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a personal view of the week's news from Erithacus
As the first quarter of 2001 draws to an end, stock market investors and traders are hoping they have seen the worst. The huge drop last Friday (23rd) which saw £64 billion wiped off the share value of British companies and which was the largest one-day drop for the FTSE100 index since 1992, was followed this week by something of a recovery. The closing value of the FTSE100 yesterday (Friday 30th) at 5633.7 was a rise on the week of 231.4 points, despite uncertainty during the week and indications at one point that the financial markets were again going into freefall. Movement on the quarter, however, was a loss of 9.5% for the FTSE100 while the TechMARK had lost a quarter of its value. These losses mirrored the U.S. indices almost exactly, with the Dow Jones index down 9% on the quarter, and the Nasdaq down 26%.
As the foot-and-mouth crisis continues, the economic effect on
businesses outside the farming industry is also mounting. Already hit
hard, the leisure and tourist industries are suffering seriously as
potential visitors from abroad are cancelling trips to Britain.
Advertising by the food industry has also been cut substantially, with
Waitrose cancelling its latest campaign and the Meat and Livestock
commission withdrawing television advertisements for beef and shelving
plans for promoting lamb this Easter. A spokesman for McDonalds,
however, refused to confirm reports that its own £5m television
advertising campaign for burgers had also been cancelled.
With a General election likely in the next few months even if a decision is made to delay it even further because of the foot-and-mouth crisis, Tony Blair’s government is facing a series of blistering attacks from the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. John Prescott’s plans for privatisation of London Underground have been met with the threat of legal action from London’s Transport Commissioner, Bob Kiley, whose actions have been wholeheartedly supported by Mr Livingstone. Thursday’s strike by workers on London Underground in protest at the privatisation left only three lines running and also apparently had the tacit support of Ken Livingstone, although he himself was forced to walk to work and the Corporation of London reported that the strike had cost the City at least £100 million.
As the London Underground battle grows, we also hear that Ken Livingstone has taken the unusual step of allowing cartoonist and satirist Martin Rowson unlimited access to the Greater London Authority and the Mayor’s Office itself. Although this is an "official appointment", it seems that Mr Livingstone cannot, on this occasion, be accused of wasting too much taxpayers’ money. Martin Rowson will receive payment in the form of one pint of London Pride per year for his labours.
We hear of a major problem that will be facing residents of Broxburn,
near Edinburgh, from tomorrow 1st April. According to
Edinburgh city surveyors, many residents will be forced to leave their
homes while a seismic survey takes place. The survey, measuring the
echoes produced by explosive charges to be detonated in the centre of
most streets, will establish whether caves beneath the town pose a risk
to buildings in the area. The caves, known to scientists for over 50
years, are thought to have been created at least a hundred million years
ago by burrowing dinosaurs who may have dug them in an effort to escape
the spreading polar icecap. "Local residents should not be too
concerned," said Andrew McCon, from the city surveyor’s
department, "It is highly unlikely that the caves will be a danger
to residents. We are just being cautious." He added that the
seismic charges could cause damage to some buildings in the areas where
larger charges would be needed to enable an effective reading, but
stressed that he believed the only streets to be seriously affected
would be Galloway Crescent and those directly connected.
31st March 2001