UPDATE 2-FTSE 100 ends winning streak as pound rises, virus fears persist

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
UPDATE 2-FTSE 100 ends winning streak as pound rises, virus fears persist
Credit: © Reuters.

* FTSE 100 down 1.1%, FTSE 250 down 0.6%

* Centrica , Barclays drag on main index

* Number of coronavirus cases in China rises

* Exporters hurt by a stronger pound (Adds news items, analyst comments, closing prices)

By Shashwat Awasthi and Noor Zainab Hussain

Feb 13 (Reuters) - London's blue-chip index fell on Thursday after two successive days of gains, dragged down by exporters which were hurt by a stronger pound as investors positioned for a higher-spending budget next month under a new British finance minister.

The FTSE 100 .FTSE ended the session 1.1% lower, derailed by steep falls in heavyweights Barclays BARC.L and Centrica CNA.L , while a rise in new coronavirus cases in China jolted broader risk sentiment.

British utility Centrica skidded 15.3% after its 2019 profit slumped by more than a third, while Barclays slipped 1.7% as news Britain's financial regulators were probing historical links between the bank's chief executive officer and U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein overshadowed financial results. mid-cap FSTE 250 .FTMC lost 0.6%, tracking a broader risk-off sentiment as the Chinese province of Hubei, an epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, reported a record rise in deaths and thousands of more cases. increase in numbers, which came after China introduced a new diagnostic procedure involving quicker computerised tomography (CT) scans to screen patients, dented hopes that the outbreak would soon plateau.

After the initial outbreak roiled global markets last month, investors have become more sensitive to the rate of escalation.

"China is the world's largest importer of oil so the renewed fears about the health crisis have hit stocks like BP and Royal Dutch Shell," CMC Markets analyst David Madden said, adding that mining stocks such as BHP BHPB.L , Rio Tinto RIO.L and Anglo American AAL.L were hurt too.

"It has been a double whammy for the FTSE 100 as the drive higher in sterling has dented internationally focused stocks like GlaxoSmithKline GSK.L and AstraZeneca AZN.L , plus Unilever ULVR.L ," he said.

The midcap index was also dragged down by British gambling firms William Hill WMH.L , GVC GVC.L , Playtech PTEC.L and 888 888.L following a media report that the gambling commission would consider putting limits on the amount consumers are allowed to bet online.

All sectors of the FTSE 100 ended lower, with oil majors Shell RDSa.L and BP BP.L among the major drags, followed by financials. The index substantially underperformed the broader European benchmark .STOXX as more of its components are exposed to commodity prices.

UAE-based NMC Health NMC.L , whose shares have swung sharply in recent sessions amid takeover chatter, tumbled 4.2% after analysts at SocGen slapped a double rating downgrade on the stock. Cola HBC CCH.L outperformed with a 3.6% gain after it, along with fellow bottler Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) European Partners CCEPC.L , reported a higher annual profit. drugmaker Indivior INDV.L fell more than 19% after it reported a fourth-quarter loss.

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