Leading Article: An online roller-coaster

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The Independent Culture
WHAT GOES up must come down. This truism must have echoed in many minds yesterday when they took in the news that Freeserve plc, August's Internet wonder-stock, was now selling at less than 90 per cent of its launch price. "If I'd bought shares I would have sold out already," said Justin Urquhart Stewart, business development director of Barclays Stockbrokers, prefatory to advising the poor souls still holding their loss-making shares to hold on for better times.

Those of us who didn't take a risk in the first place - out of caution, fear or simple laziness - can comfort ourselves with the fact that we still have all the money we didn't invest in Freeserve; we can even tell ourselves that, had we bought shares, we too would have sold out already.

Slippages in other people's fortunes are curiously comforting. Did none of our readers enjoy yesterday's other Internet shares story, about QXL.com, the online auction house, having to revise downwards the price it expects to be floated at in October?

The Internet has become such a familiar source of jeans-to-riches tales of gain, that even a slight hiccup is treated as a sign of terminal illness. But it's worth remembering that, in stock markets, what goes down may well go back up; the risk-takers may yet, deservedly, get the last laugh.

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