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a personal view from Erithacus
11th October 2003
In another week that started with stock market traders scratching their heads in confusion over which way share prices were likely to move next, London’s FTSE100 index closed at 4311 at the end of trading on Friday, losing 2.90 points on the day but 41 points higher than the previous week’s close.
Most other shares broadly followed the leading 100 index, but in the tech sector the Techmark index was much less volatile and climbed comfortably to break the 1000 level and finish at 1002.63 despite press reports that some analysts considered tech shares to be overvalued once again.
After Friday’s close, market analysts commented that they saw the FTSE100 as having "taken a sustained hold above 4300", which is the first time this level has been achieved since August 2002. Even more optimistically, some pointed to an apparent move by investors from defensive sectors into media, mining and technology, reflecting what they say are signs of growing momentum in a U.S.-led economic recovery.
However, cautious traders have not been slow to point out that just two weeks ago the same analysts were pointing at the Nasdaq’s largest weekly fall for over a year, a drop of 87.7 points for the FTSE100 and the Dow Jones index dropping to 9,313.08 (now 9674.68) as an indication of nervousness about the sustainability of U.S. economic recovery. There remains a commonly-held view that it will take only a very little bad news to destroy the current positive sentiment and to send the stock markets plunging again.
It may not have been a particular surprise that Californians eventually elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as their governor. After all, they previously elected singer Linda Ronstadt’s ex-boyfriend (Jerry Brown); a man who was apparently elected on the basis of the policy "The difference between golf and government is that in golf you can't improve your lie" (George Deukmejian); an alcoholic who, among other things, ignored prohibition laws and sent a case of whiskey to a man who was about to be executed (James Rolph); a sheep dealer who persistently denied the existence of bubonic plague in San Francisco even when hundreds of people were dying from it (Henry Gage); a lawyer elected after allegations of scandal and vote rigging who almost immediately tried to force the resignation of other officials including the San Francisco police commissioner (James Budd); and, of course, Ronald Reagan.
So is it a surprise they elected Arnie? Is it remarkable they elected an Austrian-born bodybuilder best known for acting violent roles, who has been accused of sexually harassing women, has admitted to treating women badly, and who is rumoured to have expressed sympathy with Hitler?
Perhaps not. Perhaps not for Californians living in such close proximity to Hollywood and sharing their State with the mega-rich filmstars whose lives may often appear to the rest of the world to be bizarre, eccentric and unreal. Perhaps, too, for a State where 25% or more of the population was born outside the USA it is not such a surprise to find themselves voting for someone who, like so many of them, was not born in the country nor State where he will now exert so much influence. Perhaps many of them do not even realise the power they have just given this man over the fifth largest economy in the world.
It has, certainly, been a surprise to the political commentators that so many Californians have actually taken an interest and bothered to vote. And, that being so, more of a surprise to those same experts that the people have voted so decisively for a man whose political policies are unclear to many and whose agenda, so his critics claim, is a mystery even to him.
Yet, it would seem that Arnold Swarzenegger is not nearly as daft as his
body-building, barbarian, robot-like tough-man image might make us believe.
Among other things, Arnold is a keen chess player, and by all accounts he is
not too bad at it. In fact, it is not unknown for him to play a game or two
with world chess champion Garry Kasparov as this picture from last year
Arnold admits he did not win the game, but hopes for a rematch: "I’ll be back," he growled.
I am, however, completely certain that Arnie has not yet quite got the hang
of politics. He has, apparently, pledged to give up acting while he has the
job of being California Governor.
I think that will keep until next week.
11th October 2003
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