HOW HARRY'S CLUB JOINED THE FRENZY

JUST A month ago on this very page we covered the launch of an investment club set up by 20 ordinary people in Leigh on Sea, Essex. The 20 members of the Dirty Harry Investment Club put in pounds 500 each, creating a pot of pounds 10,000. At their second meeting this week, their portfolio had risen in value by over 50 per cent - to pounds 15,242.31p.

This is the reality of today's stockmarket mania. Private investors chasing instant internet fortunes.

At its inaugural meeting, the Club, named after the Dirty Harry pub in which it meets, decided to put everything into hi-tech stocks. This is unusual for investment clubs, which tend to be much more conservative.

According to Mark Goodson, who launched the Club - and who didn't know shares from a hole in the ground until four years ago - the current froth should be treated with suspicion.

"A condition of joining this Club was that everyone would be in for the long term. No-one is allowed to sell out until five years is up."

Mr Goodson thinks that whats happening at the moment is a "classic speculative bubble". "No market, no commodity, can keep going up in price for ever and ever." Starting with a pot of pounds 10,000 just a month ago, the Club put around pounds 2,000 into ARM, an IT company, and roughly pounds 1,500 into each of the other five stocks (see table). The Club sold Infobank a fortnight ago after the shares had more than doubled. To their intense regret, Infobank's shares have since nearly doubled again, to pounds 22. "That was really annoying," he says.

"I think the market will continue upwards for the next couple of weeks, and then drift. Then, when the Millenium Bug fails to cause a problem, people will pile money into the market."

Mr Goodson goes on: "I'm worried about what will happen in April and May. There will be less cash around to prop up the market. It could be just a little bit horrible."

That from the man who has just seen his investments go up 50 per cent in a month. Don't say you weren't warned ...

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