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LONDON MARKET OPEN: Stocks resume slide as Omicron optimism flounders

Tue, 30th Nov 2021 09:01

(Alliance News) - Omicron fears returned to the fore early Tuesday, with banks and oil amongst the sectors in London bearing the brunt of the latest stock market wobble.

The FTSE 100 index was down 85.30 points, or 1.2%, at 7,024.65 at the open. The mid-cap FTSE 250 index was down 182.72 points, or 0.8% at 22,573.61. The AIM All-Share index was down 4.88 points, or 0.4%, at 1,185.63.

The Cboe UK 100 index was down 1.3% at 696.60. The Cboe 250 was down 1.0% at 20,047.17 and the Cboe Small Companies down 0.2% at 14,785.61.

In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 in Paris was down 1.0%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was down 0.9% Tuesday morning.

After some respite from the Omicron sell-off on Monday on hopes the new variant may result in just mild illness, the mood soured once again on Tuesday as traders heeded a warning from the World Health Organization that the overall risk from Omicron is "very high".

"If another major surge of Covid-19 takes place driven by Omicron, consequences may be severe," the WHO cautioned, concluding that "the overall global risk related to the new [variant of concern] Omicron is assessed as very high."

Gold, considered a safe-haven asset, advanced amid the renewed caution. Gold was quoted at USD1,795.15 an ounce early Tuesday, higher than USD1,783.85 on Monday.

"Risk assets are back under pressure this morning, with markets still awaiting updates on the vaccine coverage against Omicron. The discussion is now shifting towards monetary policy as markets have priced out the Fed's (and other central banks) tightening," said ING.

The dollar was on the back foot on Tuesday amid speculation the new variant will push back the Fed's plans to tighten US monetary policy.

Sterling was quoted at USD1.3341 early Tuesday, firm on USD1.3305 at the London equities close on Monday.

The euro traded at USD1.1341 early Tuesday, higher compared to USD1.1270 late Monday. Against the yen, the dollar fell to JPY112.88 versus JPY113.70.

In London, lenders such as Lloyds Banking, Standard Chartered and HSBC were down 2.1%, 1.4% and 0.9% respectively in early trade.

At the bottom of the FTSE 100 was Holiday Inn-owner InterContinental Hotels Group, down 2.8%. Premier Inn-owner Whitbread as down 2.2%.

Oil majors fell, tracking crude prices lower. Brent oil was trading at USD71.49 a barrel, dropping from USD73.88 late Monday.

BP shares were down 1.9%, while Royal Dutch Shell 'A' and 'B' shares fell 1.7% and 1.4% respectively.

BT fell 2.1%, after rallying 6.1% on Monday, after Reliance Industries said it has no intention of making any bid for the UK-listed telecommunications firm, denying a report by Indian newspaper the Economic Times.

"We categorically deny any intent to bid for the UK telecoms group, BT, formerly British Telecom," the Mumbai-based conglomerate said in statement. "The article is completely speculative and baseless," Reliance added.

At the top of the FTSE 100 was lockdown winner Ocado, shares up 1.2% as investors hoped for another boost for the online grocer should the UK reimpose virus restrictions. Citigroup also resumed the stock with a Buy rating on Tuesday.

In the FTSE 250, Future surged 16% after the magazine publisher boosted its dividend and said it now expects results for 2022 to be ahead of current forecasts.

For the financial year that ended September 30, revenue jumped 79% on the year before to GBP606.8 million, while pretax profit doubled to GBP107.8 million from GBP52.0 million.

Future, confident in its outlook, proposed a dividend for the year of 2.8p per share, up 75% on the 1.6p paid out the year before. Looking ahead, Future expects growth to accelerate in the second half of its 2022 financial year and now expects adjusted results for the financial year ahead to be "materially above current expectations".

easyJet was little changed, down 0.1%. The budget airline said it is too soon to say what impact Omicron will have on European travel, though added it is prepared for "periods of uncertainty". While easyJet has seen some "softening" of trading for the first quarter, it is still seeing solid bookings for the second half.

For the financial year that ended September 30, revenue halved to GBP1.46 billion from GBP3.01 billion the year before. easyJet's pretax loss narrowed to GBP1.04 billion from GBP1.27 billion on a reduction in finance charges.

The airline's headline pretax loss widened to GBP1.14 billion from GBP833 million, but it highlighted that this result was ahead of consensus.

Wise shares jumped 7.3% after lifting revenue growth guidance. Revenue for the half-year to September 30 rose 33% to GBP256.3 million from GBP192.2 million year-on-year. However, pretax profit slipped 6.0% to GBP18.8 million from GBP20.0 million as administrative expenses grew.

The international money transfers operator now expects annual revenue growth to be in the mid-to-high 20s on a percentage basis, up from guidance of low-to-mid 20s previously.

The economic events calendar on Tuesday has German unemployment data at 0855 GMT and eurozone inflation readings at 1000 GMT. US Fed Chair Powell testifies before Congress at 1500 GMT.

By Lucy Heming; lucyheming@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2021 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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