The FTSE 100 stood firm against the backdrop of plunging stock markets elsewhere, rising 0.32% in early morning trading to 7,309.26 as it shook off fears over the coronavirus.

It was a different story entirely on Asian stock markets. Opening again after the Lunar New Year holiday, the Shanghai Composite index in China plunged by almost 9% on fears about how the coronavirus will affect the economy.

The fall came despite China’s central bank introducing measures to try to ease the economic impact from the virus. The Hong Kong stock market traded sideways while Japanese and Korean markets were both down around 1%.

The sharp drop also impacted oil prices with brent crude futures down around 0.35%.

In company news, budget airline Ryanair (RYA) gained 4.75% to €15.50 after swinging to a profit in the third quarter of its financial year.

Ryanair’s net profit for the three months to 31 December totalled €88m, compared to a €66m in the same period the previous year. The budget airline also said it expected full year net profit to be at the midpoint range of its €0.95bn-to-1.05bn guidance.

However, the company pushed back its longer-term passenger growth forecasts due to the ongoing grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.

Media company Future (FTR) bounced back 6.2% to £13.59 after being the victim of a short attack on Friday.

The magazine publisher said preliminary results are expected to be materially ahead of market expectations thanks to ‘strong momentum’ four months into its financial year.

It comes after hedge fund ShadowFall caused an 18% drop in the company’s share price on Friday after publishing a scathing report on the company, and labelling it ‘a collection of generally low quality, often distinct and shrinking assets’ as it revealed it was shorting the stock.

Tobacco giant Imperial Brands (IMB) traded flat at £19.50 after it poached the head of automotive distributor Inchcape (INCH), Stefan Bomhard, to be its new chief executive.

Bomhard has been CEO of Inchcape since 2015. Imperial Brands chairman Therese Esperdy said, ‘Stefan has significant experience across multiple sectors and within large multinational organisations, particularly in brand building and consumer-led sales and marketing.’

Inchcape said it would begin a succession process with Bomhard’s departure date to be announced in due course.

Ligitation finance provider Burford Capital (BUR:AIM) fell 1% to 610p after it issued a profit warning due to a drop in net realised and unrealised gains.

Also a victim of a short-selling attack, Burford said it reached a record level of commitments at $1.6bn, with cash proceeds rising 23% to $997m over 2019, but warned that balance sheet net realised gains and unrealised gains are expected to be lower than in 2018, hitting net income and profit for 2019.

The company is currently in a row with short seller Muddy Waters over its corporate governance and management practices.

Fund management firm River and Mercantile (RIV) dropped 3.5% to 263p despite reporting a 6.2% rise in its funds under management to £42.3bn for the six months to 31 December, boosted by positive investment performance and new fund inflows.

Chief executive James Barham said, ‘We believe expectations for economic growth will increase and credit conditions strengthen, setting a supportive environment for asset markets in general and equities in particular.’

He added, ‘Within equities, conditions should favour value style investing, especially given the attractive starting point.’

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Issue Date: 03 Feb 2020