As most housebuilders edged north on Tuesday, Persimmon was the exception to the rule and had fallen 2% to 206p by lunchtime.

Investors were clearly jittery after reports that refinancing talks over its £900m debt pile had begun.

“They are going into the lion’s den,” said one analyst. “They couldn’t have picked a worse time. A lot of companies will be refinancing in 2009 which means debt will be rationed. The image of housebuilders is about as toxic as you can get.”

As the graph shows, Taylor Wimpey’s shares continued to yo-yo as investors reacted to the will-they/won’t-they refinancing saga. The most recent surge followed news that its banks were looking for a slice of equity as part of the deal.

Meanwhile, Bovis Homes gave the City something to cheer about on Monday evening. In a two-and-half-hour presentation to analysts it suggested it would spend most of 2009 twiddling its thumbs.

It has 900 houses ready to move into tomorrow, built before the implications of the downturn hit home, and the rest don’t need a great deal of work. “It looks pretty good,” said one analyst. “Especially when you consider its position is more down to luck than judgment.”