As political turmoil continues in the eurozone and solutions fail to materialise, the wait-and-see brigade are setting the pace
In what is starting to become an increasingly regular pattern, the markets spent the first half of the week soaring on high hopes of solid political solutions, only to fall back to its default position of caution when none was forthcoming.
The FTSE had a short week, meaning it had a lot of catching up to do, which it did with aplomb, jumping more than 2% on Wednesday – the biggest one-day rise of the year.
Excitement grew that the Spanish banking crisis could see a resolution, the Bank of England or US Fed would introduce more quantitative easing, and the eurozone interest rates would be cut.
In the end none of the above occurred and the markets had to make do with the wait-and-see brigade maintaining its all too familiar pace, sending the FTSE, French CAC, German DAX and Italian FTSE MIB closing lower.
The FTSE 100 was boosted initially by strong rises from the mining companies, especially after raw material lover China cut its interest rates, spurring hopes for more spending.
But by yesterday realisation dawned that China may be in trouble if it has to cut rates for the first time since 2008, marking Vedanta, down 50p, 5%, to 933.5p, Rio Tinto, down 146p, 4.8%, to £33.39 and Eurasian down 17.4p, 3.9%, to 424.3p, the biggest fallers.
Catalytic converter makers Johnson Matthey provided some much needed cheer to investors, reporting better than expected results and announcing a 100p a share special dividend – the first in its nearly 200-year history. Bosses also increased the final dividend by 20% to 55p, leaving shares closing up 196p on the week at £23.03.
Royal Bank of Scotland’s shares closed up 20p on the week at 220p, in its first few days of trading following a stock consolidation. The bank swapped one new share for 10 old ones to make the share price look more at home in the FTSE 100 and avoid the volatility that comes from what was starting to look like a penny share company.
It seems to be working, but the target price for the taxpayer to break even on their 84% investment now looks even further away at 500p instead of 50p at the old price.
Security group G4S held its annual meeting in secret this week amid protests at some of their practices, with some believing the board could be the next for the Shareholder Spring.
In the end the G4S board managed to control its shareholders, suffering the most minor of rebellions.
More troubling times were felt at pan-European publisher Mecom, which announced its second profit warning in as many months, sending shares down nearly 50%, closing at 75.5p. They had been as high as 230p in January.
Non-executive director Michael Hutchinson attempted to reassure the market, buying shares worth nearly £30,000. Unfortunately, none of the executive directors followed suit.
This week saw confirmation that hedge fund operator Man Group will be dumped from the FTSE 100 on 18 June and replaced by engineers Babcock in a reversal of the old adage: “Out with the old, in with the new”.
It wasn’t all bad news for Man, closing the week at 78.5p, getting an upgrade to “buy” from Citigroup. However, the reasoning from analyst Haley Tam was a back-handed compliment, suggesting “performance cannot get sustainably worse from here”.