Apathy rules as FTSE ends moribund year with a whimper

The stock market ended 2012 with a whimper rather than a bang but that was entirely in keeping with what, for City traders anyway, was a miserable year.

Trader folk – the lads on the floors in the shirt-sleeves – like to complain that every year was the worst for decades. This year they might even be right.

The problem isn't that markets are dire, it is that they are lifeless. There's not much in the way of action to stimulate trade.

There's not been much of an initial market – floats of new companies – and not much of a secondary market either.

Investors are sitting on their hands while they wait to see whether Europe really is going collectively down the pan or not. Yesterday was typical. In a half-day's trading the FTSE 100 ended down 27.56 points at 5987.81.

There was weakness in banks and other financial shares, with Schroders the biggest faller, down 21p at 1686p. Lloyds Banking Group followed, down 0.77p at 47.91p.

Hardly any actual trading took place – volumes were about 15 per cent of what they have been lately.

The FTSE gained about 6 per cent this year, decent enough, but that's well behind rivals such as the German Dax – up 30 per cent – and the French CAC which managed a rise of 15 per cent.

The UK benchmarket index started last January at around the 5600 mark. It fell as low as 5300 in the usual summer slump but was back up to 5600 by September and has rumbled up since then.

Market strategists have already begun talking up this year as the one during which markets will roar back. The lads on the floor don't buy it. "Sideways at best, again", said one, who admitted that he hadn't even bothered pitching up for work this morning. Apathy rules.