London open: Stocks fall ahead of BoE announcement, US jobless claims
London stocks fell in early trade on Thursday as nervousness set in ahead of the release of the latest US initial jobless claims and a Bank of England rate decision.
At 0830 GMT, the FTSE 100 was down 2.9% at 5,524.65.
Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said: "Wall Street posted its first day of back-to-back gains in a month, as the US Senate got its act together and passed the $2tn stimulus package. But Asian equities have failed to carry through and US futures are weaker.
"Markets are fretting over the US jobless claims numbers due at 1230 GMT. The estimate is anything from 0.8m to 4m, against a usual print around the 200k level."
Wilson said this will be the first real measure of just how far and how fast the world’s largest economy has contracted because of the coronavirus. "Investors are also fretting over the second wave of cases in Asia. Tokyo and Hong Kong are bracing for a second front in the war," he said.
On home shores, meanwhile, the Bank of England’s policy announcement is due at midday, following two emergency rate cuts already this month to a record low of 0.1%.
"We may see the central bank commit to further measures to help stabilise the economy, having seen the bank already announce another £200bn of purchases of government and corporate bonds, bringing the total to £645bn," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.
On the corporate front, the Covid-19 updates kept coming.
Electrical retailer Dixons Carphone reported a 24% fall in like-for-like sales growth in the UK in the three weeks to March 21 as it pulled guidance and placed its final dividend on review as the coronavirus pandemic hit trading.
British Land cancelled its dividend, waived £3m of rents from smaller tenants and halted work at big developments in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
Capital & Counties announced it was temporarily suspending its share buyback programme and will defer some rental payments due to the outbreak, as it said it is still is too early to assess the impact.
Self-storage company Big Yellow said it was considering a number of initiatives to conserve cash in the short term, that it will agree rent holidays or deferrals for some customers, and that a decision about its final dividend will be made "in due course".
Weir Group said it was scrapping its dividend and cutting costs to withstand declining demand caused by crisis.
Elsewhere, RBS slid as its stock went ex-dividend.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Meggitt (MGGT) 303.70p 2.15%
ITV (ITV) 66.66p 1.43%
BT Group (BT.A) 132.40p 0.64%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 834.00p 0.58%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 231.00p 0.39%
WPP (WPP) 542.80p -0.04%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,745.50p -0.06%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 201.50p -0.10%
Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) 7,468.00p -0.16%
Pennon Group (PNN) 1,017.00p -0.39%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 123.20p -9.91%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 1,320.20p -6.86%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 1,368.00p -6.11%
Evraz (EVR) 239.40p -5.86%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 320.20p -5.85%
BHP Group (BHP) 1,240.00p -5.78%
British Land Company (BLND) 349.20p -5.24%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 493.30p -4.99%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,638.00p -4.76%
Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 8,085.00p -4.71%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Bakkavor Group (BAKK) 82.30p 9.59%
Senior (SNR) 81.65p 8.72%
ICG Enterprise Trust (ICGT) 632.00p 5.33%
PayPoint (PAY) 555.00p 5.11%
JPMorgan Indian Investment Trust (JII) 453.00p 4.74%
Vivo Energy (VVO) 74.90p 4.46%
CLS Holdings (CLI) 183.20p 3.97%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 993.60p 3.69%
IP Group (IPO) 54.40p 3.03%
Airtel Africa (AAF) 51.55p 2.89%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Bank of Georgia Group (BGEO) 950.00p -9.95%
Sirius Real Estate Ltd. (SRE) 63.10p -8.55%
Ninety One (N91) 164.10p -7.50%
Premier Oil (PMO) 17.80p -6.76%
Mediclinic International (MDC) 290.60p -6.08%
Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 69.42p -5.99%
Hammerson (HMSO) 88.54p -5.89%
The Renewables Infrastructure Group Limited (TRIG) 115.20p -5.88%
Sanne Group (SNN) 509.00p -5.74%
Vistry Group (VTY) 554.50p -5.70%