Another M&S Scalp

Another M&S Scalp - at - the best of the international financial media

*** House price inflation at a 10-year low

*** More woe for M&S

*** What next for the alternative oil opinion...dotcom hysteria...and more

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--------------------- Housebuilders' shares fell some 2% last week and may just continue that trend this week as property website Rightmove said that British house prices rose at their weakest annual rate in ten years in July. Last week housebuilder Bovis Homes admitted that the sluggish market was denting its profits.

According to Rightmove, the average asking price for property fell 1% from June to July, to £196,700 a 0.2% gain from a year ago. In comparison, the annual house price inflation in June stood at a much higher 2.4%. And it seems that homeowners desperate to move are finally caving in to lower asking prices.

"Sellers are now realising they have to compromise some degree of their gains in order to sell their properties," Rightmove's Miles Shipside said today. Meanwhile the British Bankers' Association will report its mortgage lending figures on Wednesday.

Back in the market, and the FTSE 100 slid 29 points to trade at 5,230 before the weekend. The FTSE 250 also closed 0.5% in the red, at 7,470, while the All Share index fell 0.5% on Friday.

It seems that Marks & Spencer's boardroom struggles have claimed another scalp, as its senior director Charles Wilson leaves the group to become CEO at cash- and-carry business Booker. That will come as a blow to M&S chief executive Stuart Rose, who is under increasing pressure to improve sales at the group: Wilson has allied Rose for a number of years, while working at Booker, Argos and Arcadia. And rumour has it that Wilson was dissatisfied about the recent scrap between Rose and non-executive director Kevin Lomax over the appointment of a new chairman.

"Charlie Wilson is an absolute key player in everything Stuart Rose has done. Without him, any recovery will be longer and more difficult. Charlie Wilson is the architect of a lot of this [strategy] and the man who controls the costs," said CSFB's Tony Shiret. M&S closed 1% down on Friday.

Fund manager Amvescap saw its shares drop some 6% during the day on Friday although it managed to close only 1% in the red by home time. So what sent the shares plummeting? Well, the struggling manager has parachuted in new CEO Martyn Flanagan to try and turn things around for the group. A new chief at the helm, however, reduces the chance that the group may be taken over.

Yet as Amvescap continues to struggle...and lose...against the almighty hedge fund industry, perhaps a break-up is just what the group needs...

-------------------- Why the FTSE loves misery So why is the FTSE 100 continuously rising...despite all the bad things going on in the City at the moment? Well, whatever the reason may be, it's not what the market commentators are saying it is: defiance' and stoicism'. Neither markets, nor investors, do defiance', says MoneyWeek editor-in-chief Merryn Somerset Webb in The Sunday Times. Instead it's all about interest rates. When they're expected to fall, equities usually do well. But what if they don't fall?

Asian Oil Demand Declining It's not only oil demand from China that is currently waning, says Morgan Stanley economist Andy Xie on The Global Economic Forum. Korea, Thailand and even India are seeing a fall in volume. So what's going on? Well, for one, a number of these countries are seeking alternatives for oil. China, for example is effectively substituting oil with coal. The result? The oil bubble will not last, because it will depress economies, and therefore demand...which could "trigger a stampede". MoneyWeek may not subscribe to this view, but it still makes for interesting reading.

Making The Most of Internet Stocks Internet stocks have actually been pretty good investments, even since the bubble burst in 2000, says Michael Orme in The Daily Reckoning. What's more, they're "harbingers of the future" a future where the worldwide web becomes even more integral in our daily lives than it is today. The result? Well, you could just see the same dotcom hysteria that we saw a couple of years ago, but until that happens, there are some "outstanding profit opportunities" available.