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Investment analysis

Although most of the world&#39s equity markets ended last week in positive territory, it was another rollercoaster ride with markets falling on the prospect of higher US interest rates before recovering following the latest set of quarterly earnings figures which pointed to a continued recovery for corporate America.

By Friday&#39s close, the FTSE World index was trading 0.1 per cent higher, having gained 3.2 per cent in dollar terms since the start of the year.

The main event for the UK stockmarket was the approach by Permira for struggling WH Smith. The latter&#39s shares rose by 38 per cent over the five trading days, helping the FTSE 250 to a gain of 1.7 per cent. Blue-chip stocks put in a solid performance and although the FTSE 100 shied away from the 4,600 level on Friday, the index still ended the week up by 0.7 per cent. Smaller companies, which have outperformed so far this year but have made little progress since the beginning of March, ended 0.7 per cent higher.

In the US, markets slumped early in the week after comments from Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan that he no longer considered deflation a threat. This was taken to mean higher interest rates sooner than the market had anticipated although investors later regained their appetite for stocks following some encouraging corporate earnings&#39 numbers and good news on the economic front in the form of the latest durable goods data.

By the end of the week, the Dow Jones had risen by 0.2 per cent and the S&P 500 by 0.5 per cent although by far the strongest index was the Nasdaq, which ended 2.7 per cent higher.

A pick-up in takeover activity and positive corporate earnings&#39 numbers boosted European equity markets, with the FTSE Eurotop 300 rising in four out of the five sessions, ending 0.9 per cent higher.

In Japan, shares maintained their recent outperformance, with the Nikkei rising by 2.5 per cent and by Friday&#39s close was trading at its best level since July 2001. Other Far East markets were mixed, with Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines rising sharply while Thailand was sharply lower while Hong Kong and Taiwan also ended in the red.

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