our balance sheet will equip us to cope with the current economic environment.'