Boom to come

ASK any stockbroker about the current market and you are unlikely to get much enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, the stock market runs on sentiment and, right now, that is low. Brokers need a story to tell investors, something to get them excited about, to ignite their imaginations.

The boom did that.

Like gold, nickel and a variety of other booms before it, the hype outweighed the tangible underlying investments.

Now we hear the horror stories of stocks worth $8 that have fallen to a few cents, to investors who lost their shirts betting on the next big thing.

But there are a lot of people for whom the dot.coms were a good thing. Whether they came out just ahead, really cleaned up, or even lost a bit but saw where they made their mistakes, these investors are waiting in the wings for the next boom to come along.

Just what form the next boom will take is unknown.

It is likely we will see a few mini-booms along the way. Already we have seen the medical services sector go for a spurt, and the blue chips have had a solid run after the fallout from the dot.coms sent everyone scurrying back to what they know best.

Business News went out to find out what the next big thing might be, asking those in the market what would be the next flavour of the month?

Our analysis shows that clean and green companies are generating investor interest.

As the market broadens its base, it better reflects the values of society, including a desire for ethical approaches to business and cleaner technology.

As more funding becomes available, so too does the number of companies declaring their credentials in this department.

Perhaps connected to this revolution is the rising stakes in biotechnology. Part of the driving need to make technology work for us in more important ways than just selling more books or CDs, this mysterious sector has blossomed for the past two years. It is clear that market forces are lining up to jump on this as the next bandwagon.

The interesting thing will be to see just how the clean-green investors deal with a world that embraces GM food and human cloning. Or will they just play a waiting game for another, as yet unidentified, boom to come along.

Competition at the gym

AAAHHHH. The health club business. What is about this sector that always seems to go wrong?

The Business News team chose to take a look at the often controversial gym business and it did not take long for a few cracks to appear.

Obviously most operators in this area are legitimate, and even those who run into trouble may not necessarily be any more than unfortunate victims of economic circumstance like we see in any industry.

It seems most likely that it is the nature of business, deriving profits out of membership must be where the problems lie.

Ask any sporting club how hard it is to that. Even well-marketed AFL clubs struggle to survive.

Try applying that equation to an industry where much of what you have to offer is generic and many people think they can get the same result from equipment bought through television advertising paid for in nine weekly instalments.

At least we no longer see lifetime membership offers, which effectively meant your membership lasted as long as the life of your health club.

Competition now gives some value to the loyal members of failed operations and the authorities are more vigilant in a sector that typically attracts a younger with little experience of corporate failure.

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