Interactive Investor

20 most-bought UK shares in 2021

24th December 2021 10:42

Graeme Evans from interactive investor

There were lots of potential trades backing different themes in 2021, but even the pros found it difficult to consistently pick winners. Here are the shares you were buying heavily last year.

It's been a tough year for many professional stock pickers — just ask Nick Train — so investors shouldn't feel too downhearted about the way several of the most-crowded trades failed to deliver the goods in 2021.

Travel-focused stocks proved popular this year as investors backed the airline sector recovery, only to see shares in Rolls-Royce (LSE:RR.), International Consolidated Airlines Group (LSE:IAG), TUI (LSE:TUI) and easyJet (LSE:EZJ) undone by the Omicron variant just as the year was ending.

Investing is for the long term and there's still plenty of confidence that these shares haven't been grounded forever. For now, Rolls and TUI are about 10% higher but IAG and easyJet are some 17% cheaper over the course of the year to date.

It's a similar story at FTSE 250-listed Cineworld (LSE:CINE), which attracted plenty of buying on the ii platform over the summer, but is heading for a share price fall of at least 50% after leisure parks emptied due to the tightening of pandemic restrictions just ahead of Christmas.

Our list of the most-bought shares continues to show a leaning towards traditional sectors, despite the rush of technology and data stocks listing on the stock market in 2021.

Cyber security firm Darktrace (LSE:DARK) was in demand at times but still failed to make the top 20, while Hut Group business THG (LSE:THG) missed out even though some investors saw a value opportunity after a short-selling squeeze in the autumn.

Instead, AIM-listed Argo Blockchain (LSE:ARB) flew the flag for technology stocks on our platform. The data centre business supporting cryptocurrency mining operations generated plenty of excitement after its spectacular start to the year left shares 750% higher in the period up to mid-February. The stock is now about 97% higher over 2021.

A strong start to the year also sparked interest in AIM-listed ITM Power (LSE:ITM), with the clean energy business still worth £2.3 billion despite a fall in value since January.

At a time of ultra-low savings rates and soaring inflation, several high-yielding FTSE 100 stocks had an obvious appeal for investors during 2021.

In particular, the big dividends in the mining industry on the back of multi-year highs for commodity prices made Rio Tinto (LSE:RIO) and Glencore (LSE:GLEN) popular picks, with the latter also among the best-performing stocks in the FTSE 100 index.

Demand for Glencore shares reflected record prices for the company's coal and aluminium, which analysts at Deutsche Bank said raised hopes for bumper shareholder returns in 2022.

Investors are also eyeing the prospect of big capital returns in the banking sector after regulators relaxed curbs on buybacks and special dividends. Plenty of banking analysts have told us that the UK banking sector is undervalued as monetary policy begins to tighten, which is why Lloyds Banking Group (LSE:LLOY) and Barclays (LSE:BARC) maintained their popularity in 2021.

Vodafone (LSE:VOD), Unilever (LSE:ULVR) and GlaxoSmithKline (LSE:GSK) are among other well-known names with attractive yields to feature on our most-bought list, but investors will be kicking themselves for ignoring several undervalued household names in 2021.

Marks & Spencer (LSE:MKS) is still not paying a dividend, but its shares are up by about 75% in 2021 after a stunning recovery on the back of its partnership with Ocado (LSE:OCDO). BT (LSE:BT.A) is also missing from our most-bought list, despite being about 23% higher during a roller-coaster year that saw telecoms billionaire Patrick Drahi build an 18% stake.

The rebound in oil prices encouraged investors to stick with BP (LSE:BP.) but the income potential of Royal Dutch Shell (LSE:RDSB) was overlooked as it failed to make our top 20 most-bought list.

The shares are up 24% in the year-to-date as the oil giant continues to rebuild shareholder returns in the wake of its first dividend cut since the Second World War.

Several other popular stocks with interactive investor customers in 2021 have not fared well, particularly online retailer Boohoo (LSE:BOO) after its recent profits warning left shares about 66% lower so far in the year.

Fellow AIM stock Greatland Gold (LSE:GGP) is down by a similar level, but investors continue to believe in the potential of its Havieron gold-copper deposit in the Paterson region of Western Australia.

Shares have fallen from their December 2020 peak of 37p to 14.7p, but jumped 2p on Tuesday after joint venture partner Newcrest Mining said it would acquire an additional 5% interest in Havieron.

Top 20 most-bought UK stocks in 2021

Source: interactive investor. Data as at 20 December.

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