The generally accepted maxim is that stockmarkets hate uncertainty – and 2016 had its fair share of that, with both the referendum on EU membership in June and US presidential election in November providing a huge shock to the investing public.
Naturally, the vote for Brexit caused markets to tank in the immediate aftermath, with the export-driven FTSE 100, more domestic-focused FTSE 250, and Alternative Investment Market (AIM) all diving to multi-month lows.
Since then, though, markets have delivered one of the most spectacular and unlikely recoveries and, after the perceived pro-business Donald Trump's victory across the pond, are at or near record highs. AIM is close to its best in over six years.
The FTSE 100, in particular, strung together a record-breaking 12 consecutive record closes in late 2016, early 2017. And, so far this year, it's only traded below 7,100 on three occasions, and is currently only 100 points from a new best.
Elsewhere, according to data from FE Trustnet as at 31 March, no Investment Association (IA) fund sector is in the red year-to-date – with the worst performer, the short-term money market, which has just eight funds in it, at break-even.
The UK All Companies sector is up 4.8 per cent year-to-date, while UK Smaller Companies is flying at 7.4 per cent. The best performer, IA China/Greater China, is up 12.2%, just ahead of Asia Pacific ex-Japan at 12.1%.
Below, we check in with Interactive Investor to see which shares and funds its clients have been trading most in the first quarter of 2017.
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Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) opened June 2015 trading above 88p. In just over a year, it hit a 27-month low of just 47p. This was, of course, after the Brexit vote on 23 June. Since that point, the only way has been up for the high street lender and it now trades at 66.5p, having been the most traded share at Interactive Investor in Q1.
And plenty are bullish about the UK's most widely-held share. As we pointed out last week, UBS has Lloyds as one of its top share tips in Europe. Lloyds is well positioned to cope with a downturn, analyst Jason Napier said, while he is optimistic about its recently reinstated meaty dividend.
Another blue chip to have recovered well from its financial crisis lows, at 70p, is telecoms colossus BT (BT.A). It hit long-time highs of £5 towards the end of 2015. Near a 15-year high, few investors were snapping up the shares.
Since then, the stock has tumbled, topped off by a one-day 20% plunge in January following an accounting scandal at its Italian subsidiary. At the time, chartist John Burford asked whether the fall was overdone, and whether it meant BT had become a bargain.
He asserted that 'BT is a solid company, not some penny mining share', so the 'don't try to catch a falling knife' adage doesn't necessarily apply here. Clearly many investors have taken this view and BT was the second most-bought FTSE 100 company in Q1.
As always, income investors are out in force and the high-yielding trio of BP (BP.), Vodafone (VOD) and Glaxo (GSK) round off the top five.
It should also be pointed out that if we were ordering this list by total trade value, mining behemoth Glencore (GLEN) would be streets ahead of the rest – almost double that of Lloyds – as the average trade size is five times bigger than the next best.
|1||Lloyds Banking Group||LLOY|
|Source: Interactive Investor 1 Jan to 27 Mar 2017|
The list of most-traded companies on the FTSE 250 is dominated by investment trusts, as three sit in our top five. In fact, if you expand the list out to the top 20, you will find 11 closed-ended investment companies on the list.
By far the most popular – as you probably guessed if you regularly follow our most-bought trusts table – is Scottish Mortgage (SMT), a global behemoth with almost £5 billion of assets under management.
The trust, run by Baillie Gifford's James Anderson, has an enviable record of returning 296.7% over the past 10 years in share price terms as at 28 February – that is almost twice the returns of its index, the FTSE All World.
Its success has come thanks, in the main, to Anderson's weighting to US and Chinese tech firms and unlisted companies. In May, the trust upped the exposure it can have in the unlisted space to a meaty 25%. Currently, the fund has 13% of its portfolio here, led by online media portal You & Mr Jones. Other headlines names include Airbnb, SurveyMonkey and Transferwise.
Its success has propelled it into the blue-chip index (it started trading on the FTSE 100 on 20 March) and we will continue to monitor its popularity with investors through our most-bought trusts. Its Q1 total trades figure would put it third in the FTSE 100 list should it continue to hold steady in the next quarter – which it should do, given its higher visibility with investors.
As well as being prominent in our list of most-traded funds (see below), that man Neil Woodford is in this list, too, this time through his Patient Capital investment trust (WPCT), with investors clearly unable to resist the allure of the name despite poor returns – in share price terms since flotation at 103p in April 2015 the company has lost a tenth of its value.
In between these two trust sit oilie Premier Oil (PMO) and gold miner Centamin (CEY), with £1.7 billion global equity-focused trust Witan (WTAN) fifth.
|1||Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust||SMT|
|4||Woodford Patient Capital Investment Trust||WPCT|
|5||Witan Investment Trust||WTAN|
|Source: Interactive Investor 1 Jan to 27 Mar 2017.|
As far as the tiddlers are concerned, the front end of the list is dominated by miners and oil & gas explorers.
Top of the pops is oil & gas explorer Ascent Resources (AST), whose flagship resource is located in Slovenia.
It owns a 75% interest in the Petišovci project, which, as our oil expert Malcolm Graham-Wood explained previously, it has long hoped will be underway by the end of the first quarter. Ascent was given a boost recently when a long-time objector to the project had an appeal thrown out by the Slovenian environment minister. The news sent shares in the tiddler up to 2.42p.
Leading the chasing pack is West Africa-focused Kodal Minerals (KOD), which has been on somewhat of a share price rollercoaster since the turn of the year.
As we noted previously, just before Christmas you could have snapped up a share in the firm for less than one-tenth of a penny. By mid-January that share would have been trading hands at a two-and-a-quarter-year high of a shade below 0.6p. Had you timed it right, you could have made a gain of 642% in just four weeks.
By the beginning of March, the shares had retraced to the quarter of a penny level – still a tidy profit, nonetheless. An investment in Kodal's Bourgouni lithium project by Singapore's Suay Chin International, worth up to £4.3 million on 10 March, then sent shares back up two thirds to 0.39p.
It's no wonder the company is one of the top trades on AIM – with an almost even spread between buys and sells.
For all you Sirius Minerals (SXX) fans out there – and there are plenty – the firm was just outside the top five, in sixth position. Clearly, the potash mining hopeful won't be in this list for much longer, now it plans to move onto the main market. As with Scottish Mortgage, it will be interesting to follow its popularity once it joins the big boys.
|5||Premier African Minerals||PREM|
|Source: Interactive Investor 1 Jan to 27 Mar 2017|
The list of most-traded funds largely represents the same findings as our regular most-bought fund updates – with the exception that here we factor in sells as well as buys.
The two most popular trades here are, unsurprisingly, Fundsmith Equity and CF Woodford Equity Income. The former is an ever-popular choice for investors, with Terry Smith's flagship offering, a Money Observer Rated Fund, topping the most-bought table for the past 11 months and has been bought 10 times more than it has been sold in Q1.
Woodford's flagship fund is an interesting contender. In the top three most-bought funds since its launch in June 2014, the fund has blossomed to hold assets under management currently of over £10 billion. However, the feted fund manager last week launched a new income-oriented vehicle, Woodford Income Focus, that is threatening demand for his original offering.
Industry stats suggest investors are selling Woodford in order to buy Woodford, something we mentioned might happen shortly after launch. It will be interesting to see in coming months if this trend takes hold.
India is a region tipped by many commentators as one to follow – and the top-rated fund investing in the area seems to be Jupiter India, managed by Avinash Vazirani. This is also a Money Observer Rated Fund.
Brian Dennehy, managing director at FundExpert, is one who likes the fund and country, recommending it for adventurous investors. 'India's story remains on track,' he said. 'This is a long-term growth story. A very young, dynamic population reinforced by a reform-minded government. After a quiet 2016 for this market, buy.'
It is currently the 10th best-performing fund in the IA universe year-to-date, behind six of its fellow India-focused offerings.
Other highly regarded managers round off the top five, with Nick Train's Lindsell Train Global Equity and Jacob de Tusch-Lec's Artemis Global Income, both Money Observer Rated Funds, in third and fourth.
|Rank||Fund||YTD performance (%)|
|2||CF Woodford Equity Income||4.9|
|3||Lindsell Train Global Equity||8.0|
|4||Artemis Global Income||6.6|
|Source: Interactive Investor 1 Jan to 27 Mar 2017, FE Trustnet 1 Jan to 31 Mar 2017.|
This article is for information and discussion purposes only and does not form a recommendation to invest or otherwise. The value of an investment may fall. The investments referred to in this article may not be suitable for all investors, and if in doubt, an investor should seek advice from a qualified investment adviser.
This article was originally published on our sister website Interactive Investor.