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What to watch: Insurers told to pay out over COVID-19, Quiz reopens, and 888 profits dive

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A general view of the Legal & General headquarters office in the City of London. (Tim Ireland/PA Images via Getty Images)

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

Insurers told to pay out over COVID-19

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has written to insurance companies telling them not to delay pay outs to business-owners covered for COVID-19 disruption.

FCA interim chief executive Christopher Woolard said in a letter to chief executives that most businesses are unlikely to be covered for pandemic interruption. However, those that are should receive money quickly to ensure they can continue operating through the lockdown.

“A key objective of the FCA is to ensure that financial pressures on policyholders are not exacerbated by slow payment, rather, such claims should be paid as soon as is possible,” Woolard wrote.

Shares in Aviva (AV.L) were down 3.8%, shares in Legal & General (LGEN.L) were down 3.4%, RSA (RSA.L) was down 2.8%, and Hiscox (HSX.L) was down 8%.

Quiz reopens

Fast fashion retailer Quiz’s (QUIZ.L) stock leapt higher after the company said it was reopening some of its business.

Quiz said on Wednesday it had put in place social distancing measures at its warehouse and has now fully reopened its online store.

“The group has significantly reduced the number of employees working in the distribution centre at any given time to enable strict social distancing,” the company said.

“A number of additional safety measures have also been implemented, including deep cleaning and the provision of personal protection equipment in order to keep its employees safe and protected.”

Shares jumped 13.9%.

888 profit dives

Gambling group 888’s (888.L) profits more than halved last year, as higher taxes hit the business.

Pre-tax profit slid to $45.3m (£36m) in 2019, down from $108.7m (£86.5m) the year before. The side came as the company faced higher gaming duties on its online casinos.

“Despite the headwinds of significantly increased gaming duties and challenging conditions in some of our global markets, 888 delivered a resilient financial performance during 2019 reflecting the strength of our unique combination of technology, compliance and diversification across regulated markets,” chief executive Itai Pazner said in a statement.

“We entered 2020 with a record level of customers and the trends reported in our update on 24 March 2020 have continued in the year to date.”

Shares were trading 4.7% lower.

Asset managers slide

Shares in asset management businesses sunk on Wednesday morning after a disappointing update from Jupiter Asset Management.

Jupiter’s stock fell 6.3% after the company said investors had pulled £2.3bn of money from its funds in the first three months of 2020. £2.6bn has been withdrawn from Merian Asset Management, which Jupiter is in the process of taking over.

Other money managers fell on the update, amid concern that Jupiter’s withdrawals are a sign of wider trouble in the industry. Ashmore (ASHM.L) fell 7%, Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA.L) fell 4.7%, Quilter (QLT.L) fell 4%, and Investec (INVP.L) dropped 6.8%.

European stocks slide as Trump defunds WHO

European stock markets opened lower on Wednesday, as the global COVID-19 pandemic continued to dominate investor attention.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) opened down 1.5% in London after an hour, while the DAX (^GDAXI) was down 1.5% in Frankfurt and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) in Paris was 0.4% lower. The Euronext 100 (^N100) was down 1.2%.

The slide came amid an absence of major economic news or signs of significant progress tackling the global coronavirus pandemic.

There are now 1.98 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to John Hopkins University, and just over 126,000 people globally have died from the disease.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned on Tuesday that the global pandemic is likely to cause the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s and do lasting damage to the global economy.

Overnight in the US, President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has been coordinating and advising countries on the national response to COVID-19.

US stock futures were pointing to a lower open later today in New York. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were down 1.4%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) were down 1.4%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were off 1.1%.

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