By Shashwat Awasthi and Muvija M
(Reuters) - London's main share index bounced back from a seven-week low on Monday, as strong U.S. economic data kept in check worries about the coronavirus, but gains for UK-focused midcaps were limited by concerns about the possibility of Britain having no trade deal in place with the EU by the end of the year.
On the first trading day after Britain's formal departure from the European Union, the FTSE 100 <.FTSE> added 0.6% but the more domestically exposed FTSE 250 <.FTMC> rose just 0.1%.
Data showing an unexpected rebound in U.S. factory activity in January after five consecutive months of contraction offered some confidence to markets that have been plagued by fears of a global slowdown and the coronavirus epidemic.
The FTSE 100 was also supported by exporters such as spirits company Diageo <DGE.L> and HSBC <HSBA.L> as the pound slipped.
With the European Union and Britain tussling over a post-Brexit deal on Monday ahead of talks scheduled for March, the currency weakened as investors grew nervous about the viability of a smooth trade deal between the two post divorce.
Still, British indexes, like other major global ones, were in stark contrast to those in China, where stocks plunged in the first trading session following an extended Lunar New Year break, as the death toll from the virus outbreak rose to 361 in the Asian country.
"As yet the spread of the virus has not reached epidemic levels in Europe or the U.S., but we are entering a key period now and a sharp escalation in cases closer to home would spook the markets," Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson said.
Though a sharp drop in stock valuations due to the epidemic has made for a more attractive entry point for some dealers, the broader impact has been firmly negative.
Both British benchmark indexes shed more than 3% last month as the outbreak sapped risk appetite.
London-listed shares of Ryanair <RYA.L> jumped 7% on Monday after the Irish carrier raised its annual profit forecast, citing a better-than-expected performance over the holidays.
Shares of blue-chip peer easyJet <EZJ.L> advanced 3%.
But NMC Health <NMC> plunged 20% in the same index, although the reason for the fall was not immediately clear.
The healthcare firm has lost 60% in value after coming under attack from U.S. shortseller Muddy Waters late last year.
Among midcaps, Future <FUTR.L> gained 4.1% after the publisher forecast its full-year results to be materially ahead of market expectations. Small-cap peer Reach Plc <RCH.L> also rose more than 6%.
A notable loser was payments firm Finablr <FINF.L>, which gave up almost 8%. Its unit Travelex said on Friday it had partially restored its UK website, more than a month after a crippling ransomware attack.
Brokerage EFG Hermes also downgraded Finablr, which has lost more than half its value since the attack in December.
(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)