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  • FTSE 100 closes 215 points down; IAG top loser
  • Dow Jones and other US indices crumble
  • On the Beach issues profit warning

5.30pm: FTSE 100 has £210bn wiped off in a week

FTSE 100 index continued the bloodbath on Friday, joining other global markets in freefall, tanking over 215 points to reach a three-and-a-half year low as coronavirus continues to cause panic.

Over the week as a whole, an eye-watering £210 billion has been wiped off the value of Britain’s blue-chip benchmark, while over £260 billion was eroded from FTSE 350.

On Friday, Footsie ended at 6,580, down over 215 points, or 3.17%. That’s a drop of 11.1% over the five days since market open on February 24.

“For the FTSE 100, February 2019 will join an inauspicious group of months that includes September and October 2008, the very peak of the financial crisis, and August 1998, when the Russian financial crisis was in full swing.” noted Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online trader IG, who added there was certainly no sign of any traders ‘buying the dip’ as yet.

“This week itself is the worst since the beginning of 2010, outshining even August 2018, when the opening days of the month witnessed an almost 10% drop thanks to the US debt ceiling crisis.”

David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets, added: “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.”

Top loser on Footsie on the day was British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG), which was also the fifth biggest FTSE 350 laggard over the week, down 9.62% on the day and 24.8% on the  week respectively.

The biggest FTSE 350 loser over the week  was SIG (LON:SIG), which dropped 28.8%, closely followed by Playtech (LON:PTEC), which shed 27.4%.

Budget carrier EasyJet (LON:EZJ) dropped 27.3% over the five days, while peer Wizz Air Holdings PLC (LON:WIZZ) fell 22.9%.

Indeed there were only five gainers over the week on FTSE 350. Plus 500 (LON;PLUS) added 12%, NMC Health (LON:NMC) was up 9.7%, Pollen Street (LON:PSSL) added 4.8%, Hunting (LON:HTG) gained 2.7% and NextEnergy Solar (LON:NESF) nudged up 0.2%.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  plunged nearly 700 points at 25,068, putting it on track to be the fifth worst week in its 124 year history, while the S&P 500 shed over 65 points at 2,913.

There is a huge sense of panic among personal investors at the moment. which doesn’t help matters. Chief investment officer Paras Anand at Fidelity was quoted as saying that ‘fear’ and emotional reactions were “not particularly good at keeping investments out of harm’s way”.

3.05pm: US blue-chips battered

US indices have opened even lower than expected and this seems to have had a knock-on effect in London, where the Footsie is sliding again.

The Dow Jones was down 897 points (3.5%) at 24,870 for the same reason all the other global indices are falling – corona, corona is the song – and the S&P 500 was off 102 points (3.4%) at 2,877.

In Blighty, the FTSE 100 was down 240 points (3.5%) at 6,557.

Holiday booking web site operator On the Beach PLC (LON:OTB) has belatedly woken up to the nervousness engendered by the spread of the coronavirus.

The shares fell 5% to 315p as the company issued a profit warning, which came at 2.15pm rather than the more traditional 7.00am.

The company said the reduction in demand for holidays has accelerated significantly following the increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe, particularly the spread of the virus to Tenerife.

On a day when the Nationwide House Price Index indicated UK house prices were rising at the fastest pace in 18 months, full-year results from estate agents Foxtons Group PLC (LON:FOXT) got a warm response.

It said its sales pipeline is fuller than it was this time last year.

As for those house prices, Marc von Grundherr, a director of Benham and Reeves, said it was an extremely strong start to the year for the houding market but the COVID019 pandemic could yet upset the applecart.

“At this stage and while UK cases remain few and far between it remains unlikely. Foreign investors at the very highest level might be pausing to take stock which can naturally have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the market, but it’s probably not one that will be felt by the average UK home buyer or seller.

“The reality is, a potential Mansion Tax via next month’s budget is far more likely to dent the sentiment of London’s high-end foreign investors in particular, although they are arguably best placed to stomach such a hit,” he said.

2.05pm: First coronavirus-related British death reported

A British man has died aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship from the coronavirus.

He is the first British person to die from contracting the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization has warned that the coronavirus could reach most “if not all countries”. The statement came after five more countries – Nigeria, Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Lithuania – all reported their first cases of patients contracting the virus.

In the markets, the FTSE 100 has cut its decline to less than 200 points – a small psychological boost for investors itching to get back in the market.

The index was down 198 points (2.9%) at 6,598 45 minutes or so ahead of the US open, where the Dow Jones industrial average is expected to open at around 25,185, 575 points down from last night’s close. The S&P 500 is seen opening 69 points lower at 2,910.

“It has been hard to make a call on when this equity correction will turn, especially after such a long period of low-volatility gains; however, central banks will be carefully monitoring financial conditions and step in if they fear self-enforcing trends and market dislocation emerging,”commented ING Economics.

“We would monitor that amongst other stress variables for signs that central banks could step in with a co-ordinated rate cut, as they did in October 2008. For the time being, however, we expect financial asset prices to stay under pressure,” it added.

ING Economics also gave a heads-up to investors that China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index for February is due to be released tomorrow.

The consensus forecast is for a reading of 45; any level below 50 indicates a contraction in activity.

“The last time we saw something around this level was during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis,” said Iris Pang, ING’s economist covering Greater China.

“Throughout most of February, most factories were not in operation, but copper refineries were busy churning out production. For example, 83.4% of non-ferrous metal production companies resumed operation around 19 February and almost 90.5% resumed by 27 February, according to China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association.

“But things could be worse. Without the state-owned-enterprises continuous metal production, manufacturing PMI could be much worse,” Pang said.

“As more factories resume operation, we expect manufacturing PMI to pick up above 50 in March, but this does not mean that we are optimistic about industrial production,” the economist added.

“In our view, we will need to wait until April to see factories in China operating at normal capacity and after that, we expect China to speed up its 5G infrastructure production.”

1.00pm: Be greedy when others are fearful … or possibly be afraid; very afraid

Never mind reports of more coronavirus outbreaks, we’ve had what may be the first sighting of the phrase “buying opportunity” since markets plunged.

The number of Footsie constituents on the rise has now grown to four, including easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ), which earlier today was down more than 4%; the low-cost airline has edged up 5p to 1,115p as bargain hunters start to take an interest in the battered stock.

The Footsie was down 220 points (3.2%) at 6,576 – the sort of level that might prove “an important buying opportunity”, according to Nigel Green, the chief executive (CEO) of de Vere Group, an independent financial advisor.

“The worst global market sell-off since the 2008 crash will almost certainly become an important buying opportunity for many investors,” Green asserted.

“With markets on the brink of correction territory, panic-selling, mispricing of high-quality equities, and lower entry points, this could turn out to be one of the key buying opportunities in the last 10 years.

“Some of the most successful investors will embrace volatility to create, maximise and protect their wealth,” he added,

Kim Fournais, the founder and CEO of Saxo Bank takes a slightly different view.

“Right now, we are seeing some very worrying trends in global financial markets, and I am truly concerned about where we are heading. The spread of coronavirus strikes fear into the markets and reveals that the recent bull years are built on a very fragile foundation. As Nouriel Roubini recently wrote, coronavirus can be the spark that – along with many others and long-ignored challenges – could start an avalanche,” Fournais wrote.

“We have long been part of the largest monetary policy experiment in history. With central banks increasingly looking to stimulate the economy, we are experiencing one of the most paradoxical and dangerous phenomena I have experienced in my time working with the financial markets: negative interest rates.

“On the surface, the situation can look promising. Markets have been rallying over the past few years and pension savers and others with investments have received good returns. At the same time, low-interest rates have benefited the people who are in the housing market and have access to lending,” he added, likening the property investment boom to a Ponzi Scheme.

“What happens if investors someday want to get out of liabilities where they have actually lent out their money for thirty years with virtually no yield? What if the market realises that it might be a bad idea to lend money essentially free of charge to people who might not pay back?” he asks, presumably before rushing off to watch a re-run of the film, “The Big Short”.

12.15pm: Former Barclays executives acquitted in fraud trial

In case you were thinking of going to The Geneva Motor Show, it has been cancelled following Switzerland’s ban on large gatherings.

The ban, of course, is related to efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 100’s tentative morning rally stretched through to noon, with the index down 201 points (03.0%) at 6,595.

“Equity markets have finally caught up with what the bond markets have been signalling, which is the clear threat of global recession as the coronavirus spreads and results in further disruption of supply chains, reductions in demand out output,” commented Neil MacKinnon, a global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

“Until there is a vaccine, the coronavirus will spread and market volatility we persist. US equities have made a 10% correction and it can easily end up being a 20%+ correction or “crash”. The US 10 year Treasury yield has now fallen to a record low and further declines are likely,” he added.

We may not have a vaccine but we do at least have a diagnostic test for the virus. Shares in Novacyt SA (LON:NCYT), which has developed the test, have shot up from 16p a month ago to 147.5p this morning.

The stock price got another boost today, lifting the shares 32.5p, from the signing of a major distribution agreement in Asia for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) test developed by Primerdesign, its molecular diagnostics division.

The company has also bagged an original equipment manufacturer agreement with a US healthcare group.

In other news, three former top executives at banking giant Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) have been cleared of all fraud charges brought against them by the Serious Fraud Office.

The allegations related to how Barclays had avoided a government bailout (and therefore having the government on its shareholder register) at the time of the credit crunch in 2008 by securing finance from various sovereign wealth funds, including Qatar’s.

11.20am: Blue-chip prices stabilise

The old stock market adage is “never try to catch a falling knife” and as knives go, this one is particularly sharp.

Nonetheless, there are signs that London’s blue-chips are regaining some composure. The FTSE 100 is down 214 points (3.1%) at 6,584 and is faring better than Germany’s DAX (down 3.8%), after German Health Minister Jens Spahn intimated yesterday that the virus outbreak in the country was moving to a new phase.

Helal Miah, an investment research analyst at The Share Centre, said the “incessant downward spiral of the market is more reminiscent of the financial crisis than any other bouts of turbulence we’ve had in the remarkable uptrend over the last ten years”.

“Comparisons to other spreads of disease are difficult; SARS, MERS and Ebola were largely contained in far-flung places, Covid-19 has impacted a much bigger Chinese economy than SARS in 2003, Covid-19 seems to spread far more easily and it is here in the West,” he noted.

“The big fear is to what extent the authorities react, will they shut down transport hubs, businesses and schools? At the moment it seems the West will not react as drastically as the Chinese have but it will play on consumer’s minds with many opting to stay away from places of gathering, high streets, restaurants and bars as well as putting off travel plans. No surprise that the market slide has been led by the travel companies with EasyJet down by nearly 30% over a week,” he added.

“With the markets already down by 11% over a week, those who haven’t already sold have obviously made losses and need to reconsider whether selling now is to risk missing out from a future recovery. A recovery will come but it may not necessarily be V shaped but more likely a U shape since the virus in the West is still spreading and we do not know the full economic fallout; however, the longer it takes to get over this crisis the more likely we are to see certain economies who are already weak, go into recession, I’m thinking Germany and Italy as most likely,” Miah said.

10.50am: It’s everywhere you look

Traders’ screens remain a sea of red with nary a bullish contrarian to be seen.

The only consolation is that since hitting a nadir of 6,482 around half-past nine, the FTSE 100 has rallied to 6,583, although it remains 223 points (3.3%) lower on the day.

“The bearish stampede continues as traders are terrified the health crisis will cause a halt in economic activity across Europe. The rate of infections are spreading across Continental Europe, and most notably in Germany,” reported CMC’s David Madden.

“The DAX is hovering around the 11,800 mark as the nation is the latest country to be gripped by the health emergency – 1,000 people have been quarantined. The German manufacturing sector has been in contraction for over one year, so what could the industry look like should the country endure a potential lock-down on the back of the coronavirus crisis?” he asked.

Pantheon Macroeconomics has helpfully collated the stats on the spread of the virus and provided the following one-line summary: new cases outside of China are accelerating rapidly.

The total number of cases globally rose by 1,359 yesterday, accelerating from the 911 average over the previous five days, the forecasting unit reported.

The number of cases in China rose by 433 but at least the trend is stable where cases outside of China rose by 926 and the trend here is accelerating, particularly in South Korea and Italy – the two countries suffering the biggest coronavirus outbreaks outside of China.

The number of cases outside China, South Korea and Italy rose by 219,000 and the trend is accelerating, Pantheon warned.

Returning to more parochial matters, Pantheon’s chief UK economist, Samuel Tombs, noted that the Nationwide’s house price index rose 2.3% year-on-year in February, bang in line with consensus.

“Other surveys suggest that this momentum will be largely maintained. Asking prices rose at a 2.9% year-over-year rate in February, according to Rightmove,” Tombs noted.

“In addition, the RICS Residential Market Survey showed that the largest net balance of surveyors for four years in January expected house prices to rise over the next three months. We do not think that affordability is so stretched that the market will lose momentum soon. While the current 4.98 house-price-to-earnings ratio for first-time buyers remains well above its 35-year average, 3.76, it has fallen from its Q3 2016 peak of 5.25. Moreover, interest payments absorb a record low share of incomes, thanks to the fall in mortgage rates,” Tombs said.

“With no increase in mortgage rates on the horizon and wage growth set to remain strong this year, we expect house prices to rise by about 4.0% over the course of this year,” he predicted.

Lucy Pendleton of estate agent James Pendleton said another peril now threatens the house price revival; no prizes for guessing what that is …

“Until a week ago, this year still looked like it was going to be a turning point after a decade of weak sales but coronavirus has thrown all that into doubt,” Pendleton said.

“Not even a week has passed since the virus began to prompt the worst stock market sell-off since the financial crisis so it’s very difficult to tell what effect it will have on consumer confidence in the property market.

“It’s a key test of people’s resolve to finally transact, with the market having to contend with what is the third major threat to economic sentiment in as many months, after a general election in December and Brexit a month ago.

“Huge movements in the valuations of stock market indices will have only caught the tail end of the Nationwide data. If the frightening headlines continue into March, it’s inevitable that this crisis will have some effect on buyers’ attitudes as they watch the value of their other assets shrink. The extent of this will only become clear in a month’s time,” she cautioned.

10.30am: Invest in bricks and mortar

It’s still not safe for equity investors to come out from behind the sofa, although the Footsie has at least shifted from its intra-day low.

London’s index of blue-chip stocks was down 258 points (3.8%) at 6,538, having slumped as low at 6,482 at one point.

The equity market is not something you’d want to bet your house on at the moment so it is probably just as well that according to the Nationwide Building Society, UK house prices have grown at their strongest rate (on a year-on-year basis) for 18 months.

The mortgage lender’s house price index rose 0.3% (seasonally adjusted) in February to 435.8. The annual increase widened to 2.3% from 1.9% in January.

The average UK house price rose to £216,092 from £215,897, according to Nationwide’s figures.

“While overall economic growth ground to a halt in the final three months of 2019, labour market conditions remained buoyant and borrowing costs low. The decisive election outcome may have provided a boost to buyer sentiment,” suggested Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist.

“Recent data releases indicate that the housing market has gathered momentum in recent months and the latest house price figures are in line with that trend. The number of residential property transactions and mortgages approved for house purchase increased around the turn of the year and surveyors have reported an increase in new buyer enquiries.

“Looking ahead, economic developments will remain the key driver of housing market trends and house prices. Business surveys suggest that activity recovered in the New Year, but there are still significant uncertainties that threaten to exert a drag on the economy in the coming quarters,” he warned.

9.20am: Bloodbath continues

It is possible that the stock market was long overdue a correction but right now it is looking more like punishment than corrective action.

The coronavirus has equity investors in its grip; news agency Reuters reported this morning that two more cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Kuwait, taking the official number of infections in the country up to 45.

WATCH: Morning Report: BA owner IAG takes hit as it cuts back on more flights due to coronavirus

Meanwhile, while British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (LON:IAG) has lowered its earnings guidance to reflect the impact of the virus, low-cost rival easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) has said it will cancel some of its European flights, particularly those to and from Italy, and has warned of slower demand across the continent as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Shares in easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) have been hammered this week – a week ago they were trading at 1,508.5p – such that a 4.6% fall today to 1,058.5p barely seems newsworthy.

Package tour operator TUI AG (LON:TUI), down 6.2% at 615.4p, has taken some collateral damage from the gloomy updates by IAG and easyJet.

The FTSE 100 attempted a rally 10 minutes into the trading session but this has fizzled out and the index is now down 250 points (3.7%) at 6,546.

8.50am: In a tailspin

The Footsie remained in a tailspin in early trade on Friday, led lower by British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (LON:IAG).

The index of leading shares was down 195 points (2.9%) at 6,601.

IAG was the big faller, shedding 8% at 474.3p after it lowered profits guidance to reflect the fall-out from the coronavirus disruption.

Aerospace engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.) was the only blue-chip to defy the trend, adding 4.3% at 626.4p after its losses narrowed in 2019.

“The outbreak of coronavirus represents a macro risk and is likely to have an impact on air traffic growth in the near term; however long term growth trends remain intact,” the company said.

Proactive news headlines:

Avation PLC (LON:AVAP), the commercial passenger aircraft leasing company saw half-year revenues hit a record level in the back end of 2019. Revenue in the six months to the end of December surged to US$67.61mln, up from US$58.73mln the year before.

United Oil & Gas PLC (LON:UOG) shares were steady at open on Friday following the completion of its deal to acquire Rockhopper Exploration PLC’s (LON:RKH) Egyptian business, securing revenue generating production for the AIM-quoted firm. “Completing the Acquisition of Rockhopper Egypt represents a significant milestone in the development of United, establishing the company as a full-cycle E&P company, and putting us in a strong position for further growth,” said Brian Larkin, United chief executive.

Shanta Gold PLC (LON:SHG) reaffirmed production guidance for the current year as revenues and cashflow jumped sharply. The Tanzania-focused gold miner generated revenues of US$113mln (US$104mln) in 2019 as production rose to 84,500oz.

AFC Energy PLC (LON:AFC) chief executive Adam Bond, in financial results for 2019, described a “clear and ever-growing momentum” behind hydrogen as a means of decarbonising the UK’s current and future energy mix. “With the successes and achievements delivered by AFC Energy over these same twelve months, we are well positioned to capitalise on this growth market, particularly in support of the transition away from diesel engines in both motive and stationary applications towards clean hydrogen-based alternatives,” Bond said.

Benchmark Holdings PLC (LON:BMK) is planning to accelerate its restricting and cost savings plans as it reiterated that it anticipates meeting expectations for its full year. In an outlook statement accompanying its results for the three months ended 31 December, the AIM-listed firm said trends in its genetics and health business continue to be positive and that following a £42mln fundraising on Thursday it is “in a stronger financial position” to prepare for the launch of its BMK08 sea lice treatment.

MetalNRG PLC (LON:MNRG) has extended an exclusivity period over an oil and gas venture in Romania until the end of March. The company, in a statement, told investors that progress has been made with the due diligence process and the findings to date are in line with the company’s strategy – which seeks “low acquisition costs, early stage cashflow generation and exploration upside”. It is also assessing a number of financing solutions to support the transaction.

Europa Metals Ltd (LON:EUZ) has revealed results from a conceptual hydrogeological study and water monitor, as part of its planning for mine development at the Toral  lead, zinc and silver project, in Spain. It set out to establish the local baseline conditions at Toral, analyse water conditions in the potential mining area, plus gather data and findings for the development.

Norman Broadbent PLC (LON:NBB) announced that its group chief financial officer, Will Gerrand has advised the board that he plans to leave the recruitment company in the near future and pursue other business interests. In a statement, the AIM-listed firm said Gerrand’s decision follows the recent group’s positive trading update which saw a return to full-year profit for 2019 on the back of increased revenues and growth at net fee income level.

SIMEC Atlantis Energy Limited (LON:SAE), the global developer, owner and operator of sustainable energy projects has named a new finance boss, with the current incumbent stepping back but remaining an executive director of the group. In a statement, the AIM-listed firm said Andrew Dagley will stand down as chief finance officer (CFO), at the end of February but will remain on the board and will lead the financing of its Uskmouth waste to energy conversion project.

Eco (Atlantic) Oil & Gas Ltd. (LON:ECO) (CVE:EOG) said it was notified on 27 February 2020 that Gil Holzman, its chief executive officer acquired on that day 50,000 AIM-listed common shares in the company at a price of 26.4p each and 24,000 TSXV-listed common shares at a price of C$0.4896 each. Following the purchases, the group added, Holzman is beneficially interested in, in aggregate, in 8,489,124 common shares representing approximately 4.60% of the company’s issued share capital.

Circassia Pharmaceuticals PLC (LON:CIR), a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on respiratory disease, has confirmed the proposed appointment of Garry Watts to the Board as a senior independent director with effect from 2 March 2020.

ImmuPharma PLC (LON:IMM), a specialist drug discovery and development company, noted that Incanthera PLC (LON:INC), a specialist oncology company in which it holds a stake, started trading on Friday on the NEX Exchange Growth Market. Following the admission to trading, ImmuPharma retains 7,272,740 ordinary shares in Incanthera, representing 11.9% of its enlarged issued ordinary share capital and, as for all Incanthera’s major shareholders, has entered a standard “lock-in” agreement for these shares, for a period up to 12 months following admission. ImmuPharma also has 7,272,740 warrants at an exercise price of 9.5p, being the price at which new shares have been issued in the placing accompanying Incanthera’s listing. In addition, ImmuPharma has entered into a subscription agreement with Incanthera under which ImmuPharma has the right, at any time prior to 31 October 2020, to subscribe for 2,631,579 new ordinary shares in Incanthera at the issue price (an amount of £250,000).

6.40am: Markets set to plunge again

Is it safe to go back into the market yet? Unless the market you are referring to is the cryptocurrency one, the short answer is no.

Even gold is falling in value as the selling mania continues, spurred by fears over how much the spread of the coronavirus will hit the world economy.

Spread betting quotes indicate that the FTSE 100, which yesterday plunged 246 points to close at 6,796, will shed a similar amount to open at around 6,539.

US markets took a battering yesterday with the Dow registering a quadruple-digit fall; the 30-share index closed at 25,767, down 1,191 points while the broader-based S&P 500 collapsed to 2,979, down 138 points.

There has been no let-up this morning in Asian markets, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 off 992 points at 20,956 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng tanking 688 points to 26,090.

“While the Covid-19 fears continued to wreak havoc in the US markets, the economic releases this morning from Japan and Korea started to reflect the damage from the virus – all this setting the trading week in Asia for a dismal end,” said ING Economics.

Against this background, Friday’s corporate schedule in London, busy as it is, seems a bit of sideshow, except that the market will be keenly interested to hear from International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (LON:IAG), the owner of British Airways.

The stock, along with its peers, has been hit hard in the wake of the coronavirus situation and the market will want to know how hard a hit IAG thinks it will take. It will be hard for the Anglo-Iberian group to quantify the expected impact, but there is sure to be one.

Recently, Air France-KLM said that it expects to lose €150-200mln if it is forced to suspend its flights to Asia until April, with analysts at broker Peel Hunt saying they expect a similar impact for IAG.

Also reporting today is the London Stock Exchange Group PLC (LON:LSE), which alongside its final results could also provide an update on whether it might shorten the LSE trading day from its current 8am-4.30pm.

Significant announcements due on Friday:

Finals: CRH PLC (LON:CRH), International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (LON:IAG), London Stock Exchange Group PLC (LON:LSE), Rightmove PLC (LON:RMV), Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.), ConvaTec Group PLC (LON:CTEC), Essentra PLC (LON:ESNT), Jupiter Fund Management PLC (LON:JUP), Foxtons Group PLC (LON:FOXT), Glenveagh Properties PLC (LON:GLV), IMI PLC (LON:IMI), Man Group PLC (LON:EMG)

Economic data: UK consumer confidence, US personal spending, US balance of trade, US consumer sentiment, US Chicago PMI

Around the markets

  • Sterling: US$1,630.30, up 0.05 cents
  • 10-year gilt: yielding 0.455%
  • Gold: US$1,630.30 an ounce, down US$12.20
  • Brent crude: US$50.28 a barrel, down US$1.45
  • Bitcoin: US$8,800, up US$44

City headlines:

  • Financial Times

  • German industrial giant Thyssenkrupp has agreed to sell its lifts division to private equity groups Advent and Cinven for €17.2 billion.
  • DoorDash, the lossmaking US food delivery start-up backed by Softbank’s Vision Fund, has set the wheels in motion for a flotation.
  • Daily Mail

  • Investors are facing their biggest weekly loss in years as the deadly coronavirus wreaks havoc on stock markets around the world.
  • Advertising giant WPP had its worst day on the stock market in nearly 30 years after-sales growth had dried up; the stock fell 16.2%.
  • Shares in Aston Martin plunged 9% to record low as losses ballooned to more than £100 million and its finance boss quit.
  • Reckitt Benckiser has written off £5 billion from the value of baby formula maker Mead Johnson, just three years after it bought the troubled business.
  • The City watchdog has launched a probe into NMC Health as one of the biggest scandals to hit the London stock market in years intensified.
  • The Guardian

  • Businesses must improve how they disclose their impact on the environment or risk failing to meet climate targets, the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, warned the City on Thursday.
  • The Drax power plant in Yorkshire will end all coal generation by next year after almost five decades, leading to the loss of 230 jobs from the site at Selby.
  • The Gambling Commission has fined the online gambling company Mr Green, owned by William Hill, £3 million for “systemic failings” in its measures to stop money laundering and problem gambling.
  • The Daily Telegraph

  • David Jenkinson, the boss of scandal-hit housebuilder Persimmon, has announced plans to quit after fewer than 15 months in the job.
  • Lord Rose of Monewden, chairman of online grocer Ocado, has scooped £1.68 million by selling shares in the company.
  • Action movie star Steven Seagal has been fined $314,000 (£243,000) for cashing in with a cryptocurrency advert which dubbed him a “Zen Master”.
  • The Times

  • National Express says that it will not buy another diesel bus as it aims to have a zero-emission fleet by 2035.
  • Flutter Entertainment, the gambling operator that owns Paddy Power and Betfair, said that the ban on credit card bets could reduce its revenues by up to £25 million a year.
  • British American Tobacco yesterday reported a 5.7% rise in annual revenue to £25.88 billion in the year to the end of December, beating City forecasts.
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, forecast its biggest fall in quarterly profits in more than a decade as coronavirus took the fizz out of its beer sales.
  • Investors knocked $63 billion off the value of Microsoft after it warned that the coronavirus would hurt its sales.