March 5, 2020 / 8:41 AM / a month ago

London stocks end winning run as virus fears spread panic

(Reuters) - London’s bluechip index ended its three-day winning streak on Thursday, with investors spooked by concerns over global economic growth as more businesses were bruised by the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: Brokers work on the trading floor during BGC's charity day at their Canary Wharf offices in London September 12, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

The FTSE 100 index .FTSE fell 1.6% and the mid-cap index .FTMC closed the session 2.1% lower.

The fall in the top index was led by broadcaster ITV (ITV.L), which slumped 12% after it warned of lower ad revenue in April.

Cruise operators Carnival’s London-listed shares (CCL.L) sank 7.3% after its Grand Princess ocean liner was barred from returning to its home port of San Francisco on coronavirus fears after at least 20 people aboard fell ill.

Asia-focussed bank Standard Chartered (STAN.L), housebuilder Persimmon (PSN.L), and miners BHP Group (BHPB.L) and Rio Tinto (RIO.L), which were all trading without dividend entitlement, dropped between 4.7% and 7.1%.

Britain’s stock markets have rebounded since Monday following their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis, as early evidence of the economic hit from the outbreak spurred hopes of monetary stimulus from central banks. [MKTS/GLOB]

Signs of economic damage continues to pile up, however, with British regional airline Flybe a high profile casualty on Thursday as it shut operations just a month after a publicly-sanctioned rescue.

“RUNNING FOR THE HILLS”

Shares in British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L) fell 5.3%, while EasyJet (EZJ.L) was 4.4% lower after an industry body warned that the coronavirus epidemic could rob passenger airlines of up to $113 billion in revenue this year, more than three times a projection it made just two weeks ago.

“Health fears have ramped up again and traders are running for the hills. Even though governments along with international bodies have pledged huge sums of money to help combat the health crisis, dealers are still scared,” CMC Markets analyst David Madden, said.

“It is as if the more money is thrown at the problem, the more nervous dealers become - the intervention acts as an indication of weakness,” he added.

A surprise interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday pumped yet more money into financial institutions but it also added to a growing sense of panic among investors coddled by a decade of constant stock market gains.

The IMF now predicts that global GDP could see its slowest growth since 2008-2009 this year and Deutsche Bank analysts on Thursday cut their forecast for British economic growth in 2020 to just 0.5%.

Deutsche Bank’s economists outlined a range of expected official responses to the outbreak, including two cuts in interest rates by the Bank of England by May.

“You’ve got additional virus cases in the UK, California declaring an emergency – that has again got people on edge,” Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said.

On the midcap index, UK outsourcer Capita Plc (CPI.L) sank almost 40% on signs its restructuring drive would require more capital.

Additional reporting by Shivani Kumaresan and C Nivedita in Bengaluru; Editing by Sagarika Jaisinghani and Patrick Graham and Angus MacSwan

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