(Alliance News) -Â London stocks slumped at the open on Thursday as fears of a second wave of virus infections washed across markets, with traders eyeing further jobs support for the UK ahead of an announcement from the chancellor later in the day.
The FTSE 100 index was down 58.10 points, or 1.0%, at 5,841.16 early Thursday. The mid-cap FTSE 250 index was down 177.93 points, or 1.1%, at 16,815.06. The AIM All-Share index was down 0.9% at 940.52.
The Cboe UK 100 index was down 1.1% at 581.11. The Cboe 250 was down 1.1% at 14240.34, and the Cboe Small Companies down 0.2% at 8948.34.
In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 in Paris and the DAX 30 in Frankfurt were both down 0.9% early Thursday.
"The deep sell off on Wall Street is spreading over into Europe, wiping out gains from the previous session. European bourses are a sea of red as risk off dominates amid rising concerns over resurging coronavirus infections and its potential to derail the fragile economic recovery," said Fiona Cincotta at City Index.
The UK on Wednesday reported 6,178 new coronavirus cases, a marked jump in the daily infection rate that comes a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled new nationwide restrictions.
It follows a rise of 4,926 the day before, and brings the total confirmed cases in Britain since the pandemic hit earlier this year to 409,729. With a further 37 deaths reported in the past 24 hours, 41,862 people in Britain who tested positive for the virus have now died â€“ the highest toll in Europe.
On Tuesday, Johnson set out plans to close pubs early and reverse previous guidance that people should go back to the office, warning the country was at "a perilous turning point".
Many MPs are pushing the government to extend its furlough scheme that at its peak in May covered the wages of 8.9 million workers who might otherwise have lost their jobs.
The scheme is due to end in October, and Johnson insisted on Tuesday it could not go on indefinitely. However, there is speculation of new economic support to come, after the prime minister said his government would deliver "further creative and imaginative schemes to keep our economy moving".
Finance minister Rishi Sunak is due to address MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday.
City Index's Cincotta said: "The centre piece to Rishi Sunak's plan, to be announced today, is expected to be a wage support scheme similar to that in Germany. A scheme to subsidise wages of people in part-time work, replacing the more expensive GBP39 billion furlough scheme. This should mean that the 4 million or so people that are neither in employment nor out of employment on furlough, won't necessarily face a cliff edge."
Sterling was quoted at USD1.2709 early Thursday, down sharply on USD1.2755 at the London equities close on Wednesday.
The euro traded at USD1.1652 early Thursday, lower than USD1.1685 late Wednesday.
Against the yen, the dollar was quoted at JPY105.25, marginally soft versus JPY105.30.
In Asia on Thursday, the Japanese Nikkei 225 index ended down 1.1%. In China, the Shanghai Composite closed down 1.7%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong is down 1.9%.
Gold was quoted at USD1,854.03 an ounce early Thursday, lower than USD1,868.00 on Wednesday. Brent oil was trading at USD41.43 a barrel, falling from USD42.16 late Wednesday.
The economic events calendar on Thursday has Germany's Ifo business climate at 0900 BST and the latest US jobless claims figures at 1330 BST.
In London, Smiths Group was weighing on the FTSE 100, falling 6.4% as it posted a fall in interim profit.
Revenue from continuing operations for the year was up 2% to GBP2.55 billion, though down 1% on an underlying basis. Pretax profit more than halved to GBP133 million, however, from GBP304 million the year before.
Smiths Group said profit was hit by lower volumes in the second half as well as additional costs to support business continuity, and the firm also took GBP31 million in restructuring costs and GBP24 million of write-downs.
The defence and medical technology company said its guidance remains withdrawn given Covid-19 uncertainty, though it said total group underlying revenue for the four months to the end of August has stabilised at a 5% fall, or down 8% for continuing operations.
"We are seeing a stabilisation of recent trends; but we are not complacent and are continuing to strengthen the business to deliver sustainable outperformance in the future," said Chief Executive Andy Reynolds Smith.
Slumped in the FTSE 250 was Cineworld, tumbling 16% after swinging to a USD1.6 billion interim loss.
Admissions were down 65% in the first half of 2020, with revenue down 67% to USD712.4 million from USD2.15 billion a year ago. Cineworld posted a pretax loss of USD1.64 billion versus a profit of USD139.7 million a year prior.
The cinema operator said 561 out of 778 sites are re-opened currently, and it has been "encouraged" by its recent performance. It noted a "good" performance of the film Tenet earlier this month, and named 'Wonder Woman 1984', 'Black Widow' and the latest James Bond instalment 'No Time To Die' as some of the "exciting" films coming up in 2020.
However, Cineworld added: "There can be no certainty as to the future impact of Covid-19 on the group. If governments were to strengthen restrictions on social gathering, which may therefore oblige us to close our estate again or further push back movie releases, it would have a negative impact on our financial performance and likely require the need to raise additional liquidity."
Cineworld said negotiations with banks remain ongoing in order to secure covenant waivers in respect of December 2020 and June 2021.
Under a 'going concern' section of the results report, it was noted: "The group's forecasts and projections, taking account of reasonably possible changes in trading performance, show that the group should be able to operate within the level of its current facilities for at least 12 months from the approval date of these interim consolidated financial statements, however the covenants are forecast to be breached at 30 December 2020, 30 June 2021 and 31 December 2021."
The directors expect waivers will be obtained.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, commented: "Today's first half year numbers serve to highlight the scale of the mountain that needs to be scaled by the sector as a whole, and certainly back up the decision to pull out of the highly questionable USD2.1 billion deal to buy Cineplex, which now looks set to go through the courts."
Pub firm Mitchells & Butlers was down 3.9% as it said it is "well placed" in the face of further pub restrictions.
Since re-opening, the company said it has continued to outperform the market. In July, like-for-like sales declined by 32%, hit by reduced capacity. During August, however, the government's 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme helped return the business to like-for-like sales growth, of 1.4%.
Subsequent trading in the first three weeks of September has settled "slightly below this" at a like-for-like sales decline of 6.4%, prior to the introduction of a 10pm pub curfew in England from Thursday onwards.
"The future remains both challenging and uncertain, with only this week a curfew and other additional restrictions being imposed on how and when we can operate. However, we believe we are well placed to meet that challenge and to keep Mitchells & Butlers at the forefront of the eating and drinking-out market," said Chief Executive Phil Urban.
Pets at Home was the top mid-cap performer, rallying 13% after saying it expects full-year underlying pretax profit to be ahead of current market expectations. Shore raised the pet products retailer to Buy from Hold in the wake of the trading update.
By Lucy Heming;Â email@example.com
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