After opening higher on Tuesday, FTSE retreated into negative territory at midday, as investors continued to question how severely the worsening coronavirus outbreak will hurt the global economy. At 1200, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 2.1% at 5,043.98. Electronics retailer Dixons Carphone gained 10% to 68.7p as investors embraced its decision to close 531 stores in the UK, resulting in up to 2,900 job losses. Aviation and engineering group Stobart ascended 9.5% to 42.2p, on confirming that it had entered into detailed discussions to possibly sell a minority stake in London Southend Airport. Chile-focused miner Antofagasta climbed 7% to 664.2p, having reported a rise in annual profit on the back of higher copper and gold sales. Antofagasta also said it was considering cutting capital expenditure in response to COVID-19. Pharma giant AstraZeneca gained 3.4% to £64.4 after a study showed its lung cancer drug in combination with chemotherapies confirmed a clinically meaningful improvement in survival rates. Packaging company Mondi added 3.4% to £13.2 after it announced the appointment of former 3i chief executive and Diageo finance head Philip Yea as its new chairman. Software and IT services company Softcat rallied 3.3% to 972.5p, having reported a 19% rise in first-half profit, as it expanded the size of its customer base. Softcat said it had seen no material impact from the spreading coronavirus, but acknowledged the disease created uncertainty for the remainder of its financial year. Water and climate management group Polypipe firmed 2.9% to 479.8p after it reported a 3.3% rise in annual profit, as it notched higher sales despite 'challenging trading conditions and market uncertainty'. Polypipe said the coronavirus pandemic had, to date, had no direct impact on its performance, though it was monitoring the situation closely. Automotive fluid system manufacturer TI Fluid Systems advanced 1%% to 131.4p, even as it booked a 7.1% fall in annual profit, owing to a weaker global auto market. Miner Anglo American rose 0.7% to £12.9 after it said it would temporarily slow operations at its Quellaveco copper mine in Peru following government restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19. Furniture and flooring retailer ScS fell 1% to 151.5p, as it delayed the release of its interim results, while forecasting a swing to a loss. On a more upbeat note, ScS said its order intake had risen 3.3% on a like-for-like basis for the first seven weeks of the second half to 14 March. Plumbing company Ferguson slid 12% to £45.5, announcing that it could not confirm that it would meet its profit outlook for the year. The downbeat guidance came as the company reported a fall in 2019 profit amid weaker performance in its businesses across the UK and Canada. Catering services group Compass cratered 18% to 917.6p after it became the next in a long line of companies to issue a coronavirus-inspired profit warning. Footwear retailer Shoe Zone tumbled 26% to 74.7p with the shock announcement that it planned to cancel a dividend payment that it had already declared earlier in March. The 8p per share final dividend for 2019 had been deferred and Shoe Zone said it planned to hold a general meeting in May to allow shareholders to vote on a resolution to cancel the payout. Restaurant group Tasty dropped 27% to 2p, having booked a full-year loss after site closures crimped its sales.
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