Markets rally higher as coronavirus fears ease

London’s top flight enjoyed another session of gains as global markets rallied on mounting hopes of a slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Investors took heart from evidence that the number of new cases of the newly named Covid-19 virus fell overnight in China to its lowest this month, despite no sign of a breakthrough in a treatment for the illness.

The FTSE 100 Index closed 34.93 points higher at 7534.37, but it was an even rosier picture across Europe and on Wall Street.

In Germany, the Dax jumped to an all-time high of 13749.78 after finishing 0.9% higher, while the Cac 40 in France also came close to setting new records and ended the session up 0.8%.

In America, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was testing record highs as it surged more than 200 points at the time of close in London.

Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, said: “With the exception of the FTSE, the major Western indices have now clawed back their coronavirus losses and then some.

“It is unclear, however, whether the market’s preoccupation with the illness is coming to an end – at least until the next round of Chinese data – or if investors still have the capacity to be spooked by headlines relating to the outbreak.”

In currency news, the pound was 0.4% higher against a weakened euro after some disappointing economic data from the EU hit the single currency.

Sterling stood at 1.19 euros, while it was 0.2% higher at 1.298 US dollars.

Back in the FTSE 100, it was a strong session for commodities thanks to rising oil prices, which pushed BP and Royal Dutch Shell higher.

The cost of crude lifted, with Brent up more than 3% on a growing sense of optimism surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak and the impact on China’s economic growth and global demand for oil.

BP was also in the spotlight as new boss Bernard Looney promised to fundamentally “reinvent” the oil giant and pledged the company would become carbon neutral by the middle of the century.

Mr Looney, who took the top job last week, said that his business would aim to get to net-zero by 2050 – the same target that was adopted by the UK Government last year.

With a helping hand from higher Brent crude prices, BP ended the day up 1% or 4.9p at 474.6p.

Rival Shell lifted 2% or 33.6p to 2021p.

Miners also littered the risers’ board, led by Anglo American and Antofagasta, ahead 101p to 2153.5p and 34.4p to 880p respectively.

Elsewhere, homewares chain Dunelm saw shares surge 9% as it defied the gloom in the retail sector and hiked its annual profit outlook.

It posted a 19.4% boost in pre-tax profits for the six months to December 28 to £84.9 million thanks to a 6% sales rise and bosses said they expect full-year profits to beat analysts’ expectations.

Shares in the group closed 105p higher at 1306p.

The biggest FTSE risers were NMC Health, up 76p at 854.2p, Anglo American, ahead 101p to 2153.5p, Antofagasta, 34.4p higher at 880p, and Barratt Developments, 29.8p stronger at 856.4p.

The biggest FTSE fallers were Tui, down 42.2p at 925.6p, Ocado, off 45p at 1209.5p, Imperial Brands, 39.8p lower at 1839p, and Polymetal International, 23p weaker at 1271p.

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