FTSE 100 hits 12 month high as vaccine hopes buoy blue-chip index

Graeme Evans
·2-min read
 (Anglo American)
(Anglo American)

The FTSE 100 hit its highest level in over a year this morning trading above 6,920 at its highest since the pandemic struck and global stock markets plunged.

Johnson Matthey moved into pole position in the FTSE 100 Index today as the maker of catalytic converters revealed more detail on its plans in the clean air arena.

One in every three new cars carries one of JM’s converters, but with the transition towards electric vehicles well under way the blue-chip company is increasingly pivoting its business toward supplying materials for batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

The need to drive cashflow from its more established operations towards these newer sustainable technologies means JM has started a review of its Health business, which makes ingredients for opioid addiction therapies.

As well as the review announced today, the chemicals company also told investors that the recent rebound in activity in auto manufacturing should mean its performance for the year to last month will be towards the top end of City expectations.

Shares jumped by 3% to 3,205p at the top of the FTSE 100 index risers board today, with sentiment further boosted by the promise that the review of the Health business will focus on maximising value for shareholders.

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Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laura Hoy said: “We wonder if potential sale proceeds would be used to ramp up its electric vehicle transition, or if management is hoping to unearth a new growth opportunity outside autos. The former makes sense, considering Johnson Matthey’s entrenchment in the auto industry.”

Other industrial stocks joined JM on the way up today, with software business Aveva the next biggest riser after lifting 87p to 3,717p. 

Economic recovery hopes have boosted sentiment towards mining stocks in particular, with Anglo American up another 43.5p to 3,031.5p after it revealed plans to demerge its thermal coal business in South Africa.

AJ Bell analyst Danni Hewson said the move showed miners continuing their transition from being contributors to climate change to playing a critical role in sourcing the materials required for renewables and electric vehicle infrastructure.

The FTSE 250 is also at a record high – up 1.44 points higher at 22,162.01, with some of the stocks behind yesterday’s rally to a record high trading lower. They included cruise ship company Carnival, which fell 70.8p to 1728.2p.

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