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a personal view of the week's news from Erithacus
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
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.
One of the most promising new
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,
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