Panic pushes markets from ‘bad to worse to awful’
28 February 2020, 17:44
Coronavirus fears have gripped markets all week.
The global market rout continued on Friday, as traders stampeded away from stocks across Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Most major stock exchanges around the world ended the day deep in the red, with European indices leading the way.
In the UK, the FTSE 100, dropped another 3.2%, bringing its weekly losses to almost 13%, and wiping £58 billion off the exchange on Friday alone.
It closed the day down 215.79 points to 6580.61 – its lowest level in more than three-and-a-half years.
Paris index Cac and Germany’s Dax fared worse still, down 3.4% and 3.9% respectively.
In the US, the Dow Jones fell 3% as European markets closed, after falling by more than 1,000 points at one point during the week.
The news brings the FTSE 100 to its lowest level since just after the EU referendum in June 2016. It is the biggest one-week fall the FTSE has seen since the financial crisis in October 2008.
“Equity markets in Europe have gone from bad to worse to awful as the selling pressure has gained momentum all week,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets.
“What started out as a tumble on Monday has turned into panic selling as traders are terrified about the possibility of Europe undergoing an economic slowdown or a possible recession because of the coronavirus.
“The fear of the unknown is causing traders to lose their nerve and just cut and run as far as stocks are concerned.”
Sterling lost 0.95% against the dollar to 1.2763, while it fell 0.92% to buy 1.1603 euros. Brent crude oil fell 3.6% to 49.5 dollars per barrel, gold was down 3.5% to 1586.6 dollars per ounce.
In company news, coronavirus featured heavily as Plus500 said recent volatility in the markets driven by the outbreak has helped to drive strong figures for the first quarter of 2020.
Its shares rose 77.2p, or 8.9%, to 949.6p on the news, making it one of the new gainers on London’s markets.
The firm was joined in positive territory by Foxtons, the estate agent, which rose 1.5p to 79.9p as it revealed that pre-tax loss for last year narrowed to £8.8 million from £17.2 million in 2018, after it reduced its operating costs.
Rolls Royce’s engine also revved up as the Trent-1000 maker managed to fly through the market turbulence, posting a 19.4p rise to 620p. It revealed that its loss had narrowed from £1.16 billion in 2018 to £852 million last year.
The turbulence continued to batter easyJet, which has been suffering all week. Shares fell 9.5p to 1,100.5p – ending the week around 30% down.
Bosses at the budget airline said it will be cancelling flights as a result of the continued spread of coronavirus.
But its rival IAG, which owns British Airways, fared much worse as it warned earnings have been hit by “weaker demand” as a result of the virus. Shares crashed by 43.4p, or 8.4%, to 472p. They have lost 24% of their value in a week.
And the London Stock Exchange Group itself was hammered as it reported that profit before tax hit £651 million in 2019, a drop from 2018’s £685 million, on revenue of around £2.05 billion, a 7.6% rise. Shares were down 234p to 7,576p.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Rolls Royce, up 19.4p at 620p; Kingfisher, up 3.3p at 189.35p; Carnival, up 38p at 2,435p; BT Group, up 2.12p at 141.62p; and Johnson Matthey, up 30p at 2,511p.
The biggest fallers on the index were TUI, down 55.8p at 600p; IAG, down 43.4p at 472p; Polymetal International, down 100.5p at 1,194p; Hikma, down 122p at 1,788p; and DS Smith, down 21.2p at 314.2p.