ROGUE TRADER

The week ahead ...

Monday

RT's favourite company Ashtead Plant Hire to report. The former penny share has put on nearly pounds 500m capital value in a decade, by doing clever things like renting out electronic oil survey equipment to the Sultan of Brunei. Sultan of Brunei to buy 15 per cent of Manchester United. David Beckham to buy 85 per cent of Borneo with proceeds of OK! wedding picture deal.

Tuesday

Unexciting UK RPI inflation figures. Slight increase due to Volvo price- fixing ring and global warming-related seasonal distortions: soaring price of sun block, belly-button piercing, hurricane precaution products, malaria cures, hand-held personal cooler fans, snake-bite serum. Public sector becomes sulky and mildly obdurate.

Wednesday

Slightly less dull UK wage inflation figures likely to show salaries rising more slowly than prices. General strike thought to be unlikely. On the same day, US inflation figures. Also dull. No change in the public sector today. Civil servants to devote day to backward thinking, writing memos to tea-ladies, straightening carpet tassels and sticking heads in the sand.

Thursday

Stanley Leisure, the betting shop and casino group, to report. The company issued a profits warning moaning that Lady Luck had seen to it that the favourites kept winning horse races and football matches. The group has been expanding its way out of trouble. Although it is thought that any business based essentially on the work of the devil could not possibly go wrong, a turnaround will be difficult now that Satan has added the National Lottery, internet betting and the AIM to his arsenal.

Friday

Public sector congratulates itself on surviving another week entirely unchanged. Goes home to enjoy a relaxing weekend of crown green bowling and implacable bloody-mindedness.

This week's public sector reactionaries

JOHN PRESCOTT - Undermined by Faceless Wonders in Downing Street, protector of Old Labour foot- dragging in the Department of Transport, the Health Service and Town Halls.

SIR HUMPHREY APPLEBY KCB, MVO, MA (Oxon) - Chinless Wonder who headed Department of Administrative Affairs, resisted change and frustrated No 10. (Now replaced by Ms Appleby Humphrey MBA (Oxon) on secondment from Touche-Lybrand-Waterhouse-Crosby-Stills-Nash. Embraces change).

POSTMAN PAT - Foot-dragging low-productivity Public Sector employee. Brainless Wonder. Exploits monopoly by driving under-used red van round country lanes at 5mph, singing songs and wasting time helping villagers with heads stuck in buckets. Resists change.

... AND HIS BLACK AND WHITE CAT (JESS) - Deeply uncompetitive public sector fat cat, incapable of learning new tricks and more interested in eating fish than Total Quality Management. Now to be floated.

Commodity news: the ups and downs

Previously: Brent's passionate relationship with US stocks had left him firm but nearing exhaustion. Coffee was stable again, and Copper was feeling perky. Gold was heartbroken when she discovered that two-timing hunk Alan Greenspan saw her as "just another commodity - nothing special". She tearfully realised he would never make her his reserve currency.

Now read on: Drama continues for Gold. After being deserted by her life- long partner Inflation, she had literally been dumped on the street by cruel bachelor Gordon Brown and then led up the garden path by Dr Greenspan. Earlier this week she fell for the handsome but wicked aristocrat Robert Champion de Crespigny of the Australian Gold Council. The vile Champion de Crespigny dallied with her for a while, before refusing her pathetic pleas for a price fix, showing her the door and selling her short. Brent Futures, meanwhile, broke up with his steady date, US Stocks. Last week US caused excitement by pulling down her inventories to an obscenely low level, but now she was satisfied and had had enough of Brent's crude, leaving his spot price floppy. Minor character Onions was banned from leaving India after his crop failed and the Essential Commodities Act was invoked. Ex-glamourpuss Sugar was down again. But everyone else was up - cheered by what was happening to Gold. What next? To find out, tune in next week.

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