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The Evening Class;Mind and Body

Guide to the stock market

Students sit around in groups, copies of the Financial Times and the Investors Chronicle at the ready.

We have a virtual pound;100,000 with which to buy shares, and our aim is to build up a portfolio of companies to invest in. But first our tutor, financial adviser Di Weitz, spends some time unravelling the mysteries of the stock market.

This begins with a brief history, from its origins with merchant traders, through to the introduction of electronic trading in 1986, insider dealing and buying shares on the Internet.

The course should really be subtitled: "How to understand the financial pages." We are taken on a guided tour of the FT's vast and sometimes bewildering amount of information. Familiar terms such as the retail price index, the FT100 or Footsie index, and gross yield are explained in some detail. And we glance down the lists of companies, learning how to decipher the little symbols and figures that tell us what might be a good investment.

By the time we huddle together to assemble our make-believe portfolios, the mood is almost conspiratorial.

Our group decides Boots should be a good bet with Christmas on the way. And then there's the millennium - we decide to invest in champagne and scotch whisky. Someone suggests pharmaceuticals in case there's a run on aspirin.

Primary teacher Lynne Pitfield has some knowledge of shares but wanted to learn more. "I've been teaching for a number of years and have a little money. Interest rates are low so I won't get much by saving it," she says.

"I've been trying to pluck up courage to invest in one of the blue chip companies for a while now. I think I'll get on the phone and do it tomorrow."

Martin Whittaker

This course is run by Gloucestershire College of Arts amp; Technology at the Balcarras Evening Centre, Balcarras School, East End Road, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53 8QF. Tel: tel 01242 532198

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