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Coronavirus panic sees markets resume steep sell-off

By Holly Williams, PA Deputy City Editor

Global markets have resumed their coronavirus sell-off as panic over the unstoppable spread of the outbreak sent stocks tumbling into the red.

The FTSE 100 Index plunged more than 200 points lower – down around 3.3% – after an older patient became the first person in the UK to die after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

It was also a sea of red across Europe as the Cac 40 tumbled nearly 4% and Germany Dax was 3.5% lower, which followed heavy overnight stock market falls on Wall Street in America and across Asia.

The falls follow a 110-point drop on the top-flight share index in London on Thursday, which brought to a halt a three-day bounceback among UK equities as officials said Britain is edging towards a widescale coronavirus outbreak.

Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, said: “With no signs of the outbreak slowing down… investors remain gripped with a near unshakeable panic, the week’s various central bank rate cuts only serving to reinforce the seriousness of the situation.”

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, added that investors are fretting about the possibility of a global recession caused by coronavirus.

He said: “Non-stop news headlines about the spread of coronavirus has caused investors to be very concerned about a global recession.

“This tension is likely to remain front and centre until we get some evidence that the virus can be contained.”

Hotel and travel stocks were once again among the worst hit in the latest leg of the coronavirus sell-off, with Holiday Inn owner InterContinental Hotels and Premier Inn group Whitbread both down 6% on London’s FTSE 100.

Tour operator Tui was 5% lower, with cruise ship giant Carnival tumbling 6% as demand for bookings slumps amid a wave of cancellations from worried holidaymakers.

Carnival’s woes were compounded by news of another cruise liner, the Grand Princess, being stranded off San Francisco.

Airlines have also been badly impacted, with the collapse of Flybe raising fears that other vulnerable players may go bust in the fallout from coronavirus.

In London, British Airways owner International Airlines Group and low-cost rival easyJet both saw shares drop 5%.

Blue chip oil giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell were also suffering share losses – falling nearly 4% each – as the cost of crude extended recent declines, with Brent down another 4% at just under 48 US dollars a barrel.