Carillion rising

A spate of gloomy new year forecasts for housing and general construction output had little effect on shares last week, which performed well across the board.

Despite speculation that chief executive John McDonough was about to quit, contractor Carillion was the best performer in the sector, with shares rising 11.5% to 258.75p.

Carillion is riding high after a confident trading update at the beginning of the month, which did not carry any of the warning signals put out by many housebuilders.

Nevertheless, shares in all the major housebuilders rose last week, boosted by surveys that predicted a soft landing for the housing market, as opposed to a crash.

Bellway Homes had the biggest increase, with a rise of almost 6% to 877p. In a trading statement earlier this month, Bellway pointed out that the market had returned to “more normal levels of activity” and its declaration that it would be reporting record interim results was enough to steady City nerves.

Other housebuilders, such as Taylor Woodrow, reported only modest rises. Taywood rose 2.5% to 282.25p, but compared with share performances in the closing months of last year, this was no cause for January blues.

However, housebuilders will be under close scrutiny as they enter results season. The City, shareholders, the general public and the media, will be watching and waiting for signs of how the housing market is doing in the weeks ahead.

Another highlight last week was building materials company and FTSE-100 member Wolseley. Shares jumped almost 9% to 1073.5p when it said last week that it had achieved a “strong increase in sales and profits” in the UK and North America, ahead of its interim results.

Jarvis was still enjoying a respite from its nosedive, and stabilised at 27p. In the services sector, the fast-growing alternative investment market-listed Mears group enjoyed a share increase of 5% to 245.5p. And Connaught showed thatit pays to stick to what you know, benefiting from its niche social housing origins and closing up 4.5% at 585p.

The fit-out sector escaped lightly from the collapse of Bellwater in the UK. Shares in Interior Services Group dropped 2.2% to 196.5p, but it could have been worse.