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FTSE ends three-day run of growth as coronavirus dominates movements

Several companies updated on the outbreak as traders await more news.

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An NHS catch it, bin it, kill it sign on TV screens in the entrance to the QEII Centre in London (Philip Toscano/PA)

An NHS catch it, bin it, kill it sign on TV screens in the entrance to the QEII Centre in London (Philip Toscano/PA)

An NHS catch it, bin it, kill it sign on TV screens in the entrance to the QEII Centre in London (Philip Toscano/PA)

The FTSE 100 index of leading companies had enjoyed three days of growth, after the worst falls since the financial crisis.

But reaction was tempered on Thursday as reality started to bite and more companies revealed the impact the outbreak of Covid-19 was having on their businesses.

With officials saying the UK is edging towards a widescale coronavirus outbreak, investors took heed, sending the FTSE 100 down 110.16 points, or 0.6%, at 6,705.43.

The fall was smaller than for European counterparts, with the French CAC 40 down 1.9%, and the DAX 30 in Frankfurt off 1.5%.

It is as if the more money is thrown at the problem, the more nervous dealers become - the intervention acts as an indication of weaknessDavid Madden, CMC Markets

David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets, said: “Health fears have ramped up again and traders are running for the hills.

“Even though governments along with international bodies have pledged huge sums of money to help combat the health crisis, dealers are still scared.

“It is as if the more money is thrown at the problem, the more nervous dealers become – the intervention acts as an indication of weakness.”

Oil continues to take a hit, despite an announcement from the Opec group of countries that they plan to cut production by 1.5 million barrels per day.

The hope is that restricting supply will increase demand, pushing up the price.

It initially worked, as the price of a barrel crept up over lunchtime, but by the close of markets, Brent crude had fallen again, down 0.31 cents at 50.82 dollars a barrel.

In company news, it was a good day for insurance firm Admiral, with investors pleased as bosses revealed a £522.6 million pretax profit for 2019. Shares closed up 57p at 2,238p.

But ITV had investors spooked after the company revealed a fall in pretax profits and admitted advertising revenues were taking a hit from coronavirus.

Travel companies are pulling their money from adverts and so were investors, with shares closing down 14p, or 12%, to 102.5p.

Coronavirus also impacted over-50s favourite Saga, which saw shares plunge 1.42p, or 5.7%, to 23.3p.

The company said it was seeing a lower level of booking and more cancellations.

Cruise operator Carnival also saw its shares fall 167p to 2,133p.

Elsewhere, insurance giant Aviva said it has seen coronavirus hit the firm’s Asian and Italian businesses.

Bosses also revealed the business faces a £70 million bill so far from the recent UK winter storms. Shares remained steady, up 1.5p at 351.6p.

And away from coronavirus, outsourcing giant Capita admitted it would need to spend more on its restructuring, as it attempts to rebalance the business away from relying on Government contracts. Shares dropped 38% – down 48.9p to 77.9p.

Domino’s Pizza admitted it is still trying to find potential buyers for its Norwegian division. Shares dropped 15p to 290p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Admiral Group, up 57p at 2,238p, BAT, up 40.5p at 3,244.5p, Hikma, up 18.5p at 1,947p, Vodafone, up 1.28p at 140.86p, and Imperial Brands, up 14.2p at 1,658p.

The biggest fallers on the index were ITV, down 14p at 102.5p, Evraz, down 39.1p at 289.3p, Carnival, down 167p at 2,133p, Tui, down 42.2p at 540.4p, and Rio Tinto, down 280.5p at 3,648.5p.

PA