A comparison between yesterday's closing stockmarket quotations of some major players in the eyewear market with those on the eve of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the USA indicates that investors have been generally more pessimistic about the future profitability of manufacturers of eyeglass frames than that of the suppliers of lenses, contact lenses and ophthalmic pharmaceuticals. Being also in the strict medical field, Novartis actually did better. Bausch & Lomb, which has gone through a lot of restructuring lately, is an exception.

The same difference applies to retailers. A giant optical retail chain like Fielmann in Germany saw its stockmarket quotation go down by 14.7 percent, although the company operates in the lower end of the market. GrandVision dropped by 6.8 percent. Instead, Britain's Boots the Chemist, which sells drugs as well as optical products and cosmetics, gained 2.7 percent.

Among the frame supplier, higher-end firms like Luxottica, De Rigo and Marcolin had the highest losses, but they were minor in comparison with pure luxury giants like LVMH or Bulgari, which shed 31.8 and 31.3 percent of their value over the same period. Catering to a younger segment, Oakley lost only 8.2 percentage points.

Most of the companies on this chart had started to lose some points before Sept. 11, and their quotations were even lower a few days ago, in line with the general trends on the stockmarket.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average had declined by 7.5 percent in the two weeks preceding the attacks, as some investors were already predicting a US recession. It regained about 5 percentage points in the past few days, with an increase of 1.93 percent yesterday alone, but it fell again by 0.69 percent today.