The FTSE plunged to 4994 on 23 March.
It was a case of “sell everything except gold, government bonds and the dollar” as investors stampeded for safe havens, fearing collapsing profits and cancelled dividends.
Travel and leisure sector shares were first to be torched, with easyJet plunging from 1480p to below 600p. IAG, the owner of British Airways, tumbled to under 130p from its 450p levels at the start of the year.
Cineworld, Mitchells & Butlers and Rank all tumbled as lengthy lockdowns looked inevitable.
Everywhere you looked, there was red ink, as Britain’s premier index suffered from having so few tech stocks in the basket that could benefit from lockdown conditions.
BP and Shell, the two heavyweights of the index, plunged from nearly 500p in January to 252p. Shell hit 1062p from 2298 after New Year’s Day.
What a difference a year makes.
Had you bought shares at the bottom then, you would have made some spectacular gains. EasyJet is up by more than a half at 941p, IAG is at 190p – still way below their pre-covid levels, but astonishing gains nonetheless.
After falling again in the autumn as oil prices crashed further, BP has rallied hard up to 303p and Shell to £14.84.
The major turning point for the market was on November 9, when Pfizer announced it had developed a vaccine that was 90% effective. The FTSE had its biggest one-day gain since March, leaping 5% – or 276 points to 6186.
Up until then, bar the UK gambling sector which was lit up by takeover bids, it had only been the speculative US technology stocks that had been gaining – Netflix, Peloton, Zoom and others.
These, along with UK lockdown beneficiaries Ocado and Just Eat Takeaway, lost ground on that historic day for science as investors realised the end was in sight.
Of course, the recovery was far from smooth. The “Kent” strain of the virus triggered a vicious new wave of infections in the UK with a horrifying death toll and new lockdowns that damaged sentiment.
But, having underperformed the rest of the world since the Brexit Referendum, Britain staged a recovery since the turn of the year that was to outperform many as fears we would crash out of the EU abated with the Christmas Eve trade deal.
Since then, and helped by Joe Biden’s election win and $1.9 trillion Covid support package, it has been largely plain sailing for UK stocks.
Shares have beaten commodities, corporate bonds and government bonds, with the latter suffering amid concerns of recovery-induced interest rate hikes.
Thanks to a flurry of IPOs, tech stocks have dominated much of the news agenda, but, as AJ Bell’s Russ Mould points out, it has been the consumer discretionary stocks and industrials that have made some of the biggest gains.
The safer dividend payers – utilities, say, and even healthcare, which had been favoured during the depths of the Covid crisis have been outpaced, too, as investors shifted into the unloved value stocks which should benefit from a recovery and not suffer overly from interest rate rises.
So, who were the winners and losers since the market bottomed out 12 months ago?
Watches of Switzerland up 267%
And, since “Pfizer Monday” in November?
Network International up 111%
Mitchells & Butlers up 103%
Hoschschild Mining down 24%
Provident Financial down 23%
Just Eat Takeaway down 20%
(data compiled by AJ Bell for the Evening Standard via Refinitiv)