London close: Stocks head further south as Covid updates fly in
London stocks tumbled lower on Monday afternoon after a lunchtime spike, amid growing concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, as investors waded through another deluge of related updates, with a deadlock in the US Senate over stimulus souring the mood further.
The FTSE 100 ended the session down 3.79% at 4,993.89, and the FTSE 250 was also 3.79% weaker at 13,078.01.
Sterling was weaker against its two major trading pairs, last falling 1.51% against the dollar to $1.1453, and losing 1.79% on the euro to €1.0688.
“The key thing this Monday will be the progress of the stimulus package in the US, namely whether or not Republicans and Democrats can reach a bi-partisan agreement,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell/
“Arguing, in the words of Chuck Schumer, that the $1.8trn package is a ‘large corporate bailout with no protections for workers and virtually no oversight’, the Democrats blocked the bill on Sunday night, with a 47-47 split leaving it short of the required 60 votes.
“Even if the reasons behind the Democrats’ intransigence are sound, America’s inability to move things forwards stands in contrast to many of its now free-spending peers, and has sent the market into another tailspin.”
Concerns about the retail sector were rife as the country appeared to inch closer to official lockdown, with the Covid-19 induced decline in footfall so far being three times larger than the previous worst record, according to fresh analysis from Springboard.
The data showed footfall in the week of 15 March was down 21.7% over the prior week, and 28% lower over the year.
Britain’s high streets suffered the most, with footfall down 31% week-on-week and 41% year-on-year, as more national chains ordered the shutters down.
“The decline in footfall week on week was on par with the drop normally only ever seen in the week post-Christmas,” said Springboard’s insights director Diane Wehrle.
“The annual change represented an unprecedented decline in retail footfall that was three times greater than the worst result we have ever previously recorded.”
That came amid reports that Westminster was considering forcing the closure of non-essential retailers to reduce the spread of the virus, with the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg tweeting that Boris Johnson's government was "considering next steps like closing non-essential retail or whether to start treating people flouting the stay-at-home advice as acting against the law".
Johnson has imposed restrictions on movement unwillingly and only ordered the closure of pubs, restaurants and other entertainment venues on Friday when people failed to heed requests to stay away.
At the weekend shoppers queued at close quarters outside supermarkets and retail staff have complained about lack of protection as they serve hundreds of customers.
On the corporate front, Covid-19 updates continued to roll in, with the FCA barring listed firms from reporting results for the time being in a request on Sunday.
Associated British Foods slumped 7.45% as it said Primark's decision to close all its stores will cost £650m a month in lost sales.
The company said it was cutting costs at Primark, and that those measures along with government support should allow it to recover about half of operating costs.
Broadcaster ITV lost 5.19% after it scrapped its dividend and withdrew market guidance as the coronavirus crisis ate into advertising revenues and forced the broadcaster to put productions on hold.
IWG plunged 17.34% as the workspace provider said it was suspending its dividend and temporarily halting its share buyback programme due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Drinks company Britvic lost its fizz, falling 5.73% as it warned that 2020 earnings and revenue will take a "material" hit from the coronavirus.
Supermarkets were in the red after earlier gains, with Sainsbury’s down 3.11%, Tesco falling 2.84%, and Morrisons 5.35% weaker, even after weekend reports that Britons were still stockpiling due to the pandemic.
On the upside was oil major Shell, which added 3.29% after saying it was cutting capital expenditure, underlying operating costs and postponing the next phase of its share buyback to conserve cash in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company said it would cut underlying operating costs by between $3bn and $4bn a year over the next 12 months compared to 2019 levels, and reduce cash capital expenditure to $20bn or below for 2020 from a planned level of around $25bn.
Transport operator Stagecoach reversed earlier losses, rising 8.14% even after it issued a profit warning, saying it was unlikely to pay any further dividends as the coronavirus pandemic hit passenger numbers.
Its peers FirstGroup and Go-Ahead Group also finished in the green, by 4.71% and 2.31% respectively, after the government said it would underwrite rail franchises through the coronavirus crisis after reports that passenger numbers had slumped as much as 70%.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 1,127.40p 6.14%
M&G (MNG) 116.80p 5.61%
Fresnillo (FRES) 620.00p 4.10%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 1,067.60p 3.29%
Whitbread (WTB) 2,393.00p 2.22%
BP (BP.) 256.90p 2.07%
Informa (INF) 388.60p 1.91%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 6,252.00p 0.51%
Admiral Group (ADM) 2,053.00p 0.00%
BHP Group (BHP) 1,105.80p -0.34%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,158.00p -17.08%
easyJet (EZJ) 521.40p -13.10%
St James's Place (STJ) 660.00p -12.58%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 87.30p -12.26%
Ferguson (FERG) 4,086.00p -12.24%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 138.60p -11.75%
Halma (HLMA) 1,667.00p -11.45%
Next (NXT) 3,554.00p -11.24%
Centrica (CNA) 39.11p -9.99%
Compass Group (CPG) 1,002.00p -9.69%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 188.70p 23.17%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 109.30p 18.10%
Kingfisher (KGF) 143.40p 13.67%
Stagecoach Group (SGC) 64.65p 8.14%
Games Workshop Group (GAW) 4,292.00p 8.11%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 115.85p 8.07%
Petropavlovsk (POG) 20.20p 7.56%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 886.40p 7.29%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 129.40p 6.77%
Genus (GNS) 2,856.00p 6.01%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hyve Group (HYVE) 16.94p -24.88%
Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 54.50p -22.25%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 329.00p -22.00%
Cineworld Group (CINE) 42.26p -21.71%
Hammerson (HMSO) 83.66p -20.17%
3i Infrastructure (3IN) 188.80p -20.17%
Apax Global Alpha Limited (APAX) 115.00p -19.44%
IWG (IWG) 132.25p -17.34%
G4S (GFS) 76.52p -16.59%
National Express Group (NEX) 111.50p -16.48%