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Not a year to bet your house on miners

The roof fell in on mining companies but it was a year to celebrate for house builders

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DCC's rag-bag assortment of businesses includes unmanned petrol stations

The FTSE 100 started the year like Premiership champions Chelsea FC and … er … ended it like Premiership champions Chelsea too.

With a couple of days' trading to go, the top-share index was down just over 4% on the year at around 6,315, having topped 7,122 in late April.

Nevertheless, there were some impressive gains to be seen, not least from DCC (LON:DCC), which gained promotion to the FTSE 100 late in the year after notching up a 60% gain in 2015.

The acquisitive holding company is a real throw-back to the days of conglomerates such as Hanson Trust, operating Energy, Healthcare, Technology and Environmental divisions that do not seem to be long on synergy.

It was a bad year for former Labour leader Ed Miliband and therefore a good year for the house builders, which celebrated the Conservative party's election victory, which extinguished the threat of a so-called mansion tax.

Taylor Wimpey (LON:TW.), up 49%, and Berkeley Group (LON:BKG), up 47%, were the picks of the bunch, though shareholders in Barratt Developments (LON:BDEV) and Persimmon (LON:PSN) are unlikely to carp at rises of 35% and 29% respectively.

The stock market may have gone into a Chelsea-like swoon in the second half of the year, but that did not stop retail-focused finance house Hargreaves Lansdown (LON:HL.) from putting in a second-half spurt.

For the year as a whole, the stockbroker and funds supermarket was up 50%, with much of the rise coming after impressive full-year results released early in September.

Also heading for the heights was satellite operator Inmarsat (LON:ISAT), up 43%.

Third quarter results impressed the market, particularly the performance of its aviation division, which is set to provide German airline Lufthansa with in-flight connectivity services on around 150 aircraft. 

At the dank, dark and dingy end of the Footsie cellar it is little surprise that mining stocks feature heavily.

In some ways it is surprising that the likes of Anglo American (LON:AAL), down 75%, Glencore (LON:GLEN), down 69%, and BHP Billiton (LON:BLT), down 45%, could lose such large chunks of their market value and still remain in the Footsie.

In Glencore's case, there was a doubt it would remain in existence, never mind in the Footsie, as shareholders finally got the hump over the commodities trader's massive debt pile.

Formed by the merger of Glencore and Xstrata, the stock was a short-seller's favourite for much of the year as everyone except, apparently, chief executive Ivan Glasenberg, recognised two things: Glencore was overstretched, and commodity prices were not going to rebound in time to save its bacon.

The company eventually acknowledged the inevitable, and binned the dividend, raised £1.6bn through a share placing and got busy with a disposal programme.

By the end of the year it seemed to have repaired much of its reputation with the City, turning in an impressive investor presentation in early December.

Rubbing shoulders with the miners in the basement were publisher Pearson (LON:PSON), emerging markets-focused bank Standard Chartered (LON:STAN) and power systems developer Rolls-Royce (LON:RR.).

Pearson, now focused more than ever on the educational sector, sold off the Financial Times and promised other asset sales as it attempted to raise money to reinvigorate its core business.

April saw the company shake things up in the board room with chairman Glen Moreno stepping down after a decade in the chair. With the shares down 37% on the year he chose a good time to leave.

Standard Chartered, also down 37%, got its blood-letting out of the way early, in February.

It appointed Bill Winters as its new chief executive in a huge boardroom shake-up that saw three of its most senior bosses depart.

Winters, a banking veteran and former head of investment banking at JP Morgan, replaced Peter Sands as chief executive while the bank’s heavily criticised chairman Sir John Peace stood down, as did the long-serving head of Asia, Jaspal Bindra.

The Asia-focused bank has struggled recently, with profits falling, bad debts rising and the share price heading south.

One of the UK's most respected industrial companies, Rolls-Royce, down 33%, spent much of the year in reverse.

After a profit warning or two, US activist investor ValueAct took  its stake in the jet engine firm to 10% in November, and, possibly coincidentally, thousands of job cuts were announced shortly after, with new chief executive Warren East, he of ARM Holdings fame, announcing plans to save £150mln to £200mln a year.

A layer of management was removed as the company said it was ending its divisional structure of aerospace and land & sea, in a move aimed at simplifying the business and cutting costs.

Quick facts: DCC PLC

Price: 6590 GBX

LSE:DCC
Market: LSE
Market Cap: £6.48 billion
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