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27 Mar 2020 | 16:37

London close: Stocks finish red as PM, health secretary test positive

(Sharecast News) - London stocks remained in the red by the close on Friday after three days of gains, with concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continuing to mount after the US overtook China for the most confirmed cases. The FTSE 100 ended the session down 5.25% at 5,510.33, and the FTSE 250 was 3.97% weaker at 14,769.80.

Sterling was stronger against both of its major trading pairs, rising 1.46% on the dollar to $1.2381 and gaining 1.1% against the euro to €1.1187.

Market participants were also confronted by the news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had tested positive for Covid-19, but was only experiencing mild symptoms.

"Equity markets are in the red amid the deepening health crisis," said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

"Italy, Spain and the US are in the spotlight in terms of confirmed cases.

"Today the EU leaders will hold a virtual summit to discuss the situation."

Madden said there had already been criticism levied at European leaders for a lack of coordination in tackling the pandemic.

"The absence of a strong united front is hanging over equity markets this morning. US lawmakers will vote again on the rescue package, and traders are hopeful it will get approved.

"As far as the UK market goes, it is a broad based sell-off as banks, natural resources, supermarket, travel, consumer goods and transport stocks are in the red."

In equity markets, shares of cruise operator Carnival sank 20.52%, while doorstep lender Provident Financial slid 13.03% after pulling its forward guidance and cancelling its dividend due to the pandemic.

Royal Mail was lower by 17.57% after warning that its parcels, international and letters business was likely to make a loss, while profitability at its European business GLS would be "significantly reduced" due Covid-19.

The company also suspended guidance for the 2021 financial year and beyond.

Housebuilders were under pressure after several big names announced the closure of their sites this week, with Redrow down 8.71% after becoming the latest to confirm closures of its sites and offices, as it said it was in talks with banks about securing more credit.

Online real estate agent Rightmove retreated 3.9% as it cancelled its dividend and pulled full-year guidance as due to uncertainties caused by the impact of Covid-19.

Both housebuilders and the estate agents sector were dragged by the news that the government was asking all house sellers and buyers to hit pause on their transactions, to avoid families having to move house during the lockdown.

Retailer Next fell 11.09% after saying it had shut its online, warehousing and distribution operations overnight after staff expressed concerns about working during the coronavirus lockdown.

Infrastructure group Balfour Beatty lost 4.05% after saying it has postponed the payment of its final dividend and that the main members of its board have agreed to take a 20% pay cut.

Energy supplier SSE was 9.44% weaker after saying earnings would be at the lower end of guidance given in January and that it would still pay its full-year dividend despite the impact of the coronavirus on markets.

Defence engineering firm Meggitt was down 8.12% after pulling its final dividend to save cash as the coronavirus pandemic hit its aerospace market.

Industrial thread manufacturer Coats Group reversed earlier losses to rise 2.59%, after saying it was scrapping its dividend and that it expects revenues to slide due to the outbreak.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 5,510.33 -5.25% FTSE 250 (MCX) 14,769.80 -3.97% techMARK (TASX) 3,246.41 -3.14%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,964.00p 5.14% Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 210.00p 2.09% Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,427.50p 1.78% United Utilities Group (UU.) 898.00p 0.94% Bunzl (BNZL) 1,513.50p 0.77% Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 6,012.00p 0.67% Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 180.15p 0.33% Pearson (PSON) 518.80p 0.15% Polymetal International (POLY) 1,299.50p -0.46% National Grid (NG.) 937.00p -0.50%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Carnival (CCL) 981.60p -20.52% Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) 6,550.00p -11.61% Next (NXT) 3,991.00p -11.09% Persimmon (PSN) 1,850.00p -11.01% Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 1,230.60p -10.44% Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 364.70p -10.00% Barclays (BARC) 97.37p -9.83% Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) 233.50p -9.50% SSE (SSE) 1,261.00p -9.44% Rentokil Initial (RTO) 361.90p -9.41%

FTSE 250 - Risers

CLS Holdings (CLI) 191.00p 8.34% Pollen Street Secured Lending (PSSL) 698.00p 5.44% C&C Group (CCR) 186.00p 4.38% Hyve Group (HYVE) 23.30p 4.29% FDM Group (Holdings) (FDM) 722.00p 3.88% Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 278.10p 3.00% GCP Infrastructure Investments Ltd (GCP) 105.60p 2.52% Chemring Group (CHG) 210.00p 2.44% Diploma (DPLM) 1,542.00p 2.32% International Public Partnerships Ltd. (INPP) 159.20p 2.31%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) 155.00p -17.82% Frasers Group (FRAS) 210.20p -17.63% Royal Mail (RMG) 133.50p -17.57% Capita (CPI) 31.88p -16.27% Kingfisher (KGF) 144.35p -14.86% Ibstock (IBST) 148.30p -14.33% Hammerson (HMSO) 85.50p -13.44% Cranswick (CWK) 3,478.00p -13.05% Provident Financial (PFG) 220.30p -13.03% Law Debenture Corp. (LWDB) 456.00p -12.64%
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