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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 13:27 GMT
Can a child beat a City analyst?
Tia Laverne Roberts, the child given 5000 to invest in stocks
Tia Laverne Roberts, the four-year-old, chose her stocks at random
Given the turmoil in world stock markets at the moment, does a four-year-old girl have as much chance of making money as a City analyst or a financial astrologer?

State-of-play after markets closed Friday
Child down 11
Astrologer down 294
Expert down 178

That is the question being asked by psychologist Dr Richard Wiseman who in an experiment for National Science Week has given a child, a financial adviser and an astrologer a fictional 5,000 to invest on the markets for a week.

The shareholders have one chance to change their portfolios next Tuesday.

On Friday, they will compare gains and losses.

"Everyone's starting off with the same sum of money, they can only invest in the FTSE 250, so it's a kind of level playing field... we're looking at short-term predictions here," said Dr Wiseman.

Stockbroker's choice
Vodafone 2,000
Marconi 1,000
Cable & Wireless 1,000
Prudential 1,000

"My prediction is that all three of them will actually make a small loss," he added.

The financial analyst, Mark Goodson, said that he was targeting stocks he felt were oversold and likely to have a short-term bounce.

His choice included telecoms stock Cable & Wireless whose share price fell more than 30% on Tuesday and Wednesday after the company announced 4,000 job cuts in its operations worldwide.

Financial astrologer's choice
Baltimore Technology 1,500
Vodafone 1,500
EMAP 1,000
Pearson 1,000

Its price was 455.5p at close of trade Friday, a far cry from its high of 1576.5p.

"It's not an investment, it's a gamble," said Mr Goodson, "I fully expect the four-year-old to win".

Confident Tia

Financial astrologer Christeen Skinner, uses the movement of the heavens to predict the market, by looking at the 'birthdate' when companies were formed and then drawing up an astrological chart.

"Because there is an angle between Jupiter and Neptune which might favour technical stocks, I'll move over towards those stocks," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Like the financial expert, she chose Vodafone, and she also singled out Baltimore Technology, which was recently pushed out of the FTSE 100 index of leading shares.

At close of trade Friday, Baltimore's price was 180p; in 2000, the share reached highs of 1,375p.

Four-year-old's choice
Old Mutual 1,250
Bank of Scotland 1,250
Sainsbury's 1,250
Diageo 1,250

Four-year-old Tia Roberts appeared to be the most confident of the lot.

"I'm going to make my mummy a fortune by picking the winners," she said

When asked how she was going to decide which stocks were the winners, she replied: "the stock exchange".

In fact they were picked entirely at random. The names of the different shares were written on fake money, fluttered over the youngster's head, and "eventually she grabbed four," according to Dr Wiseman.

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See also:

14 Mar 01 | Business
Why are the stock markets falling?
14 Mar 01 | Business
Where next for investors?
14 Mar 01 | Business
Day trading: Down, but not out
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