Shares close down as FTSE turned on its head

London’s top index was turned on its head on Thursday as traders seemingly regretted some of the decisions they had made on Wednesday.

The index ended with Wednesday’s worst performer, Fresnillo, on top, and Wednesday’s best performer, Pearson, almost at the bottom.

The two companies had been pulled in opposite directions by different forces on Wednesday.

The silver and gold miner was hurt by a worrying set of results, while educational publisher Pearson was helped by a complex attack on short sellers in New York.

Fresnillo was joined at the top by other miners, including Anglo American and Glencore.

But what did not change was the FTSE 100’s downwards trajectory – it lost another 41 points, a 0.6% drop, hitting 6,526.15.

The index has been steadily dropping since the end of a massive growth spurt in its first week of 2021, and on Thursday briefly dipped below its closing score for 2020 – 6,461 points – for the first time this year.

But whereas in recent weeks the FTSE has often moved in lockstep with its global cousins, the situation was different on Thursday.

The main US indices, the Dow Jones and S&P 500, were up 1.8% and 1.6% respectively on Thursday afternoon London time.

On the continent, the German Dax and French Cac rose 0.3% and 0.9%.

Tobias Adrian, a senior employee at the International Monetary Fund, had on Monday warned that investors were betting heavily that governments would continue to support their economies to offset bad economic news.

“Reversing Wednesday’s selloff, investors decided to plug their eyes with wax and ignore the IMF’s warning that they are being ‘complacent’, instead barrelling back into the Dow Jones,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

“Those claims of complacency rang true after it was shown that the US economy grew by just 4% at the annualised rate in the fourth quarter – a fraction shy of the 4.2% forecast, and a rapid retreat from the 33.4% rebound posted in the third quarter.”

In company news, insurer Prudential’s shares took a 7.8% hit as it revealed plans to spin off its US arm and raise billions of dollars for expansion.

Rank Group notched up a smaller retreat on the exchange, giving back 2.5% as the casino owner warned that trading will stay low until the middle of next year because of the pandemic.

It was better news for three drinks companies.

Soft drink maker Fever-Tree fared best with an 8.3% rise when it revealed that revenue only dropped 3%, despite closures among global pubs and restaurants serving its tonics last year.

Diageo, which makes gins and other spirits that some mix with Fever-Tree’s tonics, said it had done better than expected as supermarkets sold more of its drinks. Its shares rose 3.2%.

Britvic, which also makes tonic water as well as Robinsons squash, saw a 0.7% rise despite revealing a 5.8% slide in sales in the last three months of 2020.

Finally, banknote maker De La Rue announced its profits will be ahead of expectations, sending shares up by 9.7%.

Sterling rose against its closest international competitors.

One pound now buys 1.3718 dollars after a 0.2% rise, and 1.1318 euros after gaining 0.1% against the European currency.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Fresnillo, up 58.8p to 982.8p, IAG, up 6.6p to 145.6p, Glencore, up 10.9p to 248.7p, Anglo American, up 91.5p to 2,446p, and M&G, up 6p to 184.1p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Prudential, down 105p to 1,236p, Pearson, down 67.8p to 800p, Imperial Brands, down 58.5p to 1,519p, Ocado, down 101p to 2,782p, and Sage, down 18.4p to 600.2p.