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

8th September 2001 

Stock markets fell sharply this week, with the FTSE100 index in London finishing at 5070.3, 274.7 points lower than last week’s close of 5345 and at a three-year low. This year’s high for the FTSE100 was 6370

A combination of factors led to the falls, with the announcement from Marconi of massive losses and the departure of their CEO and Chairman hitting sentiment probably as much as any other factors. Reports that the worst of Marconi’s falls were purely because of massive short-selling by a few fund managers did nothing to restore confidence, but there were signs on Friday that for Marconi at least the falls were easing as the shorters were obliged to buy and cover their positions.

Along with Marconi, telecoms companies dropped seriously. Two of the others worst hit were BT and Telewest.

The situation was not improved by the Bank of England’s decision to leave interest rates on hold; results from mining giant Anglo American disappointed the City; manufacturing figures showed output 3% down over the year; job losses announced at British Airways startled many – coming just a week after reports that airlines were unlikely to announce any redundancies despite falling revenues.

A few shares managed to scrape an increase with GKN rising 4.5 on the week to 313, Canary Wharf up 1.5, Centrica up 2.25, Diageo up 9 to 704, but these and a few others were very much the exceptions in a week when all sectors saw a weakening of confidence and most suffered massive selling.

One of the few brighter reports of the week was that consumer spending still shows no sign of faltering. Some analysts, however, point to this as a danger signal of a much deeper crash to come when consumer confidence also starts suffering.
But then there’s always someone more gloomy than the rest, isn’t there, Eeyore?


The newspapers seem to be full of particularly daft and/or pointless stories this week. The front page headlines of one today, Saturday, was dedicated to the story that "Bob The Builder" is a girl – no doubt leaving thousands of youngsters now completely confused. Stories inside the same newspaper included: Lady Thatcher missing the Tory party conference for the first time in 51 years; a joyrider in New York who drove a car just two hundred yards before crashing (it turns out the "joyrider" was just two years old); three Glasgow underground stations closing four hours early so that staff could go to a wedding; two whole pages dedicated to discussion of whether Liz Hurley is "past it" at 36.

Another of Saturday’s newspapers rehashes the week’s earlier story of asylum seekers in Britain, and struggles on its inside pages to come up with anything much better than what Kenneth Clarke or Iain Duncan Smith believe; tennis courts for asylum seekers; Tescos being fined for leaving 215 trolleys in a river; a girl who was made to eat a pepper sandwich. 

Was it a "slow news week"?


There was, however, a marginally interesting story to be found on the inside pages of a couple of newspapers this week. It appears airlines are being told they have to move seats on aircraft further apart. Many seats, we are told, are so narrow it is "impossible when seated to avoid body contact with people sitting either side". It would, of course, be completely un-British to touch another person in any way, but even so I have a vision of passengers eagerly scanning booking lists to see who might possibly be travelling in adjacent seats. Maybe, to increase profits and reduce empty seats the airlines will demand pictures of anyone booking a flight, and, where a traveller has the appropriate physical attributes, could place them in an empty row. Adjacent seats would then, naturally, be sold at a premium.

As if this were not enough, the report also says that tall passengers would be unable to bend forward far enough to adopt the "brace" safety position in an emergency. This, they say, is a major safety issue.

Interesting. I wonder. Did anyone else see the report a few years ago that said it makes no difference whatsoever what position you adopt in an aircraft crash provided you stay in your seat with the seatbelt on? And, so that particular report continued, the only reason you are told to adopt the "brace" position is to protect your teeth so that you can be identified later from dental records?
Couldn’t be true. Could it?


All in all, I found the general news this week to be outstandingly average, and the finance news to be outstandingly depressing. Perhaps I’m missing something. Better luck next week. Maybe.

8th September 2001                        

 

News Comment is usually updated at the end of each week

Links to previous news comments:

1-Sept-2001
25-August-2001
18-August-2001
27-July 2001
14-July-2001
7-July-2001
30-June-2001
23-June 2001
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

Feel free to send your comments, opinions, and letters to Erithacus we will be pleased to publish suitable letters at the discretion of the editor.

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