London shares hit year's high at end of 2016 trading

Central London trader Image copyright AFP

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index reached its highest level to date on the last day of trading for 2016.

The move upwards was tiny - 22.5 points or 0.32% - but it left the FTSE at an unprecedented 7,142.83.

The last trading day of the calendar year in London is a short one, with dealings ending at 12:30 GMT.

Among the top 100 companies, there were no major daily moves. Rolls-Royce was the biggest faller, notching up a decline of 1.47%.

Oil ended in London flat, with Brent at $56.67 a barrel. The commodity has almost doubled from this year's low of $30 a barrel.

Oil has gained 53% since the start of the year, the biggest annual rise since 2009, with the promise of production curbs from major oil-producing countries giving a late surge to the price.

Sterling influence

Mining companies have largely been winning investments, in sterling terms, with many gaining about 30% over the year.

The FTSE 100 has benefited from the fall in the pound since the Leave vote, because the many international companies whose shares are traded in the UK tend to benefit from it.

Profits earned abroad by multinationals such as drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline and major mining companies are worth more when converted into sterling.

That makes a company's shares appear better value when compared with the higher profits it will make, prompting a revaluation of the stock.

Top five FTSE gainers 2016
Company Percentage gain on year
Anglo American 284%
Glencore 208%
Fresnillo 72%
BHP Billiton 71%
Rio Tinto 61%

Source: Bloomberg

Top five FTSE losers 2016
Company Percentage loss on year
Capita 56%
Easyjet 42%
Next 31%
DixonsCarphone 29%
IAG (BA owner) 27%

Source: Bloomberg

In currencies, the pound was up 0.48% against the dollar at $1.2310, but was flat against the euro at €1.1681.

The Brexit vote dramatically weakened the worth of the pound against the dollar. At the start of the year - and in June on the eve of the Brexit vote - the pound was worth just short of $1.50.

Analysis: Andrew Walker, economics correspondent

It has certainly been a good year for a British investor with stakes in the top 100 companies traded on the London stock exchange. If you held a portfolio made up of the same stocks in the same proportions as go into the index, you would have made a very healthy gain of about 14%.

But a foreign investor buying the same selection of assets would not have done so well, because sterling has fallen so sharply.

If the dollar were your home currency, you would have seen the value of your holding of London stocks decline by 4%. That partly reflects the fact that the pound has moved especially sharply against a strengthening US currency.

If what you cared about was the performance of your investment measured in euros, then you would have seen the value of your portfolio ending 2016 very close to the level at which it started the year.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said 2017 could be a rocky one: "It's all about political risk, there's the French and German elections and potentially another election in Italy. There's also Greece, Italy's banks and Article 50.

"We could be in for another year of surprises."

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