UK markets closed

FTSE falls as global traders keep eye on coronavirus outbreak

By August Graham, PA City Reporter

The FTSE 100 was the biggest loser among some of the world’s main markets, as a surging pound weighed on the index.

London’s top flight index closed the day down 19.06 points, or 0.27%, to 7,448.88.

It fell slightly faster than France’s Cac, which only just held above 6,000 points, 0.27% down, and the Dax in Germany, which fell 0.24%.

It came as the pound regained some of its losses against the dollar, after hitting a two-month low last Friday. It rose 0.18% to 1.2915 against the greenback. Against the euro the currency gained 0.49% to 1.1836.

NMC Health was the FTSE 100’s biggest riser on Monday (NMC Health/PA)

A rise in the value of sterling often puts downward pressure on the FTSE 100, which is heavily weighted towards exporters.

However, currency traders will now have their eyes on official statistics, due out tomorrow morning said Connor Campbell, an analyst at SpreadEx.

“The pound may find its rebound tested on Tuesday morning. The first glimpse at the UK’s Q4 growth is expected to come in at 0.0% against Q3’s 0.4% – however there is some reason to believe the economy actually contracted by 0.1% in the fourth quarter,” he said.

Stock traders are still firmly looking at coronavirus, as Apple dropped 1% in New York, after reports that smartphone sales are expected to drop significantly because of the outbreak.

“The bullish move of last week was mostly fuelled by the actions of Chinese state bodies – injecting liquidity, imposing shorting bans, and promising to cut import levies, but now that stock markets are left to fend for themselves, they are moving lower,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets.

The price of oil fell 1.54% to 53.6 US dollars per barrel.

In company news, shopping centre owner Intu was London’s second highest riser as it notched up a 3.92p share price hike, or 29.25%, after revealing it is in talks with a major Hong Kong-based retail property investor. It ended the day on 17.32p.

Intu, which is attempting to pay down its huge £5 billion debt pile, confirmed talks have taken place with Link Real Estate Investment Trust, following a report in the Sunday Times.

The company runs Lakeside in Essex and the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Despite Intu’s astronomical rise, it was narrowly pipped by NMC Health to the top of London’s risers. NMC was nursed back to health by the news that possible takeover might be in the offing. Its shares zoomed up the FTSE 100, adding 226.2p to 926.20, a stunning 32.31% rise.

It came as the hospital group’s chief executive was forced to stand down from the board and launch a legal review into exactly how much of the company he owns.

The business has been in trouble ever since short-seller Muddy Waters in December released a report accusing NMC of misusing funds.

Meanwhile, podcast business Audioboom, backed by property tycoon Nick Candy, has put itself up for sale, the company confirmed.

Bosses at the group, which produces podcasts for 90 million listeners a month, added that financial advisers have been hired to seek out potential buyers. Shares pushed up 20p to 242.5p, or a nearly 9% rise.

Urban Logistics REIT fell 5p to 144p as it announced plans to cash in on increasing demand for warehouses that can serve cities, as shopping habits continue to shift online.

The company has announced plans to kick off a £100 million fundraising drive in a bid to raise the money it needs to buy £146 million of assets.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were NMC Healthcare, up 226.2p to 926.2p, Barratt Developments, up 24.4p to 823.8p, Compass Group, up 39p to 1,990p, British Land, up 10.8p to 570p, and Hargreaves Lansdown, up 30p to 1,634.5p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Centrica, down 2.46p to 82.68p, Carnival, down 70p to 3,044p, Evraz, down 8.3p to 389.2p, Vodafone, down 3.04p to 150p, and Just Eat Takeaway, down 135p to 7,605p.