FTSE finishes lower as virus cases mount, Tesco and insurers weigh

Wed, 8th Apr 2020

Despite Wall Street opening in the green on Wednesday afternoon, European markets remained in the red, perturbed by the EU's lack of cohesion regarding the coronavirus. The FTSE 100 finished the session lower as Covid-19 cases continued to mount throughout the world, insurers were directed to scrap their dividends and supermarket giant Tesco warned of higher costs related to the disease outbreak. At 16.35 p.m. the blue chip benchmark was down 0.85%, or 48.54 points, at 5,655.91. LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Tesco dropped 1.1% to 221.7p after it said payroll, distribution and store costs related to Covid-19 could amount to between £650m and £925m. On a more positive note, Tesco said the costs would be partially offset by increased food sales. It also became one of the rare companies to stick by plans to pay dividends. Insurance companies were hit by a request from regulators to exercise restraint on paying dividends, following a similar request directed at Britain's banks. Aviva sank 6.1% to 250.4p, Direct Line fell 8.3% to 267.3p, Legal & General slumped 5% to 193.5p and RSA Insurance slid 6.3% to 377.9p. Packaging company DS Smith softened 0.4p to 291.6p, despite reporting sustained demand for cardboard boxes, mostly from the food and e-commerce sectors, after it scrapped its interim dividend as a precaution. Solar power investor NextEnergy Solar Fund brightened up 7.6% to 124.4p, having announced that the Covid-19 pandemic had not had any significant impact on the company, while reaffirming its dividend plans. Wind farm owner Greencoat UK Wind edged 1.2p higher to 142.2p after it said it had not felt any material impact from the Covid-19 crisis, while declaring a quarterly dividend as planned. Recruitment company Page perked up 5.1% to 345.4p as it scrapped the final dividend and slashed its headcount. Defence company BAE Systems descended 4p to 524.4p after it raised $1.3bn from a 2030 bond offer paying 3.4% interest per year. Online fashion retailer ASOS rallied 28% to £19.96 on refinancing-driven relief and better-than-expected first half results issued after yesterday's market close, which showed continued sales momentum and a payoff from operational improvements in the business. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Travel agency On the Beach jumped 28% to 256p despite scrapping its interim dividend, as it renegotiated debt covenants and claimed its low-cost business model would help it weather the Covid-19 storm. Ceramic tableware maker Churchill China improved 3.2% to £13.60 as it posted robust full year results, pulled guidance and scrapped the 2019 dividend amid COVID-19-driven uncertainty. Investors were relieved as Churchill China drew attention to its 'strong, ungeared balance sheet including high levels of liquid cash' and insisted it has proved itself to be 'a well run and resilient business capable of dealing with significant external shocks'. Real Good Food slumped 18% to 2.25p after the food manufacturing minnow warned it expects there to be a material impact on sales, at least in the first quarter of the year to March 2021, due to COVID-19. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

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