The FTSE 100 reacted like a see-saw on Tuesday following its biggest one-day loss since the financial crisis on Black Monday.
The index’s anaemic 0.09% drop as markets closed on Tuesday revealed little of a topsy-turvy day which at one point saw the FTSE claw back some of Monday’s losses.
At just before 11am, the index reached as much as 6,231.06, a 4.4% or 265.29 point rise.
However, it was all downhill from there until the late afternoon, with the index settling back below 6,000 points at 5960.23, a 5.54 point drop. At one point it flirted with a bigger drop, hitting 5927.85.
The initial rise came as traders were buoyed by news from last night that US President Donald Trump could cut taxes to help with the effect the coronavirus will have on the economy.
“Last night, President Trump said he will push for a payrolls tax cut as well as assistance for hourly employees who have been impacted by the health crisis. The proposal hasn’t come to fruition yet, and that is why stocks turned sharply lower,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.
The FTSE 100 may have ended the day with a whimper, after losing 7.7% of its value on Monday, but it was still far ahead of its European peers.
Gemany’s Dax fell by 1.4%, while the Paris-based Cac was down 1.5%. Italy’s Mib fell 3.3 after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte put the entire country under lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
“There wasn’t necessarily any one major headline to spark this downturn,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Cambell.
“The country-wide lockdown in Italy was a troubling backdrop to the day’s gains from the off, while news of a jump in UK cases only served to hurt sentiment.
But investors simply seemed to lose confidence in the rebound, lacking significant justification for a comeback as great as that seen at lunchtime. Now the day may be seen as a win if the European and US indices simply avoided seriously extending Monday’s disastrous losses.
The pound fell 1.5% against the dollar to 1.2905, and 0.3% against the euro to 1.1406.
Oil standard Brent crude gained 7.8% to 37.30 dollars per barrel, after sparking a massive market sell-off on Monday when it dropped as much as 35%.
In company news, the NMC Health scandal took another strange turn as the business revealed that it had found a surprise 2.7 billion US dollars (£2.1 billion) in debt that it did not know about. It more than doubles debt levels.
It might have been used for “non-group purposes”, the scandal-ridden business said. Shares in the hospital builder have been suspended for weeks, so remained unchanged.
M&G dropped 2.2p to 170.2p as it launched a voluntary redundancy programme to slash staff costs by 10% after it saw annual profits slump by nearly a third.
The group – which was spun out from Prudential last October – said the move comes as part of wider efforts under a five-year overhaul to cut annual costs by £145 million after being hit by the shift away from active stock pickers.
It was worse news as shares fell 20.5p to 231.5p at John Menzies after it suspended its annual dividend as the aviation services business prepares for the impact of coronavirus.
The company warned investors two weeks ago that the Covid-19 outbreak would dent its profits for the current year.
Sofa retailer DFS was also hit by coronavirus fears, pushing shares down by 15.2p to 193.8p as it revealed “challenging market conditions” hit performance in the past half-year. It added that the developing Covid-19 outbreak meant it was unable to give accurate forecasts for the rest of the year.
The company said sales slipped 5.7% to £488 million for the year to December 29.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Informa, up 36p to 600p, Evraz, up 14.5p to 246.8p, Melrose, up 9.9p to 176.35p, Aveva Group, up 172p to 3,704p, and Hargreaves Lansdown, up 60p to 1,336p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were SSE, down 71p to 1,404p, National Grid, down 44.1p to 933.2p, Meggitt, down 20.3p to 463.5p, Centrica, down 2.32p to 55.22p, and Imperial Brands, down 60.2p to 1,496.2p.