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Barclays has published details on the top shares and funds traded by its Smart Investor customers during the month of May. It found self-directed traders in an overall positive mood, with a buy/sell ratio for shares at 53/47. Oil and gas, finance and telecommunications stocks saw the most trading activity, with Vodafone leading the pack as the favoured stock to buy. Investors were also buying into BT Group, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays.

Among the commodities stocks investors favoured were Glencore, Premier Oil and the Bahamas Petroleum Company.

“For capital markets investors, one of the major themes in May, and indeed the months running up to it, was the strength in oil and wider commodity prices,” says Will Hobbs, head of investment strategy at Barclays. “So it shouldn’t be too surprising to find commodity related stocks prominent on both the buy and sell lists.”

More broadly, May was also the month that Italy returned to haunt the markets a little more visibly, a fact that may help explain the focus on quality blue chips at the top of the funds leaderboard. This includes the likes of FundSmith’s Equity I and the Lindsell Train Global Equity B.

Popular ETFs with Smart Investor clients are almost entirely from the dominant iShares and Vanguard ranges. For example, the top ETF with Barclays’ traders is the iShares Core FTSE 100. Among some of the more interesting ETFs investors are using is the ETFS 3x Daily Short FTSE 100, which is obviously being used to either hedge risk or take a short view on the FTSE in a given trading day. Traders are also using ETFs to trade the NASDAQ and S&P 500 among the US markets. ETFs provide an easy way to access US equity market movements for retail investors.

Among investment trusts, the most popular is the venerable Scotting Mortgage Investment Trust, closely followed by the Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust.

“May was clearly an interesting month from a UK market perspective, with the FTSE 100 hitting a new all-time closing high,” explains Chris Stevenson, a director with Barclays’ Smart Investor product. “Smart Investor customers were engaged across the month from a trading perspective – average daily deals were up 8% month on month and it was the second highest trading month of the year, behind January.”

There was also plenty of selling activity too, reflecting the volatility in the market, some obvious profit taking, and a lack of conviction about the ongoing health of the UK economy. Aviva topped the ranks for shares sold, but it was also interesting to see investors getting out of Barclays and Glencore, just as others were buying these stocks. Both names have a love/hate relationship with traders as we have seen from feedback from our own readers.


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Stuart Fieldhouse

Stuart Fieldhouse has spent over 20 years in journalism and financial communications, including six years as a wealth management correspondent for the Financial Times group, covering capital markets and international private banking, and as an investment banking correspondent for Euromoney in Hong Kong.

Stuart has worked as head of content at CMC Markets, supporting the re-launch of its global financial spread betting and CFD trading platforms. He is also the author of two books on trading, published by Financial Times Pearson. Stuart continues to work with hedge funds, private banks, stock exchanges and other financial institutions on their communications, data and marketing requirements.

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