How construction companies fared in the City in the week to 2 January 2001
The new year started quite brightly for the construction, materials and housebuilding sectors on the stock exchange – which was quite a surprise given the battering most took during 2000.

A large proportion of listed firms stood close to their year 2000 highs as trading started this week, suggesting prospects may be good for the sectors, despite some stock watchers' predictions of dark clouds ahead in the form of an expected downturn in the USA.

Housebuilders particularly seem to be perking up. Early this week Countryside properties and Berkeley group were both priced as high as they had been in 2000, at 156.5p and 755p respectively.

Analysts thought this was due to the duo's expertise in complicated brownfield sites, which are urgently required in the UK because of the lack of greenfield sites. But not everything is rosy – concern continues about the state of the overall housing market and there are still worries over the planning system and whether houses will be kept off flood plains.

Analysts were positive about prospects for materials firms in the light of the strengthening euro, which will increase profits for their European subsidiaries. However, one analyst warned that continuing uncertainty over the future of Laing's construction arm, put up for sale late last year, could cast a shadow over listed contractors.

Despite this uncertainty Laing's share price was close to its 2000 high of 405p, at 397.5p, bringing it in line with the sector in general.