FTSE falls as pandemic fears grip markets

Mon, 24th Feb 2020

UK stocks slumped on Monday as investors scurried to safer assets including gold following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases outside China, which stoked fears over a possible pandemic that would impact on global growth. At 16.35 p.m. the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 247.09 points, or 3.34%, at 7,156.83. LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Associated British Foods softened 1.7% to £25.40 after the owner of the Primark budget clothing chain said the coronavirus outbreak could cause shortages in its supply chain. Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspaper publisher Reach rose 3.1% to 180p after swinging to a full year profit as cost cutting offset falling sales. Reach also said it was targeting a rise to 7m registered customers by the end of 2022, up from less than 1m at the end of 2019, as part of a strategy update. Outsourcing company Bunzl gained 2.5% to trade at £19.98, having reported a rise in annual profit even as revenue was held back by a weaker performance in North America. Veterinary pharmaceuticals company Dechra Pharmaceuticals shed 0.9% to trade at £27.76, even as its half-yearly profit more than doubled. Dechra Pharmaceuticals also warned of supply challenges in its North America business. Research tool manufacturer Oxford Instruments slipped 4.7% to £15.34 after the company sold its OI Healthcare business in the US to MXR Imaging for $15.0m (£11.5m). Specialist information, data and analytics company Ascential ascended 4.1% to 368.6p after reporting annual results that showed strong growth in sales and adjusted profit and announcing a £120m share buyback programme. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Infection prevention product manufacturer Tristel ticked 10.8% higher to 437.5p as it posted a 25% rise in first-half profit that it said exceeded its expectations. Tristel also said the coronavirus outbreak would be a 'powerful influence' for greater global investment in infection prevention and control. Vehicle telematics services provider Quartix fell 1.8% to 427p, having booked a decline in annual profit owing to sales slumping in its insurance division. Cell-based therapeutics developer ReNeuron improved 4.9% to 149.5p on recording positive long-term data from a trial of a treatment for retinitis pigmentosa. Pesticides company Plant Health Care sank 35.4% to 9.2p as it launched a share issue to raise at least $4m, at 8p a share. Recruitment company RTC reversed 4% to 72.5p after it posted a 5.4% fall in annual profit as rising revenue was more than offset by higher expenses. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

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