[Index Series] What is the FTSE 100 and how to trade it?

Publish Date 14 Dec 2021
Education / 5 Min Read
Milan Cutkovic / Last Update 15 Mar 2022

The FTSE 100, also known as the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index, is a stock market index that measures the performance of the largest 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

The FTSE 100 has been around since 1984 and is one of the most well-known stock market indices in the world. In addition to its use as a benchmark, the FTSE 100 can also be used as a tool for active investors who wish to trade stocks that are included in the index.​

In this article, we'll take a look at what makes up the FTSE 100 and how it's calculated. We'll also discuss some of the factors that can influence its price movements and the multiple ways traders can start gaining exposure. Before we discuss how to trade indices like the FTSE 100, let us have a look at what this index represents and the largest companies included in it.

Jump ahead to the key pieces of information here:

 

What is the FTSE 100?

The FTSE 100 index consists of the 100 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) by market capitalisation. The index was created on January 3rd 1984 and had a value of 1000 points.

The index is maintained by the FTSE Group (trading as FTSE Russell), a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange (LSE) Group.

While the FTSE 100 is a popular and widely followed index, it is a rather weak indicator of how the UK economy is performing, as the largest constituents are multinational corporations with an international focus. Investors trying to gain more exposure to the UK economy might prefer the FTSE 250 or FTSE SmallCap Index.

How is the FTSE 100 calculated?

The FTSE 100 is an arithmetic weighted index and is calculated using the free-float market capitalisation of its constituents. This means that fluctuations in the share price of larger companies will have a greater impact on the value of the FTSE 100 than those of smaller companies.

What are the FTSE 100 trading hours?

The London Stock Exchange is open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM (London Time).

The UK100 (Cash CFD) can be traded with Axi from 11 PM Sunday to 09:59 PM Friday with daily trading breaks between 9:15-9:30 PM and 9:59-11 PM (London Time).

The FT100.fs (Futures CFD) can be traded with Axi from 1 AM Monday to 8:59 PM Friday with a daily trading break between 8:59 PM and 1 AM.

What sectors are in the FTSE 100?

Materials is the largest sector in the FTSE 100, making up almost 20% of the index. This is followed by Financials at 17% and Consumer Staples at 16%. Energy and Industrials come next at 12.4% and 8.7% respectively. Health care, consumer discretionary and communication services also have a notable weight in the index.

FTSE 100 sectors pie chart

Source: Hargreaves Lansdown

What are the top 10 companies in the FTSE 100?

The top 10 companies in the FTSE 100 index are:

  1. AstraZeneca - Multinational pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Cambridge, England.
  2. Unilever - Multinational consumer goods company with headquarters in London. Famous for brands like Persil, Dove, Lipton.
  3. Diageo - Multinational beverage company with headquarters in London. Major producer of alcoholic beverages and owner of brands such as Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Baileys and Gordons.
  4. HSBC - Multinational financial services provider and the world's sixth largest bank by total assets.
  5. GlaxoSmithKline - Multinational pharmaceutical company based in London and the world's sixth largest pharma company. 
  6. Royal Dutch Shell - Multinational oil and gas company with headquarters in The Hague (Netherlands). The company recently announced that it will move its headquarters to London, UK and change its name from Royal Dutch Shell plc to Shell plc.
  7. BP (British Petroleum) - Multinational oil and gas company headquartered in London with operations in more than 80 countries worldwide. 
  8. Rio Tinto - Multinational metals and mining company with joint head offices in London and Melbourne. The company is listed both on the LSE (London Stock Exchange) and the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).
  9. British American Tobacco - Multinational company and producer of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Famous for brands such as Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall and Winfield.
  10. Glencore - Multinational commodity trading and mining company with headquarters in Switzerland.

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FTSE 100 share price

As of December 6th, the FTSE 100 is consolidating around 7170 points. Like all other stock indices, the FTSE 100 crashed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The index has been slowly recovering since then, although it still did not manage to reach the pre-pandemic high while its US and most of its European peers managed to reach new record highs.

The FTSE 100 started at 1000 points in 1984. The index reached an all-time high of 7903 points in May 2018.

Share price of UK100

 

How to trade FTSE 100?

Contract for Difference (CFDs) is one of the ways traders can trade the FTSE 100 cost-effectively and efficiently. Generally, brokers offer a CFD based on the Cash Index (UK100) and a CFD based on the underlying Futures contract (FTSE100.fs).

When trading indices online using CFDs, traders can speculate on the direction of the underlying instrument (the FTSE 100) without owning it or any of its constituents. Traders can make use of leverage and will have the ability to go both long and short.

This can prove especially useful during a downturn. Most investors want to avoid a reshuffling of their portfolio as the costs can quickly add up and it is incredibly difficult to time the market correctly. Therefore, instead of selling a large part of a portfolio when traders anticipate a correction, CFDs could be used to speculate on falling prices.

Whether the Cash CFD (UK100) or Futures CFD (FTSE100.fs) will be more suitable to a trader, it will primarily depend on his trading style. If the trader holds positions for a short period of time,  UK100 might be preferred as it has low spreads. On the other hand, if the is a long-term trader  FTSE100.fs might be preferred as there are no swap charges.

Cash CFDs have lower spreads and are more suitable for short-term traders, while Futures CFDs are popular amongst position traders as no daily swap fees are charged. Traders should note that futures CFDs are subject to a rollover. A rollover is when a trader moves their position from the front-month contract (close to the expiration date) to another contract date in the future, to avoid the costs or obligations associated with the settlement of the contracts. Contract rollovers are profit neutral.

How to invest in FTSE 100?

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are the easiest way to invest in the FTSE 100 index. It is more cost-effective than buying the individual shares and the rebalancing is done quarterly.

While ETFs can be leveraged too, it will usually have less flexibility than trading CFDs. However, if a long-term investor and don't really want to actively trade the product, ETF might be found  as an efficient solution.

There is a variety of ETFs available from different providers. When choosing an ETF, traders should go through the factsheet that is provided by the broker and become familiar with the specifications of the product and the charges involved.

The largest FTSE 100 ETFs are (by AUM) are:

  • iShares Core FTSE 100 UCITS ETF (Dist)
  • Vanguard FTSE 100 UCITS ETF (Dist)
  • iShares Core FTSE 100 UCITS ETF GBP (Acc)


The cheapest FTSE 100 ETFs (by TER - Total Expense Ratio) are:

  • HSBC FTSE 100 UCITS ETF GBP
  • iShares Core FTSE 100 UCITS ETF (Dist)
  • iShares Core FTSE 100 UCITS ETF GBP (Acc)

 

Trading the FTSE 100

Investing in the FTSE 100

Ways to trade

Cash CFD, Futures CFD, Share CFDs

ETFs, Individual shares, funds

Market hours (London)

11:00PM Sunday - 09:59PM Friday (daily break: 9:15-9:30PM and 9:59PM-11:00PM)

*Trading CFD products with Axi

Monday - Friday 8:00AM - 4:30PM

*Investing in the FTSE 100 via LSE

Initial capital required 0.5% 100%
Losses can exceed deposits Yes No
Timeframe Short-term Medium to long term

 

What moves the FTSE 100?

There are a few things that move the FTSE 100, the main ones are listed here:

Economic data - While even foreign economic data has the potential to move the FTSE 100, the index will primarily be affected by local data. Depending on the nature of the data, some companies will be more affected, while others will be less or not affected at all. For example, rising interest rates would most likely affect the share price of financial services providers.

Economic events - Political events can have a significant impact on the local stock market, as we have seen with the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. Trade deals, foreign relations and geopolitical events also have the potential to move the FTSE 100.

Earnings reports - Earnings and forecasts released by the FTSE 100 constituents can have a notable impact on the value of the index, depending on the weight of the particular stock. For example, earnings figures from AstraZeneca will have a much larger impact than the earnings report from one of the constituents with less weight in the index.

Commodity prices - Commodity trading and mining companies make up more than 10% of the FTSE 100, so commodity price fluctuations can have an impact on the index.

Exchange rates - The British Pound has seen increased volatility since the Brexit referendum, and this can move the FTSE 100 too. A significant number of constituents are exporting their products to other countries, so a weaker Pound is good news for UK exporters.

What is the average return on the FTSE 100?

The FTSE 100 has achieved an annualised return of 4.8% over 5 years. As we can see from the FTSE 100 index factsheet, the FTSE 250 and the FTSE SmallCap have outperformed the FTSE 100, although investors must take into consideration that both indices have higher volatility.

What does the performance of the FTSE 100 show us?

The performance of the FTSE 100 is far from impressive when compared to some of its international peers - such as the Dow Jones in the United States or the DAX in Germany. Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic are certainly two major factors that have weighed on the performance of the FTSE 100. 

However, it is a fact that the FTSE 100 heavyweights consist of large companies in traditional industries such as pharmaceuticals, banking, mining and oil & gas. There are very few IT companies that could have made up for the poor performance of certain sectors such as financial services and oil & gas.

While the FTSE 100 is fairly stable and its constituents distribute solid dividends, investors looking to gain exposure to the UK stock market might also consider other indices such as the FTSE 250 and the FTSE Small Cap.

List of FTSE 100 companies

Ticker Company Name
ADM Admiral Group
AAL Anglo American
ANTO Antofagasta Holdings
AHT Ashtead Group plc
ABF Associated British Foods plc
AZN AstraZeneca plc
AUTO Auto Trader Group plc
AVV AVEVA Group plc
AV. Aviva plc
BA. BAE Systems plc
BARC Barclays plc
BDEV Barratt Developments plc
BKG Berkeley Group Holdings plc
BHP BHP Group Plc
BP. BP Plc
BATS British American Tobacco plc
BLND British Land Co plc
BT.A BT Group plc
BNZL Bunzl plc
BRBY Burberry Group plc
CCL Carnival plc
CNA Centrica plc
CCH Coca-Cola HBC AG
CPG Compass Group plc
CRH CRH plc
CRDA Croda International plc
DCC DCC plc
DGE Diageo plc
EVR Evraz plc
EXPN Experian Plc
FERG Ferguson plc
FLTR Flutter Entertainment
FRES Fresnillo
GSK GlaxoSmithKline plc
GLEN Glencore plc
HLMA Halma plc
HL. Hargreaves Lansdown plc
HIK Hikma Pharmaceuticals
HSX Hiscox Ltd
HSBA HSBC Holdings plc
IMB Imperial Brands Group
INF Informa plc
IHG InterContinental Hotels Group plc
IAG International Consolidated Airlines Group SA
ITRK Intertek Group plc
ITV ITV plc
JD. JD Sports Fashion plc
JMAT Johnson Matthey Plc
KGF Kingfisher
LAND Land Securities Group plc
LGEN Legal & General Group plc
LLOY Lloyds Banking Group plc
LSE London Stock Exchange Group plc
MNG M&G plc
MGGT Meggitt
MRO Melrose Industries plc
MNDI Mondi Plc
MRW Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets
NG. National Grid
NXT Next plc
NMC NMC Health Plc
OCDO Ocado Group plc
PSON Pearson plc
PSN Persimmon plc
PHNX Phoenix Group Holdings Plc
POLY Polymetal International plc
PRU Prudential plc
RB. Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc
REL RELX plc
RTO Rentokil Initial Plc
RMV Rightmove plc
RIO Rio Tinto plc
RR. Rolls Royce Holdings Plc
RBS Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc
RDSa Royal Dutch Shell Plc A Shares
RDSb Royal Dutch Shell Plc B Shares
RSA RSA Insurance Group
SGE Sage Group plc
SBRY Sainsbury (J) plc
SDR Schroders plc
SMT Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust
SGRO Segro Plc
SVT Severn Trent Plc
SN. Smith & Nephew plc
SMDS Smith (DS)
SMIN Smiths Group Plc
SKG Smurfit Kappa Group Plc
SPX Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc
SSE SSE plc
STJ St James's Place Plc
STAN Standard Chartered plc
SLA Standard Life Aberdeen Plc
TW. Taylor Wimpey plc
TSCO Tesco plc
TUI TUI AG
ULVR Unilever plc
UU. United Utilities Group Plc
VOD Vodafone Group plc
WTB Whitbread plc
WPP WPP plc

 

Looking to learn more about other indices:

 

Start index trading the FTSE 100 stock market index. Sign up for an Axi live trading account today!

 

 

 

The information is not to be construed as a recommendation; or an offer to buy or sell; or the solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security, financial product, or instrument; or to participate in any trading strategy. Readers should seek their own advice. Reproduction or redistribution of this information is not permitted.



Milan Cutkovic

Market Analyst, Axi

Milan Cutkovic has over eight years of experience in trading and market analysis across forex, indices, commodities, and stocks. He was one of the first traders accepted into the Axi Select program which identifies highly talented traders and assists them with professional development. Milan uses his extensive knowledge of financial markets to provide unique insights, commentary and market analysis.


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