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a personal view from Erithacus
25th October 2003
Stock markets fell heavily this week despite a strong start and the belief among many traders of a continued rally that would keep the FTSE100 well above 4300 and might have even tested the 4400 level.
Analysts initially blamed the minutes of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee which were released on Wednesday morning and showed that four out of the nine members of the committee had voted for an interest rate rise, but Wednesday saw the U.S. markets lose heavily too with the Dow Jones dropping 1.58% and the Nasdaq down more than 2%.
The sudden loss of confidence seemed to be the result of a number of disappointing third-quarter earnings figures combined with cautious forecasts which failed to meet investors’ expectations and contrary to the optimism of recent weeks. Pharmaceuticals companies sparked the slide which was closely followed by a sell-off in healthcare and technology. The world’s other stock markets dropped dramatically, with Japan’s Nikkei index crashing more than 4% on Thursday and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index 5% down.
In the UK the FTSE100 index finished the week on 4239, 105 points lower than the previous Friday’s close although showing signs that the worst of the falls are now over. Analysts report they expect next week’s trading to be cautious, with the likelihood of a slow climb back towards the 4300 level, but few see any chance of a return to real confidence in the near future.
Why am I, and millions of others, so sad about it?
It was noisy. It was so noisy that protests continued in America for thirty-five years with people of Howard Beach, New York repeatedly blockading the airport in protest at the nerve-shattering noise of Concorde taking off over their heads.
It created huge amounts of pollution, pumping massive quantities of fuel exhaust into the atmosphere, almost immeasurably more than any other method of travel for the same number of passengers over the same distance.
It was expensive. Only the rich and influential could afford to travel on it, or that handful of business men and women who might possibly have had a genuine reason for needing to cross the Atlantic quickly.
It was a commercial disaster. From the start it was known that it would be necessary to build and sell three hundred Concordes for the project to break-even financially, yet only sixteen were ever built.
So for the tens of thousands of people who gathered at Heathrow to see the end of Concorde’s last commercial flight, for the hundreds of journalists who felt the need to write an obituary for the world’s only operating supersonic airliner, for the millions who looked up in awe whenever Concorde passed overhead and felt the need to point it out to whoever they were with at the time, it really is the end of that costly, impractical, uneconomic, environmentally unfriendly plaything of the super-rich.
We should forget it. We should consign it to the junk heap along with all the other expensive commercial disasters and pointless inventions.
I wonder why we are all so reluctant to do that?
Sadder, perhaps, that Concorde’s obituary is summed up so effectively by Jeremy Clarkson writing in The Sun newspaper: "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap backwards for mankind."
25th October 2003
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