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FTSE 100 claws back ground in worst week since financial crisis

Nearly 17% has been wiped off the index since last Friday.

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Coronavirus fears have gripped the stock market over recent weeks (Luciana Guerra/PA)

Coronavirus fears have gripped the stock market over recent weeks (Luciana Guerra/PA)

Coronavirus fears have gripped the stock market over recent weeks (Luciana Guerra/PA)

London’s top 100 companies saw earlier gains pared back as the market eked out sluggish growth at the end of what proved to be the third worst week in the index’s history.

The FTSE 100 closed the day up 128.63 to 5,366.11, a 2.5% rise on the day.

Traders may be able to take heart from the index’s growth a day after it lost nearly 11% of its value in a bruising session.

However, there will be questions raised after the FTSE handed back a rise of almost 8.8% that it had reached at around midday on Friday.

“European stocks are still in positive territory, but they have handed back much of their gains in the past few hours. Losing ground towards the end of the trading day has been common recently, and it speaks to a nervousness in the markets,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets, as markets closed.

It caps off an awful week for London’s top companies, as £275 billion was wiped off their combined value. It leaves the index down 1,096.44 points, or 16.97%, since the close last Friday, notching up a new nearly 12-year low.

It is also the FTSE 100’s third worst week since it was launched at the beginning of 1984.

Its sisters on the continent ended Friday somewhat worse than London. Germany’s Dax gained 0.8%, while France’s Cac notched up a 1.8% win.

The pound bought 1.2349 dollars by the end of play, a 1.8% drop. Against the euro it fell 1.1% to 1.1134.

Company announcements were largely dominated by coronavirus.

Morrisons found that doing good by its suppliers helped it post a 6.15p win to 171p. It became the first major UK supermarket to agree to pay all small suppliers immediately to ensure businesses do not collapse due to coronavirus.

Bosses at the grocer said it would also temporarily change the way it classifies “small suppliers” to any firm with an annual turnover of under £1 million, compared with £100,000 previously.

Shareholders in Spire Healthcare were also better off as the private hospital operator said it has met representatives of the NHS and offered its support to efforts against the coronavirus outbreak.

Shares rose 3.35p to 87.75p though the company said “the exact nature, extent and the timing of this support is yet to be determined” and in the meantime it is continuing to offer full services to its patients.

Saga was up 0.16p by the end of the day to 15.16p as it suspended its cruise operations until May 1 following the spread of coronavirus and warned that the move will knock its profits.

The travel and insurance specialist said the move follows updated advice from the Government advising people aged 70 and over and those with pre-existing health conditions against going on cruises.

Finally, Frontier IP, a UK-based specialist in commercialising university intellectual property, has revealed one its businesses has started working on a Covid-19 vaccine for animals.

The Vaccine Group, which was spun out from the University of Plymouth, said it is working in partnership with the Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute and Kansas State University. The news sent Frontier’s shares up strongly by 6.5p to 65p.

The top winners on the FTSE 100 were Evraz, up 25.4p to 228.8p, BHP, up 114.2p to 1,054p, Rio Tinto, up 306p to 3,274p, Ocado, up 106p to 1,183p, and Hargreaves Lansdown, up 109.5p to 1,320.5p.

The biggest losers were Carnival, down 128p to 1,161p, Tui, down 25.2p to 360p, Taylor Wimpey, down 8.1p to 148.55p, Barratt Developments, down 28p to 526.6p, and JD Sports, down 26p to 512.6p.

PA