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News Comment 

 a personal view of the week's news from Erithacus

An interesting week on the financial markets. Continuing uncertainty over the state of the US economy has kept investors nervous, and the failure of the Bank of England to lower UK interest rates in line with last week’s drop in the US has disappointed some. Despite looking as though it would drop below the 6000 level at one point, the FTSE100 finished the week up 62.4 at 6165.5, but the biggest gains were on the techMark which closed well over 100 points up at 2583.14. Blue Chip stocks, in the main, followed US sentiment and reflected only the small gains on the Dow Jones index near the end of the week, while investors seemed to be looking selectively into the suffering technology sector once more for potential winners. Although the US markets are a major influence on UK share prices, the stronger state of the UK economy looks set to lessen the knock-on effect any downturn the US may suffer, and with the Dow Jones dropping heavily again before close on Friday and even the suddenly popular Nasdaq losing over 14 points on the day there may be worse to come before the over-all situation begins to improve. Next week will be important for the retail sectors, with trading statements due from Tesco, Safeway, Boots, Kingfisher, Debenhams, and Carphone Warehouse. Interim results are also due from Somerfield on Tuesday. Those gambling on the continued popularity of technology should look at interim results from Anite Group and Surfcontrol on Wednesday, and keep an eye on the US for results and statements from Intel (Tuesday), IBM (Wednesday) and Ebay (Thursday).

Quite apart from shop sales in the UK, figures for motorcycle sales in 2000 reveal a 14-year high of 170,072 new machines purchased. The highest increase comes in sales of scooters which soared a massive 40% over the previous year’s figures. Whilst a part of this rise seems to be a direct result of rising fuel costs and problems with the railways, it is not only disgruntled commuters who are turning to this mode of transport. Sales of the larger motorcycles have also increased, indicating that more and more people are discovering the joys of biking..

Other news stories this week included many concerning the health of Princess Margaret. The Queen’s younger sister was taken to hospital on Wednesday after spending some time at the Queen’s estate at Sandringham following reports of a "mystery" illness. Her loss of appetite which had resulted in a severe deterioration of her health, was thought by doctors to have been caused by a minor stroke, which follows a similar stroke in 1998. Speculation about the Princess’ state of health has abounded in the Press since her public appearances have decreased in recent years and she badly scalded both feet in 1999. Over the last forty years or more, Princess Margaret has come in for extensive criticism for her lifestyle and lack of "Royal" behaviour, not least for her smoking and drinking. I may be in a minority, but this is why I like her. Unlike some, she appears to me as a totally genuine person and not hiding behind the facade of being a pseudo-"nice person" falsely portrayed by so many people in "public life", not just the "Royals". I was delighted to read reports this morning (Saturday) that she has greatly improved in hospital. I wish her well.

And finally, a jury at Southwark crown court in London this week astounded police by clearing Vincent Bethell of charges of offending public decency by refusing to wear clothes. Suggestions that this may open the floodgates for crowds of naked shoppers, office workers, and, who knows, even police and other officials to throng our towns and cities seem a little unlikely to materialise despite the court’s groundbreaking judgement. Mr Bethell, a campaigner for the "Freedom to be Yourself" group and remaining completely naked throughout the proceedings, told reporters outside the court, "It's a great success but it will only be a true success when everyone overcomes their fears about their body." The effect of this week’s wind-chill on Mr Bethell was not reported.

13th January 2001                        

 



Feel free to send your comments, opinions, and letters to erithacus@simply-info.com we will be pleased to publish suitable letters at the discretion of the editor

 



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