Equities hit worldwide on worries over China virus contagion

Global stock markets have tumbled into the red on growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus, as China locks down cities to contain the outbreak.

London’s FTSE 100 Index closed 64.25 points lower at 7507.67, a drop of 0.9%, mirroring heavy declines across indices worldwide, after China locked down Wuhan, where the new coronavirus started, and a second city, as contagion efforts escalated.

Investors were sent heading for the exit as the number of cases soared to 600 in China, with suspected cases in the US and people also being tested in Scotland.

Stocks with close ties to China, such as mining giants, were among the hardest hit, as well as tourism and travel firms.

Fiona Cincotta, a financial analyst at Gain Capital, said: “Investors are attempting to gauge the potential impact on airlines, retailers and to China’s consumption of metals and oil.

“Quite simply, traders are not prepared to keep risk on the table until there is more clarity over how this will develop.”

Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was about 200 points lower at the time of close in London.

Indices also dropped sharply throughout Europe, with the Dax in Germany off 0.9% and France’s Cac 40 finishing 0.7% lower.

In currency markets, the pound slipped back after three positive sessions, falling against a stronger US dollar.

Sterling dropped 0.2% to 1.31 US dollars, but lifted 0.2% to 1.19 euros.

Mining stocks led the UK equities declines, with Evraz the hardest hit in the FTSE 100, with a fall of 6%, down 25.9p to 374.7p.

Airlines also took the brunt of the virus worries, as British Airways owner International Airlines Group dropped 4%, or 25p, to 609p.

Low cost airline easyJet followed closely behind, down 3% after a 53p drop to 1474p.

Luxury fashion firm Burberry was nursing another session of declines, given its exposure to China and Asian markets.

The stock closed 56p lower at 2094p.

Elsewhere, fast-fashion firm Asos enjoyed a 9% surge in shares after revealing that revenues broke through £1 billion in the last four months of 2019 thanks to a record Black Friday.

Retail sales rose 20% to hit £1.07 billion in the period ending on New Year’s Eve, while total group revenue, which also includes sales from third parties, rose to £1.11 billion.

The stock rose 276p to 3300p.

Hotel Chocolat was on the back foot as its warned costs of global expansion will hit profit growth.

This took the shine off figures showing sales in the 13 weeks to December 29 jumped 11% compared with the same period last year, while sales in the six months to the same date rose 14%.

But while profits rose 14% over the half-year, they slipped 11% in the second quarter.

The group’s shares ended the session down 4% or 17.5p lower at 410p.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Phoenix Group up 9.9p at 753.9p, Taylor Wimpey 2.5p ahead at 218.9p, Pearson 6p higher at 581.6p and Vodafone 1.5p stronger at 154.2p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Evraz down 25.9p at 374.7p, Antofagasta off 43.8p at 863.2p, International Airlines Group 25p weaker at 609p and Rio Tinto 177.5p lower at 4426p.