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

New! See also our "Scoop!" page - exclusive news and investigations by the Simply Info News Team 

23rd June 2001

Investors in UK shares saw values fall again this week as the FTSE100 index continued its slide to end at 5665.7, 57.3 points lower than last Fridayís close. Despite higher volumes traded on Friday than recently, nearly 2 billion shares, traders complained that generally they could see a lack of any urgency to buy. "People havenít got their hearts in this market," said one. David McBain, equity strategist at Deutsche Bank UK said, "The market's quietly shuffled out of this week going nowhere really. The general tone remains pretty downbeat for equity markets." The comments came as the FTSE100 managed to rise from its lowest point on Friday, to finish 24.3 points up for the day. Few analysts expect much change in the near future, with volatility traditionally muted at this time of year and volumes next week expected to be similar to the week just finished.

It appears that many traders were absent from the City for much of the week. The reason, incredibly for those not familiar with the workings of the stock markets, appears to be horse racing at Royal Ascot. I just hope they wore suitable hats. Next week it seems trading rooms will also be rather empty, with traders traditionally attending the Wimbledon tennis championships.

Some of the largest falls for the week were in the telecom sector, with Vodafone hitting a two-year low at 150.5, although recovering just a little to close at 153. Cable & Wireless also lost 2% on Friday, and COLT Telecom finished down 3.1% at 470 after bouncing back from a low of 421. The sector was down 15% relative to the market as a whole in the last month, and many traders are expecting fresh falls.

Investors and traders will be watching the U.S. next week for the results of the Federal Reserveís meeting which is widely expected to announce a further cut in interest rates. While analysts are confident that a cut of 0.5% or even just 0.25% would produce a market rally, many are also looking for indicators that the interest rate cuts are having any real effect on the state of the economy.


One of the most promising new
companies will reach the market next week. GW Pharmaceuticals will trade on AIM from Thursday and has raised £25 million in the public offering of its shares. The number of shares to be issued to institutions has been increased following strong demand, with the original intended issue at 182 pence being six times oversubscribed.
GW Pharmaceuticals is the only company in the UK licensed to grow cannabis, and is developing the worldís first cannabis-based medicine for pain relief. Its founder and executive chairman Dr Geoffrey Guy disclosed that trials on its first product have reached Phase III and should be available from 2004. More than 50,000 cannabis plants are grown each year at undisclosed locations in southern England, and more than 3,000 patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and cancer have already written to GW asking to be included in the trials of the drug. One third of those contacting the company have admitted to already using cannabis illegally for pain relief, but most would prefer GWís intended inhaler or mouth spray rather than the "conventional" method of smoking the drug. 46% of GWís shares will remain with the company directors after the floatation.


As the re-shuffled government politicians start to settle into their various new jobs, it emerges that New Labour may have already managed to score a couple of "own goals" in Tony Blairís choice of ministers. Firstly, it was revealed last weekend in a live national radio interview that Sports Minister Richard Cabornís knowledge of sporting matters was almost non-existent. Among others in the stream of questions from the persistent interviewer, he was unable to name the British Lions captain or the England cricket coach. Supporters of Mr Caborn point out that although it may be desirable for a Sports Minister to know such things, not being able to name individuals was hardly a disqualification for the job.
More serious for many was the revelation that the new Transport Minister Stephen Byers does not possess a driving licence and has never learned to drive. While many are asking how he can possibly do his job without a first-hand understanding of roads and driverís needs and the Association of British Drivers said it was "symbolic of the Government's anti-car stance", some driving organisations were a little more charitable towards Mr Byers. "It certainly would be very useful to look at most of these issues through the eyes of a driver," said Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA as diplomatically as possible. A spokesman for the Freight Transport Association agreed that it would "obviously be beneficial" if the "top transport minister" had a licence, but added, "We do not, however, expect the Defence Minister to be able to drive a tank or fighter aircraft." Now thereís a thought.
A non-driving Transport Minister is not a first for New Labour. The Labour Minister in 1965, Barbara Castle, was also unable to drive and listed her recreations in Whoís Who as "poetry and walking." I donít see Mr Byers as a poet, somehow. But then I could be wrong.
Conservative transport spokesman Bernard Jenkin took great delight in pointing out that he held both a car licence and an HGV1 licence. HGV1? Iím sure thereís a great demand for HGV1 drivers among politicians, isnít there?


Finally for this week, inhabitants of Norfolk and Suffolk were panicking about the safety of their pets and small children following the escape of a three-year-old vulture called "Foster" from Banham zoo at Diss, Norfolk on Monday. However, the huge bird with an eight-foot wingspan is not, according to falconers at the zoo, at all dangerous. He remains free at the time of writing this, and has flown some considerable distance from where he originally decided to take to the air during a falconry display at the zoo. Attempts to entice him back with food have so far failed, and "Foster" seemed unimpressed when the falconers brought along another vulture called "Vomit" in the hope "Foster" would come down and join it. With a name like that, would you come back? "Fosterís" travels so far have covered more than 120 miles.

23rd June 2001                        

Links to previous news comments:

16-June-2001
10-June-2001
03-June-2001
26-May-2001
19-May-2001
12-May-2001
05-May-2001
21-April-2001
14-April-2001
07-April-2001
31-March-2001
24-March-2001
18-March-2001
11-March-2001
04-March-2001
24-Feb-2001
18-Feb-2001
10-Feb-2001
03-Feb-2001
27-Jan-2001
20-Jan-2001
13-Jan-2001
06-Jan-2001
30-Dec-2000

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