Volatility hit record levels in 2020, and fortunes were made and lost. Here are the winners and losers.
Dividend income lost to the pandemic, and an uncertain path for Brexit and the economic recovery, means these and other stock market beasts — many of whom struggled even before Covid-19 arrived — continue to leave a big hole in many investor portfolios.
Those with a more diversified range of FTSE 100 stocks have managed to offset the damage, with Scottish Mortgage (LSE:SMT) more than doubling in value on the back of its Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) exposure. And Ocado (LSE:OCDO) rose 82% due to the pandemic's shift towards online groceries.
Despite a year in which the FTSE 100 index is still 15% lower, it's encouraging that a further 16 top flight stocks managed to generate share price gains of a fifth or more.
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The safe haven appeal of gold, which topped $2,000 an ounce in the summer, meant miners Fresnillo (LSE:FRES) and Polymetal International (LSE:POLY) surged 82% and 42% respectively, with the stronger copper price pushing Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO) up 55% and helping Rio Tinto (LSE:RIO) ahead by 24.5%.
Several other blue-chips benefited from favourable trends created by the pandemic, such as the DIY frenzy inflating shares in B&Q owner Kingfisher (LSE:KGF) by 24%, and the essential retail status pushing B&M European Value Retail (LSE:BME) up by 23.5%.
More people betting at home boosted Paddy Power Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment (LSE:FLTR), whose 61% share price surge also reflected impressive US growth. There was an accompanying rise of 28% for Ladbrokes and Coral owner Entain (LSE:ENT), which is the new name for GVC Holdings.
|10 best FTSE 100 performers in 2020|
|1||Scottish Mortgage (LSE:SMT)||102|
|4||Pershing Square Holdings* (LSE:PSH)*||66.4|
|5||Flutter Entertainment (LSE:FLTR)||61|
|7||Polymetal International (LSE:POLY)||41.7|
|Source: Sharepad as at 21 December 2020. *Promoted in December reshuffle|
The era of cheap money driving a wave of deal-making in the year gave a fillip to portfolios, with RSA Insurance Group (LSE:RSA) 20% higher and bucking the sector's downward trend after it agreed to a break-up proposal from Canada's Intact and Denmark's Tryg at 685p a share.
Croda International (LSE:CRDA), which makes ingredients for shampoos and skin care products, also added to its appeal by splashing £736 million on a Spanish specialist in fragrance and flavours.
Shares in tool hire business Ashtead (LSE:AHT), which trades under the Sunbelt name in the United States, set record highs after rising 39.6% on the back of work to supply equipment to hospitals and testing sites during the Covid-19 crisis.
Resilient construction markets aided Ashtead (LSE:AHT) and also helped plumbing supplier Ferguson, whose move to resume dividend payments powered shares 29% higher by the end of the year.
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (LSE:HIK) is also worthy of mention after rising by 28% in a year when GlaxoSmithKline (LSE:GSK) was 25% lower. UK-based Hikma, which raised sales guidance for its two biggest divisions of generic and injectables drugs, has a manufacturing agreement with Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD) to produce remdesivir for the treatment of Covid-19.
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Glaxo was one of a number of household names to fall by 20% or more over the year, with the pharmaceuticals giant impacted by lockdowns preventing people reaching healthcare sites to receive its top-selling vaccines such as Shingrix.
Glaxo has stuck by guidance for an unchanged 80p a share in dividend payments this year, which is better than most of the other stocks on the list of big FTSE 100 fallers.
The big banks were forced by regulators to withhold their payments, removing one of the few remaining attractions for stocks already in the teeth of a perfect storm due to ultra low interest rates, rising bad debts and prolonged Brexit and economic uncertainty.
Beleaguered investors of Lloyds Banking Group (LSE:LLOY) started the year wondering if the lender could finally break its resistance to the 65p threshold, only to see the pandemic send shares as low as 24p. They neared 40p in mid-November but are still 46% cheaper across the year.
NatWest Group (LSE:NWG), HSBC Holdings (LSE:HSBA) and Standard Chartered (LSE:STAN) are down by around 35%, whereas the most resilient stock in the sector has been Barclays (LSE:BARC) thanks to its investment banking operation.
|10 worst FTSE 100 performers in 2020|
|International Consolidated Airlines (LSE:IAG)||-65.3|
|Lloyds Banking Group (LSE:LLOY)||-46.3|
|Royal Dutch Shell (LSE:RDSB)||-43.5|
|NatWest Group (LSE:NWG)||-36.1|
|Standard Chartered (LSE:STAN)||-35.2|
|Land Securities (LSE:LAND)||-33.8|
|Source: Sharepad as at 21 December 2020|
The dividend pain was particularly acute for investors in oil giants BP (LSE:BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (LSE:RDSB), with the latter cutting its pay-out for the first time since the Second World War after the price of Brent crude in April skidded to an 18-year low at less than US$20 a barrel. The heavyweight pair are still more than 40% lower, reflecting further uncertainty about their low carbon plans.
The army of small investors at BT suffered more disappointment in 2020, when the company cut the final dividend for the first time since privatisation in 1984 as bosses kept funds for the ongoing rollout of both fibre broadband and 5G mobile networks. Shares dipped below 100p for the first time since 2009 and are still 31% lower this year despite a recent recovery.
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Unsurprisingly, the biggest fallers of 2020 were British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (LSE:IAG) and engines giant Rolls-Royce (LSE:RR.) after a turbulent year in which global restrictions on travel led to the latter having to raise in a £2 billion rights issue.
Despite rebounding on November's vaccine breakthroughs, IAG is still 65% lower and Rolls down 53% amid uncertainty about when airlines will be able to resume flying schedules.
Closed offices and shops meant property groups British Land (LSE:BLND) and Land Securities (LSE:LAND) lost 26% and 34% of the values respectively, while other casualties included hotels group Whitbread and events business Informa, down 28% and 39%.
Caterer Compass (LSE:CPG) fell 27% in a year in which it was one of the first and biggest companies to tap shareholders for support through the £2 billion placing of shares.
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