Rogue Trader: What's happening this week ...


It's National Human Resource Development Week. So sack some more people. Servomex - which claims to have cornered the world market in gas analysis technology with household name brands such as the sexily titled Xentra 4900 Continuous Emissions Analyser - is to issue figures.


More hot gas as the British Rail Consortium issues its consumer trends survey. Expect news of a gathering consumer boom, led by the bellwether DIY and white-goods sector, which always does well on the back of positive house price propaganda such as that issued last week. The Cannons Group, an extremely fascinating company, which has lately been building a position in health clubs, to report on another year spent charging ageing baby boomers a fortune in their quixotic attempt to fight the flab. EU Consumer Affairs ministers to meet, leading to a wave of traditional "Bonkers Brussels bans our burgers" tabloid headlines.


Pressac, largely responsible for "intelligent dashboards" bristling with useless visual displays, to issue figures. The company has been growing steadily in recent years, proving that people will pay good money to be kept informed of the air temperature outside their car, be able to time gear changes by scanning a computerised rev-counter, and be able to call up a street plan of Grimsby. Personally, I suggest sticking to furry dice. Mersey Docks and Harbours to report. Now fully privatised, it has closed its related cross-Channel ferry business and taken on the management of the Port of Maputo in Mozambique. Very sensible.


Building society day. Irish Permanent and Woolwich to report. A pretty predictable day, enlivened mainly by news from Electra, the venture capital people behind everything from plastic child-proof bottle screw tops and pigfeed to Her Majesty's Stationery Office and the mooted European football super league.


News from Viglen Technology, the principal remains of the once all-conquering Amstrad home computers and tacky gismos business.

News review

Priceless advice, life-saving information, amazing facts and other nuggets which are definitely worth paying to read. This week drawn from the mighty Economist which has evidently dropped its fusty neo-conservative news agenda to become every middle-aged hippy's weekly price check on world cocaine prices and general guidebook to high-flying international sexual perversion.

"In Surinam [in South America], one automatic gun will buy you a kilo of cocaine." So don't pay more.

Dateline San Antero, Columbia: "The three-day Festival of the Donkey culminates in a beauty contest in which the beasts are dressed up in women's clothes and paraded around the village. Rumour says that adolescent males in this isolated coastal community confirm their manhood in intimate liaison with the creatures."

"Peyote grows naturally in only four US counties. You can buy it legally if you join the official Native American Peyote Church. The drug costs $150 for 1,000 fresh buttons or $170 for 1,000 dried buttons." Not yet available in The Body Shop

"Thanks to a Dutch invention, a women's urinal is now on sale. The so-called `Lady P' is designed to save women time and cut queues for the `ladies room'."

"In Singapore, just half a kilo of cannabis counts as trafficking and carries a mandatory death sentence." Three people were hanged "for possession of a small amount of diamorphine [heroin] and a few pounds of cannabis". Moral: Singapore is totally, heavily and absolutely uncool.

The Economist's term for smuggling: "unofficial arbitrage".

Economic bananas

AGGRESSIVE BANANAS: Madeleine Albright celebrates outright victory in the Banana War after the World Trade Organisation meeting last week. However, victory in the Balkan war may take a little longer.

BANANA REPUBLIC: SNP leader Alex Salmond starts campaigning in earnest for the Scottish Assembly elections aiming for an independent Scottish republic.

TOP BANANA: Eddie George after his interest rate cut.

BANANARAMA: Back to the Eighties with soaring property prices, militant estate agents, over-valued London and New York stock markets, frothy consumer activity, and war in far off parts.

Commodity news in a nutshell ...

Cocoa futures are massively down because chocolate makers (Belgians) are using a "just in time" strategy. Oil paused to consider its recent rally and felt cheerful because America is just about to enter the "driving season". Base metals were lacklustre, but only aluminium actually fell back, and it is now looking very cheap. The International Pepper Exchange, which is based in India, increased volumes after becoming dollar-denominated. The already noisy exchange is now making a right old din. Oilseed, coffee and cocoa were pretty cheap, but wood pulp became expensive as, after a short break, the Japanese started buying it again.

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