London close: Stocks finish lower as coronavirus spread continues
London stocks closed lower on Thursday, with miners under pressure amid renewed concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, as it emerged four people in Scotland were being tested after showing symptoms.
The FTSE 100 ended the day down 0.85% at 7,507.67, and the FTSE 250 was off 1.02% at 21,540.56.
Sterling was mixed against its major pairings, last falling 0.32% against the dollar to $1.31, but rising 0.14% on the euro to €1.1865.
Concerns around the Wuhan strain of coronavirus continued to dampen sentiment, as Chinese authorities shut down more cities in a bid to stem the spread of the disease as around 400 million citizens travel to their home provinces for the Lunar New Year holiday.
Closer to home, it emerged that four people in Scotland were being tested in hospital after travelling to Wuhan and showing symptoms, as the health secretary Matt Hancock said there was an “increased likelihood” of cases in the UK.
“Traders are a little on the nervous side in light of the news the coronavirus situation is getting worse,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.
“The death toll in China has ticked up to 17 and there are nearly 600 confirmed cases of the infection.
“Traders are cutting their exposure to stocks for fear the health crisis will spread.”
Investors were also digesting the latest European Central Bank interest rate decision, as it kept all its main policy settings unchanged.
The announcement the same as the last time around, on 24 October.
Interest rates on the main refinancing operations, the marginal lending facility and its deposit facility were kept at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.50%, respectively.
Policymakers also reiterated that rates would remain at their present level or lower until the "inflation outlook robustly converges to a level sufficiently close to, but below, 2% within its projection horizon, and such convergence has been consistently reflected in underlying inflation dynamics."
In UK equity markets, miners - which are heavily dependent on demand from China - were among the big losers, with Antofagasta down 4.83%, Rio Tinto falling 3.86%, BHP Group down 2.67% and Glencore 2.96% lower.
Russian steelmaker Evraz was also weaker, dropping 5.85%.
Airlines easyJet and IAG descended, losing 3.47% and 3.94% respectively, while InterContinental Hotels Group was down 3.23% on news that it will allow guests to change or cancel stays at most Chinese hotels scheduled up to 3 February at no additional cost.
John Laing retreated 4.13% after the infrastructure company said that chief executive officer Olivier Brousse has resigned to take up a senior position at Veolia Group.
Elsewhere, Paypoint slid 2.68% as it said the improvement in pre-tax profit for the year to the end of March 2020 will be "at a more modest rate" than previously expected.
Kaz Minerals was knocked down 8.59% by a downgrade to ‘hold’ at VTB Capital, while Lancashire was off 0.86% after a downgrade to ‘reduce’ at HSBC.
On the upside, Renishaw rose 5.99% after upgrades to ‘equalweight’ and ‘overweight’, respectively, at Morgan Stanley and Rightmove was boosted 0.18% by an upgrade to ‘neutral’ at JPMorgan.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Phoenix Group Holdings (PHNX) 753.90p 1.33%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 219.00p 1.20%
Pearson (PSON) 582.40p 1.18%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 154.20p 0.98%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 652.40p 0.52%
Persimmon (PSN) 3,015.00p 0.47%
Tesco (TSCO) 243.00p 0.45%
British Land Company (BLND) 580.80p 0.41%
BP (BP.) 482.15p 0.34%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 6,080.00p 0.21%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Evraz (EVR) 374.70p -6.47%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 863.20p -4.83%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 609.00p -3.94%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 4,423.00p -3.92%
Carnival (CCL) 3,454.00p -3.57%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,474.00p -3.47%
Anglo American (AAL) 2,114.00p -3.47%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 4,834.00p -3.23%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,292.00p -2.97%
Glencore (GLEN) 228.15p -2.96%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Renishaw (RSW) 3,750.00p 5.99%
PureTech Health (PRTC) 305.00p 4.10%
Future (FUTR) 1,500.00p 3.31%
Kainos Group (KNOS) 872.00p 2.35%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 1,146.00p 1.87%
Paragon Banking Group (PAG) 510.50p 1.79%
Hammerson (HMSO) 255.20p 1.51%
Assura (AGR) 77.30p 1.44%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 134.36p 1.34%
Workspace Group (WKP) 1,212.00p 1.25%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 474.40p -8.17%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 145.75p -6.21%
Stagecoach Group (SGC) 145.60p -4.40%
John Laing Group (JLG) 371.60p -4.13%
RHI Magnesita N.V. (DI) (RHIM) 3,512.00p -4.04%
Signature Aviation (SIG) 296.00p -3.96%
888 Holdings (888) 141.80p -3.93%
Bank of Georgia Group (BGEO) 1,500.00p -3.47%
Apax Global Alpha Limited (APAX) 167.00p -3.47%
Convatec Group (CTEC) 201.70p -3.26%