What a result!

All eyes were on George Wimpey last week: it took the spotlight and the pressure by kicking off the housebuilders’ reporting season.

Shareholders, investors and the media were all waiting like a cat at a mousehole for Wimpey’s results to emerge. And everyone was going to use the figures to predict the state of the housing market for the whole of 2005.

Peter Johnson, the group chief executive, remained cool and calm. This was unsurprising, as he not only reported another set of record results, with pre-tax profit up 19% to £451m, but he also said that the company was “in far better shape than ever.” Johnson backed up his optimism by raising the group’s dividend 31%.

The performance of the volume housebuilders has a huge impact on the rest of the sector. Shares in Wimpey rose 9% last week to 472.25p, making it the best performer overall. However, other housebuilders benefited from Wimpey’s good news: Berkeley was up 4.8% to 860p, and Taylor Woodrow rose 3% to 300p. Persimmon was the second best performer overall, with a 6.7% rise to 798.5p ahead of its results this week (see above) at close of trading on Friday.

Among the contractors, Morgan Sindall had a positive week as chief executive Paul Smith revealed a set of results that outstripped market expectations. Shares in the company rose 5% to 664p after the news that pre-tax profit for last year rose 34% to £27.9m.

The worst performing share in the construction sector belonged to tiny company Titon, which fell 7.3% to 115p, but overall the sector increased 0.7% to 3549 as many of the larger companies performed well, and pushed the sector up as a whole. The All-Share Index dropped by a similar level to 2511.

Among the companies listed on the alternative investment market, Interior Services Group dropped almost 5% to 213p, at a time when some fit-out companies continue to grapple over their shares of the slow commercial market.

The overall picture has been adversely affected by fears of a hike in global energy prices, but after a poor start to the week, Wall Street and European stock exchanges recovered to solid levels.

Angela Monaghan is business editor