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London Markets

March 12, 2020, 10:35 a.m. EDT

British stocks pummeled by most since the 1987 crash

By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch


Reuters
People emerge from the Bank underground station in the City of London financial district, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in London, England on March 11, 2020.

British stocks joined a global rout on Thursday, leading to the worst single-day percentage drop since 1987 on concerns the world-wide economy will seize up.

The FTSE 100’s (FTSE:UK:UKX)  9.2% hammering was by the most since the 10.8% drop on Black Monday and it comes a day after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak was a pandemic.

President Donald Trump’s Oval Office speech attempting to cushion fears seemed to have the reverse effect. Trump announced a ban on European travel and didn’t unveil an agreement on fiscal stimulus.

The European Central Bank’s decision not to cut interest rates, though it unveiled other measures designed to stimulate lending, also added pressure.

“There is likely to be more attention-grabbing headlines out of the U.S. and Europe over the coming days and perhaps weeks but as the perceived severity of the pandemic has increased, the scope for the market being negatively surprised should reduce in a similar manner,” said James Klempster, director of investment at Momentum Global Investment Management.

“That is not to say that all the bad news is in the price yet but the past week has seen a much greater acceptance of the increasing severity of the economic impact of the large-scale shutdowns that seem inevitable presently. From a long-term perspective the scale of the market moves piques our instinct to buy cheap assets, but given the acceleration of negative news flow it does not feel necessary to be too brave yet from a risk perspective.”

The rout was particularly focused on the U.K. companies that operate fund managers, including Prudential (LON:UK:PRU) , Standard Life Aberdeen (LON:UK:SLA) and Legal & General (LON:UK:LGEN) , all of which saw double-digit losses.

International Consolidated Airlines (LON:UK:IAG)  fell nearly 10%. Its Spanish unit, Iberia, will be impacted by Trump’s European travel ban. The U.K. and Ireland are exempted, which means British Airways and Aer Lingus will see less of a hit from the move.

Carnival (LON:UK:CCL)  dropped 21% after announcing it was suspending global operations of its Princess Cruises for two months.

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