Major equity markets slide as US retail investors continue to unease traders

Equity markets finished a poor week with another below-par trading session as fears over the retail investor army shaking up hedge funds continued to cause unease.

US retail investors once again backed GameStop raising concerns about continued market volatility.

The FTSE 100 had a particularly weak showing, with the index dropping to its lowest level since the start of December as virus deaths remained high despite falling cases.

London’s top flight closed 118.69 points, or 1.82%, lower at 6,407.46 at the close of play on Friday.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “Fear is running through the equity markets again as some trading apps have relaxed restrictions on certain stocks that have experienced colossal volatility recently, like GameStop.

“There are concerns that we could see frenzied trading again by retail players in selected stocks and that could renew fears that some hedge funds might adopt a cut and run policy, hence why equity markets are lower across the board.

“The EU has approved the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus drug for use in the bloc, but keep in mind the roll-out of other vaccinations have been slow. In addition to that, supply constraints persist.”

The major markets on the continent thus lifted from midday lows amid hopes that the approval that this vaccine can speed up the Eurozone’s recovery, but remained firmly in the red.

The German Dax was 1.6% lower and the French Cac moved 2.02% higher.

Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones opened lower as sentiment remained weak in the face of the retail investor onslaught, which also lifted shares for Odeon-owner AMC.

Meanwhile, sterling was marginally lower as risk-averse traders helped to strengthen the US dollar.

The pound decreased by 0.02% versus the US dollar to 1.371 and was down 0.13% against the euro at 1.130.

In company news, pub owner Marston’s saw its shares surge in value after it confirmed an approach by US private equity firm.

The company, whose 1,368 pubs remain shut, said it has received a proposal from Platinum Equity Advisors over a potential cash offer, sparking excitement among investors.

Shares leapt 7.5p higher to 82.3p at the close of play.

Boohoo shares edged higher after the fast fashion retailer said it is in exclusive talks to buy some of the remnants of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia high street empire.

Shares finished 4.9p higher at 338.9p after the online fashion business said it is negotiating with administrators for Arcadia over the future of the Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton brands.

Just Eat Takeaway led the smaller number of risers on Friday, after Barclays lifted its target price for the food delivery operator.

Shares moved 322p higher to 8,372p.

The price of oil moved higher ahead of the planned Saudi Arabia production cuts, which are due to come into effect next month.

The price of Brent crude oil increased by 0.76% to 55.95 dollars per barrel.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Just Eat Takeaway, up 322p at 8,372p, Pearson, up 12.6p at 812.6p, LSE, up 66p at 8,686p, and Smiths Group, up 9p at 1,418.5p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Rolls-Royce, down 5.24p at 91.7p, Prudential, down 63.5p at 1,172.5p, M&G, down 8.2p at 175.9p, and JD Sports, down 31.8p at 747p.