*** Oil prices scoff at Opec

*** Morrison's increasing exasperation at Safeway

*** The future for Corus...why uranium's looking good...what Madonna keeps forgetting...and mor -------------------- So Dated Brent shot over $55 per barrel on Thursday. And at the same time Nymex crude inched closer to the $60 a barrel-mark, trading at over $57 per barrel by London's close.

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- And the new surge succeeded in waking up the laid-back Opec members with a bang. The cartel sprung to life, as Opec President Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah said they would launch into a new round of talks as early as next week in order to hike production even further if oil prices remained at current highs. Just two days ago, the members lifted production by 500,000 per barrels per day to calm the jittery market.

- Yet if Opec's upped-production didn't ease the market on Wednesday...well, why would it help this time round? As it is, Opec is pumping at a 25-year high - and is rapidly running out of spare capacity. And what about the rest of the oil producers?

- Well, Opec will get no help from the worlds' third largest crude exporter, Norway, which has admitted its capacity is limited. The onus is now instead on Mexico and Russia...who are both yet to respond to renewed pressure.

- Meantime, oil producer Paladin Resources traded over 4% up on Thursday - as a top FTSE gainer. The group said it had lifted pre-tax profit by 30% to £110m, up from 2003's £85m, thanks to the high price of oil. And Paladin hopes to pump around 70,000 barrels of oil per day by 2007 - in comparison to this year's 50,000 barrels.

- Paladin's hike failed to lift the FTSE250 on Thursday. The mid-cap index closed 0.1% down at 7,195. The blue chip index shed 16 points, to trade at 4,922. And the All Share index also fell 0.3%, closing at 2,474.

- 'We've had quite a lot of things conspiring,' JP Morgan's Nigel Cobby told Reuters yesterday. 'We've had the weakness of the dollar, the strength of the oil price, and therefore it's very easy for people to think 'let's take a few profits'.'

- Retailer Morrison closed as a top blue chip loser yesterday - down 3%. And by now, Morrison must be fairly fed-up with its acquisition of Safeway, which has chafed another £40m off its annual profits.

- 'While the company is blaming the inherited Safeway accounting system, investors may well feel aggrieved that Morrison has owned Safeway for long enough to understand this system,' Morgan Stanley's Ben Britz said yesterday. According to Morrison, pre-tax profit would reach £330m - £30m less than analyst predictions. ------------------- Morrison was not the only retailer to come under pressure yesterday. In fact, the entire food and drug retail sector fell 0.5% as the government said that British retail sales for last month plummeted at its highest rate since 2003. Both Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury shed 1% on Thursday.

- And Corus Group fell 3% - despite the group reporting surging operating profit of £630m, a titanic turnaround from the £66m loss posted in 2003. Turnover climbed to £9.3bn. Not too surprising, as Corus produces 19m tonnes of steel a year - or the equivalent in weight of nearly 50,000 Land Rover Defenders per day.

- So why did the group's share price fall to 56p? Well, investors felt that it would be hard to reproduce 2004's excellent results this year. Steel prices are currently trading at all-time highs, after doubling last year, and may be hard to sustain into 2005. But are the investors right?&nbsp- Well, probably not - if China's economy keeps up its current rate of steel consumption. The country uses up 1bn tonnes of steel per year. And Japan, too, has been hit by steel shortages, and should keep the demand strong. Yet should China find its economy easing...well, there could be a lot of extra steel floating around the market, which would be bad news for Corus.

- Meantime, BHP Billiton closed as the top FTSE gainer, up 3%, while the mining sector also traded 2% in the black. And investors found BHP to be particularly attractive as the Australian government negotiated an agreement with China on the selling of uranium. Remember of course that BHP has bid for Aussie miner WMC Resources, which currently owns the largest uranium mine.

- So what's so special about uranium? Well, its price has more than trebled to $22 per pound since 2000, we note in the latest MoneyWeek. Moreover, that could just hit $45 per pound by next year...and $110 by 2010.

- As it is, China is looking to hike its nuclear-generating capacity fivefold by 2020 to reduce its dependence on oil and gas. And it's not only China who wants a piece of the uranium action...

- India, Brazil, Russia and Japan are keen to get their hands on more uranium. Making the most of the commodity's surge? Well, investors can always take a look at Canada's Cameco, or Austria's Boersenbrief, we note in MoneyWeek.

- Also in the latest edition, look out for why Germany's shares are set to rocket...where the oil money is going...and what Madonna keeps on forgetting.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the sunshine.

Until Monday,

Heather D'AltonMoney Mornin