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News Comment
a personal view of the week's news from Erithacus

Despite the 0.25% cut in interest rates by the Bank of England, the London Stockmarket failed to respond positively and finished the week 92 points down. Analysts believe it was saved from further falls by positive results from the banking sector, the increasing price of oil, and the announcement of plans to increase the price of gas. With the recent misery on the financial markets for so many investors and traders, it comes as a surprise to learn that a substantial number of UK companies’ share prices have actually risen significantly over the last few months. A study of quoted companies reveals that in the last three months 485 UK stocks rose 10% or more in price with over half of these showing an increase greater than 20%. 36 stocks rose by over 50% with star performers being Arcadia, Aero Inventory and Cambridge Mineral Resources, all of which have doubled.

Links between UK and US companies were strengthened this week in two areas that were, perhaps, rather unexpected for many. Manchester United announced a link-up with the New York Yankees, involving promoting each others’ sports and merchandising. I seem to remember that promotion of soccer in the US has been tried before without a great deal of success, and apart from the popularity of baseball bats in the UK among people with criminal tendencies, there seems little enthusiasm for baseball. But I’m sure they know what they’re doing. More startling news came when it was announced that Bob The Builder had made friends with Barney (the dinosaur). These unlikely companions have become inextricably linked as a result of the takeover of Barney’s owners, Lyrick Studios, by the smaller UK company HIT Entertainment. It will be interesting to see whether American children will fully appreciate the subtleties of Bob’s character........

The complexities of European economics were given yet another dimension this week with the dilemma now facing the Irish government. The country’s success story of low unemployment, low taxes, and a booming economy with the fastest growth in Europe has brought with it the highest inflation rate within the European Community. Whilst the risks of being a "boom and bust" economy are no doubt being taken into consideration, indications seem to be that the Irish government will resist moves from Europe to bring growth and inflation into line with the requirements of the European Central Bank. Warnings that Ireland’s "success" may cause permanent damage to the single European currency and puts the country on a direct collision course with the economic policymakers in Brussels seem to be going unheeded, for the moment at least.

UK politics has entered its silly season, with politicians already starting to launch offensives, reasoned and otherwise, against their opponents as they tumble headlong towards the next General Election. Gone are those few occasions on which any Member of Parliament might happen to agree with a member of any other Party, and spin doctors find themselves working overtime. Peter Mandelson, far from hiding quietly after his recent resignation in order to minimise the fall-out on New Labour, seems determined to continue to make his mark. He clearly did succeed in making his mark this week on one news cameraman at least, who was sent flying as Mr Mandelson walked straight into him. In a second incident another cameraman filming Mr Mandelson also ended up on the ground, and although the public might be forgiven for wondering whether Peter Mandelson had declared war on the media, closer examination suggests that the cameraman in fact fell over before Mr Mandelson reached him. Other politicians are using a variety of methods to convince the public how wonderful they are. Many seem now to have appreciated the power of the Internet and have their own web site, although some people might have doubts about the effectiveness, or seriousness, of the Internet offerings now available from some of them. Some of the pictures, for example, on Ann Widdecombe’s "The Widdy Web" ( may be  of questionable value. Some might be considered downright courageous, with my favourite being "Ann Supporting The Pig Vigil"



10th February 2001


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