The FTSE 100 remained firmly on the subdued path it has been on most of this week, dipping above and below the break-even line several times on Thursday and underperforming international peers.
It again underperformed US peers, as the S&P 500 gained 1.4% while the Dow Jones rose 1.1%, and also lagged Europe, where the Frankfurt Dax rose 0.3% and the Cac in Paris gained 0.7%.
So far this week London has been able to blame its less-than-impressive performance on its popularity among mining companies.
However it lost that excuse on Thursday as copper prices turned positive, helping send shares in Anglo American, Antofagasta, and Rio Tinto up. Speculation has raged recently over the future of metal prices, and their knock-on effect on many British savers who rely on funds that include the mining giants.
Metal, energy and steel prices have all soared recently, gaining around a third to 100% in the last year, causing many to speculate markets are in a so-called supercycle.
The term emerged more than a decade ago to explain the huge growth in China that was impacting the world market. It was compared to industrialisation in 18th century Britain, the rail boom in 19th century United States, and Japan in the after-war period.
However, analysts at Liberum argued against using the term today, saying that there is no evidence commodities consumption is exceeding pre-pandemic levels. The current trend better mirrors other market rebounds after previous recessions, they said.
“We do not regard this latest rally as the start of a new ‘supercycle’. Yes, the general price lift gives it a ‘supercycle-esque’ quality, but it lacks other critical elements of a proper supercycle: a massive-scale, sustainable urbanisation and industrialisation growth story occurring in a major economy,” they said.
Away from miners, HSBC hit the bottom of the FTSE 100 as it promised a vote on a plan which would see it phase out coal financing, and other green measures. Shares dropped 4.7%.
It was joined in the red by Morrisons, down 1%, which revealed a more than 50% drop in pre-tax profit due to high costs offsetting Covid-19.
Rolls-Royce shares, however, rose 0.7%, even though it revealed a worse-than-expected £4 billion loss from last year.
It was joined in the green by Dignity as the funeral provider’s biggest shareholder called for chairman Clive Whiley to be replaced. Shares rose 3.6%.
Other chairman news came from Shell, whose shares rose 0.4% on the day that former BHP boss Sir Andrew Mackenzie was announced as the next head of its board.
Trainline’s shares escaped the drubbing that its results revealed the business had been through last year. Sales dropped by more than three-quarters last year, but shares on Thursday rose 1.1%.
The revelation that Marston’s boss Ralph Findlay plans to leave after 20 years in charge failed to move its share price.
Sterling rose 0.3% to buy 1.3977 dollars and dropped 0.1%, buying 1.167 euros. Brent crude oil was up 2.4% to 69.50 dollars per barrel.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Flutter Entertainment, up 825p to 15,815p, Anglo American, up 132.5p to 2,989.5p, IAG, up 6.5p to 211.9p, Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, up 35p to 1,168p, and Fresnillo, up 25.4p to 956.6p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were HSBC, down 21.05p to 425.05p, Persimmon, down 119p to 2,986p, Astrazeneca, down 181p to 7,011p, Standard Chartered, down 9.5p to 484.5p, and Hikma, down 42p to 2,231p.