London close: Stocks finish weaker as pandemic fears roll on
London equity markets finished weaker on Thursday, with Rolls-Royce pacing the decline after a first-half trading update, while a firmer pound also weighed on stocks.
The FTSE 100 ended the session down 1.73% at 6,049.62, and the FTSE 250 was 1.16% weaker at 16,985.13.
Sterling was stronger against both of its major trading pairs, last gaining 0.06% on the dollar to change hands at $1.2618, and advancing 0.37% on the euro to €1.1171.
“Stocks finished deep in the red as the pandemic is still playing on traders’ minds, as there are still concerns that cases could rise as lockdown restrictions have been eased,” said David Madden, market analyst for CMC Markets UK.
“Traders in Europe are paying close attention to developments in the US.
“According to Reuters, 42 of the 50 states in the US registered an increase in the number of new cases yesterday, so that is influencing sentiment on this side of the Atlantic.”
In equity markets, Rolls-Royce tumbled 7.45% as it said its free cash outflow was £3bn in the first half of 2020, as widebody engine flying hours halved because of the "historic shock" to civil aviation caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
The engine maker said it expected performance to improve in the second half and that annual free cash outflow would be about £4bn.
It warned that the civil aviation industry would take several years to recover but said its defence business was resilient.
SSE and National Grid were also under the cosh, falling 4.03% and 5.47% respectively, after energy regulator Ofgem said network operators should invest £25bn from 2021 to 2026 to deliver emissions-free energy.
It also proposed cutting the returns companies can make to reduce household bills, with both companies saying they were "disappointed" with the plans.
Recruiter PageGroup was 2.64% weaker as it said second-quarter gross profit slid 47.6%.
On the upside, Persimmon gained 6.41% after it reported a drop in half-year revenues and completions due to the pandemic, but said demand since its reopening has been "positive".
Weekly average net private sales reservations stood at 278 new homes - around 30% higher than the same period a year ago.
Other housebuilders followed suit, with Barratt Developments rising 1.95%, Taylor Wimpey adding 1.38%, and Berkeley 3.8% higher.
Ladbrokes owner GVC Holdings rallied 3.09% after saying it had agreed with joint-venture partner MGM Resorts to increase investment in its US sports betting and online gaming business.
On the FTSE 250, Vistry gave up some of its earlier gains but still finished ahead 0.35%, after saying improving demand as the lockdown eased would help to restore gross margin in the second half of the year.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Persimmon (PSN) 2,589.00p 6.41%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 4,400.00p 3.80%
GVC Holdings (GVC) 834.80p 3.09%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 532.20p 1.95%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 989.20p 1.94%
Fresnillo (FRES) 925.60p 1.87%
Kingfisher (KGF) 225.20p 1.72%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 143.40p 1.38%
Avast (AVST) 554.00p 1.19%
BT Group (BT.A) 107.85p 0.79%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 256.30p -10.95%
National Grid (NG.) 850.00p -5.47%
BP (BP.) 290.00p -4.43%
Whitbread (WTB) 2,164.00p -4.33%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,920.00p -4.22%
SSE (SSE) 1,287.00p -4.03%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 271.20p -4.00%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 545.00p -3.85%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 1,231.20p -3.72%
Bunzl (BNZL) 2,139.00p -3.62%
FTSE 250 - Risers
888 Holdings (888) 181.60p 4.61%
C&C Group (CCR) 239.00p 4.37%
Grafton Group Units (GFTU) 666.50p 4.14%
Calisen (CLSN) 178.40p 3.21%
Pantheon International (PIN) 2,100.00p 2.94%
XP Power Ltd. (DI) (XPP) 3,600.00p 2.86%
Synthomer (SYNT) 280.80p 2.56%
Avon Rubber (AVON) 3,560.00p 2.45%
HGCapital Trust (HGT) 253.50p 2.42%
Petropavlovsk (POG) 26.05p 2.36%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hammerson (HMSO) 77.80p -9.15%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 335.00p -7.94%
Future (FUTR) 1,152.00p -6.04%
Contour Global (GLO) 192.00p -5.19%
TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) 173.80p -4.92%
Oxford Biomedica (OXB) 735.00p -4.79%
Trainline (TRN) 419.20p -4.73%
Liontrust Asset Management (LIO) 1,335.00p -4.64%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 167.85p -4.36%
PureTech Health (PRTC) 275.50p -4.34%