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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 

The FTSE100 index finished 80.2 points down for the week at 5809.6. Falls in five consecutive sessions were reversed on Friday, however, with a rise of 13.5 points on the day. Nervousness among investors remains, with few prepared to commit themselves to anything more than watching and waiting. Analysts and economists seem equally unsure of where the stock markets are likely to move next, with the mood being summarised well by a comment on Friday from Graham Secker, equities strategist at Morgan Stanley: "Today leaves us exactly where we were before, unfortunately, which is with reasonable uncertainty."
Just a few weeks ago it seemed that investors’ confidence was returning. Now, however, it seems to have evaporated again although equally there is no sign of any particular rush to sell shares. Some believe the lows of March this year will return, with the FTSE100 dropping back as low as 5300, although others think that it would now be impossible for it to fall below 5500. The head of UK equities at F&C, David Manning, said, "We're stuck, and people don't really know if there's another round of profit warnings to come......maybe it ain’t over yet."

Figures from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply this week show a downturn in UK manufacturing for the third month in a row. The figures are the lowest for nearly three years, and are taken by some to indicate the industry is near recession. Figures for manufacturing output from France, Germany and the USA are similarly low, with the U.S. index of activity reporting the lowest level since 1990.
These warnings came at the same time as the announcement of a record rise in consumer credit, sending mixed messages to the financial markets and adding to investors’ confusion. Manufacturers are looking for further interest rate cuts to boost their fortunes although costs of raw materials and fuel fell in May for the first time in nearly two years. Economists are concerned that further interest rate cuts would increase inflationary pressures that are already evident from the high level of consumer spending.

As the UK General Election approaches, Prime Minister Tony Blair remains well ahead in the opinion polls but faces unexpected problems which may seriously dent his chances of being re-elected. Doctors threatened a mass walk out on Friday in protest at current government health policy, and said that the system was "on the edge of the abyss of collapse". Deputy Head of the General Practitioners Committee, Hamish Meldrum, said that 56 percent of all doctors in the UK are prepared to resign.
Fuel protestors also reappeared this week outside petrol refineries across Britain, and although there was no blockade of tanker deliveries the action sparked some panic buying. Petrol station forecourts in parts of Wales started rationing supplies to motorists, and although most of the protests have now ceased some campaigners say they intend to continue the action. With Britain’s fuel remaining the highest priced in Europe, Tony Blair’ response to criticisms that fuel prices are too high in this country was "The world price of oil has gone up". I wonder whether the protestors, and the voters, will see this as a constructive comment.

Finally for this week, I never cease to be amazed and saddened at the stupidity of a large proportion of the British public.
While visiting the Biggin Hill air display this afternoon (Sunday), I and my family joined with the shock and sadness of the other spectators when a vintage aircraft crashed and exploded not much more than a hundred yards in front of us killing the pilot. It may well be that it was only the skill of the pilot in keeping his aircraft away from the crowd that saved the lives of many of us. People trying to leave the display shortly afterwards found the exits shut and the road closed, quite properly as a precaution in case additional access was required for emergency services. Once the announcement had been made that the exits had been re-opened and the flying display would not be continued, thousands of people tried to leave and another problem arose. Roads in the surrounding area were blocked by a sudden influx of onlookers eager to see the crash. Sick? Morbid? Natural curiosity? Just plain stupidity? Whatever the reasons, few who had witnessed the crash and the death of the pilot could understand it at the time.
I also notice that the accident has already been misreported in the media. Local radio (who should know better, being local) reported the crash of an aircraft at an air display at Biggin Hill in Essex (Biggin Hill is in Kent, not Essex); ITV teletext reported that the aircraft crashed just yards from the crowd (somewhat misleading – it was at least 100 yards away from the nearest spectators); Ananova (Internet site) reports that it was a single-seater jet (it wasn’t a jet).
Today’s accident follows the crash of another vintage aircraft on Saturday at Biggin Hill in which its two crew were killed.
My deepest respect goes to these pilots and aircrew who fly for our entertainment at air shows, and my deepest sympathies to the families of those who died this weekend.

3rd June 2001                        

 

Links to previous news comments:

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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