The FTSE 100 marked its worst monthly performance since March as the index chalked up a fifth straight day of losses, down 4.48 points to 5,577.27.
Investors have become increasingly concerned this week over fears that lockdowns to tackle surging coronavirus cases would disrupt a nascent economic recovery, with pressure mounting on the UK to follow Germany and France and impose a second nationwide lockdown, even as the Government said it will stick with its system of local restrictions.
While on Wall Street stocks continued to decline as well, amid political uncertainty with the US presidential election looming and a continuing surge in Covid-19 cases.
In the US the S&P 500 was down 1.55% in morning trading, with the Dow Jones dropping 1.1% and the Nasdaq tumbling 2.5%.
NATWEST IN FOCUS
In company news, NatWest (NWG) topped the FTSE leader board with a 6%-plus jump to 124.2p after the lender swung to a quarterly profit as it set aside a smaller-than-expected amount to deal with pandemic-driven bad loans.
British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) said it was driving down its cost base and called on governments to adopt pre-departure Covid-19 testing to allow travel during a second wave of infections that has locked down Europe again.
IAG shares gained 5.88% to 96.44p.
The world’s biggest shipper of coal Glencore (GLEN) ended the day 0.26% higher to 155.9p despite cutting its production target for the third time this year as the company faces an extended strike at a key Colombian mine.
Glencore now expects to produce around 109 million tons of coal this year, compared with an earlier goal of about 114 million tons, the company said in a statement Friday, with 2020 output down 20% on 2019 so far.
Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) said it had agreed to sell commercial rights for two of its heart failure and blood pressure medicines to German pharmaceutical company Cheplapharm Arzneimittel for $400 million.
Astra shares fell 1.4% on the news to £77.66.
BEST OF THE REST
Oil giant BP (BP.) nudged 0.97% higher to 195.34p after unveiling plans to stop producing fuel in Australia and convert its Kwinana oil refinery, the biggest of the country’s four.
It will convert the plant into a fuel import terminal, a decision made due to tough competition in the Asian market, the global major said.
Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) rallied 3.42% to 929p after the company said it was ramping up production at it Mars Corridor And Appomattox platforms in the Gulf of Mexico that were shut due to Hurricane Zeta.
Africa-focused fuel retailer Vivo Energy (VVO) said it will pay the previously withdrawn 2019 final dividend of $0.027 per share as volume in the third quarter improved on the second as Covid-19 restrictions began to ease. That helped the stock rise 5.44% to 75.6p.
The Bank of England said it had extended its banknote printing contract with De La Rue (DLAR) by three years. It means that the manufacturer will maintain exclusivity in printing Bank of England banknotes and operating the Bank’s facility in Essex until 2028.
Yet this apparently reassuring news left investors cold, with the stock dropping 1.17% to 134.8p.
Computer services provider Computacenter (CCC) fell 10.4% to £22.74, despite announcing that it was ‘very comfortable’ with its current expectations for the full year amid a strong backlog of orders.
Travel company TUI (TUI) added 4.02% to 302.6p after it signed a further sale and leaseback agreement with BOC Aviation, this time for two new Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft for a combined $90 million (€76 million).
Russia-focused gold miner Petropavlovsk (POG) slipped 2.73% to 26.7p, having swung to a first-half loss after rising revenue, boosted by higher output and gold prices, was offset by losses related to a debt conversion option.
Petropavlovsk, which recently underwent a board shakeup, said that it was aiming to provide a greater focus on ‘providing returns to all shareholders’, while noting that it hadn't declared a dividend for eight years.
Marketing company 4imprint (FOUR) gained 2.12% to £21.70 after revealing its average weekly revenue over the last four weeks was around 65% of the prior-year period.
Restaurant operator Tasty (TAST:AIM) plunged 26.67% to 1.1p as it swung to a deeper first-half loss after the pandemic hammered sales, while warning of more pain from further UK lockdowns.
Tasty said it continued to negotiate with landlords and had secured a loan facility of £1.25 million, which could be drawn down until 7 February.
‘However, drawdown is restricted until the future of the group is assured through restaurant closures and creditor arrangements,’ it added.