“A rebound was to be expected. A lot of the panic selling, a lot of the stale longs in gold and, by extension, gold miners, had already gone and so a lot of the easy selling was done.”
Mixed US economic data, hedge funds speculating in the futures market that the Ukrainian crisis will spur a flight to safety, and volatility in global equities have all sent gold higher in 2014, according to Mr Ash. However, while
the precious metals miners have risen in tandem in gold, the London stock market has moved in the opposite direction.
Many City analysts were predicting that the FTSE 100 would build on last year’s 14.4pc gain and break through its previous all-time high of 6,930.2, set on Dec 30, 1999, at the height of the dotcom bubble.
And while the benchmark index did come within touching distance of a record in late February, it has given up all of those gains and is down 1.8pc since the start of the year, closing at 6,625.25 last week.
The mid-cap FTSE 250 is also off 0.2pc at 15,907.91, after jumping 28.8pc last year.
Fears of another tech bubble are one reason for the stock market’s disappointing form.
There has been a rash of flotations this year and internet-focused retailers, including AO World and Just Eat, have come to the market on very rich valuations. But worries that tech stocks are overvalued have shaken investors on both sides of the Atlantic in recent weeks and sparked a sell-off in other high-growth, momentum shares.
Online grocery delivery group Ocado has tumbled 20.7pc to 350.2p. Equipment rental group Ashtead is another that has been under pressure. Although the shares are up 19.4pc at 907.5p since the start of the year, they have fallen away from the record 983p touched in early April.
“If you get a broad-brush markdown of the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 it tends to be those racier stocks, or best-performing stocks, which are going to be in the firing line first because it gives investors the opportunity to take some profits,” said Richard Hunter, the head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown.
Russian intervention in Ukraine and mounting violence in the region has also set investors’ nerves on edge and worries about the potential impact of Western sanctions have weighed on individual shares.
Conferences and events business ITE Group, which generates some 65pc of its profits from Russia, has plunged 29.1pc to 217.8p.
Similarly, shares in mid-cap Russian steel producer Evraz, in which Roman Abramovich is a major investor, have dropped 18.6pc to 91.1p.
In the FTSE 100, the grocers are among London’s biggest losers so far this year, hit hard by the price war that has erupted between the “Big Four” supermarket groups as a result of the rise of discounters Aldi and Lidl.
Wm Morrison, which sounded a huge profit warning in March, has slumped 22.8pc to 201.4p, while Tesco is down 13.4pc at 289.7p and J Sainsbury is off 14pc at 314p.
Hurt by the tax increase on fixed-odds betting terminals that was announced in the Budget, bookmaker William Hill and its mid-cap peer Ladbrokes have also tumbled 19.9pc to 322.1p and 26.9pc to 130.7p respectively.
Fears that the Government would act to curb so-called “crack-cocaine” gambling machines had already dragged on the bookies’ shares in the months before the tax was announced. Mecca Bingo owner Rank Group, however, benefited from the halving of the duty on the game and is up 17.3pc to 158.4p.
Insurers, too, have been a major casualty of the Budget after the Chancellor scrapped the requirement that retirees must use pension pots to buy annuities.
Analysts said the unexpected move would effectively wipe out the individual annuities industry, with RBC Capital Markets estimating that the market would shrink by 90pc.
Annuities specialists Partnership Assurance, off 56.4pc at 127.9p, and Just Retirement, down 29pc at 149.1p, took the brunt of the hit. Both only floated last year.
Worries about a regulatory review into life insurance policies and a cap on pension fees have also put pressure on the larger life insurers: Resolution, the company behind Friends Life, is down 18.3pc at 289.3p, Legal & General is 5.4pc lower at 210.7p and Prudential is off 1.2pc at £13.24.
But while the insurers and, more broadly, the FTSE 100 have failed to meet investor expectations so far this year, market strategists remain upbeat.
Analysts at Deutsche Bank this month said they still expect the FTSE 100 to end 2014 at 7,500, with the many companies in the index that generate the majority of their earnings abroad benefiting from a recovery in the emerging markets.
The first-quarter earnings season, which is in full-swing on both sides of the Atlantic, may also act as a catalyst and “surprise to the upside because expectations have been marked down”, said Mr Hunter.
“If we do end up having had a strong first-quarter reporting season that could give the market its next leg up”.