The FTSE 100 tumbled throughout trading on Wednesday, closing 1.3% lower to 6,567.37, as investor sentiment was hit by a perfect storm of Covid-19 vaccine troubles, anxiety over the US Federal Reserve’s latest monetary policy update and a warning from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A row over vaccine supplies from pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) into the EU continued on Wednesday as the sceptre of vaccine nationalism and potential blocks on the exports of vaccines from the EU spooked investors, with other European markets also heavily in the red.
Meanwhile the Fed is expected to leave policy unchanged and stick to its ultra-loose stance with near zero interest rates, $120 billion of bond purchases every month and other liquidity relief measures to help the ailing US economy, which is the world’s largest.
It comes as the IMF warned financial markets are getting ‘complacent’, and now expects the global economy to grow 5.5% this year, a 0.3% increase from October’s forecast, but cut its UK estimates from 5.9% to 4.5% as virus cases continue to rise and increased curbs on travel upped the worry ante.
In company news, gold and silver miner Fresnillo (FRES) plunged 13% to 924p after it forecast lower production for 2021, citing Covid-19 uncertainty and operational challenges in Mexico.
Oil exploration company Tullow Oil (TLW) dropped 10.7% to 27.9p even after saying it expects its operating cash flow to reach $500 million in 2021. But that is if the oil price stays above $50 a barrel, a seemingly big if.
IT skills and professional services firm FDM (FDM) fell 1.18% to £10.06 after it cut its final dividend amid a fall in annual earnings and revenue.
FDM declared a final dividend of 13p per share, down from 18.5p year-on-year, bringing total payouts for the year to 31.5p, down from 34.5p in 2019.
Home repairs and improvements business HomeServe (HSV) moved 1.9% higher to £11 after announcing the appointment Tommy Breen as chairman designate. He will succeed Barry Gibson. Breen, a former chief executive of Irish marketing group DCC (DCC), will become chairman on 19 May.
Infrastructure investor 3i Infrastructure (3IN) dipped 0.7% to 300.5p after it said it was on track to meet its annual dividend target amid a fall in quarterly income that nevertheless met its expectations.
3i Infrastructure is targeting a dividend of 9.8p per share for the year through March, a year-on-year increase of 6.5%.
Furniture retailer ScS (SCS) gained 4.3% to 219p after unveiling a 14% rise in first-half gross sales thanks to its shift online during UK’s first national Covid lockdown last year.
ScS’s order intake, however, had slumped in more recent weeks due to store closures linked to the country's third lockdown.
Materials developer Scapa (SCPA:AIM) jumped 24.8% to 221p after the company agreed a takeover deal from rival SWM. The agreement is pitched at 210p per share, valuing the business at around £403 million, but the reaction of the share price today suggests some hope that a rival buyer offering more could yet emerge.
Driver monitoring system designer Seeing Machines (SEE:AIM) jumped 5.2% to 12.2p after signing a development deal with US microchip giant Qualcomm.
Wealth management company Brewin Dolphin (BRW) added 2.7% to 304p after it reported a 7% rise in fourth-quarter revenue, driven by a positive market performance and high commissions.
Diversified Gas & Oil (DGOC) added 1% to 115.4p as it reported an 18% rise in annual output that it said helped its 2020 results meet market expectations.
Agricultural product supplier Wynnstay (WYN) increased 2.5% to 374p as it reported a 7.5% fall in annual profit, after sales were hit by lower commodity prices amid the pandemic.
Wynnstay, however, increased its full-year dividend 4.3% to 14.6p per share after underlying earnings were boosted by lower spending.