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The Hi-Tech investor: An index for the neterati

THE magazine Wired is the house journal of the "neterati", the people and businesses behind the explosive growth of the internet. Wired is read, and written, by the younger generation of computer whizz kids, the people behind companies such as Yahoo! and Amazon.

The California-based technology magazine is less well-known as an investment sage, but last year it launched the Wired index. This is a measure of stock market performance rivalling established names such as the Dow Jones or the FT-SE 100 indexes. The Wired index tracks the fortunes of 40 companies identified as the power behind the "new economy". The index includes hi-tech names such as Microsoft and AOL, and also includes Sony and Cable and Wireless.

Since Wired launched its index the shares have risen by 81 per cent, outperforming the Dow Jones. Unfortunately, private investors would struggle to build a sensible stake in most of these firms: a share in Microsoft costs more than $100 (pounds 62).

As an alternative, Investec Guinness Flight has set up a fund to track the Wired index. The Wired index fund is run as a sub-set of a larger Investec Guinness Flight open-ended investment company (Oeic) based in Guernsey. The minimum investment is pounds 2,000 for lump sums, or pounds 150 a month for regular savers. The management charges are reasonable for a specialist fund: the initial charge is 3 per cent and the annual management fee 1 per cent. The fund is not available as an individual savings account, but Investec Guinness Flight plans to add an ISA wrapper.

n Wired Index Fund: www.wiredindexfund.com

Find out about ISAs

Interactive Investor International, the personal finance website, has expanded. The ISA centre gives interactive performance data for investment- based individual savings accounts, drawing information from Standard & Poor's Micropal service. The site also includes information on the different types of ISAs on the market: there are still plenty of savers confused about stocks and shares, cash- and insurance-based individual savings accounts.

For investors, III has also produced an area dedicated to investment trusts, again with performance information and the chance to add trusts to Interactive Investor's online portfolio. The site's other additions include a pensions centre and a centre covering traded endowment policies. The pensions section includes case studies and a useful graph showing the growth of a typical pension fund. Given the uncertainty about personal pensions and the Government's proposed stakeholder scheme, the site's decision to focus on education and information rather than products looks wise.

n Interactive Investor: www.iii.co.uk

Web shopping blooms

This year's net survey carried out by Mori for Which? Online, the internet arm of the Consumers' Association, points to a dramatic increase in the number of people shopping on the net. Last year, just one in 50 did so regularly; now, according to the report, one in 10 does.

Financial services are not as popular as other areas of e-commerce, the report found. Four per cent of net users surveyed said they had bought a financial services product, against 16 per cent who had bought a book.

There are relatively few financial sites that sell products directly over the net. Far more provide information or act as a research resource. According to the Which? survey, education and research are the most common reasons for going online, cited by 66 per cent of net users.

n Which? Online: www.which.net

n Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at:Hi-tech-investor@dial.pipex.com