The FTSE 100 has suffered its worst month since March as fears of a second wave shook investor confidence.
Britain’s index of leading companies has slid by 282 points throughout October – most notably over the last week, as coronavirus cases have shot up and countries around Europe have begun to impose strict new lockdowns.
Even upbeat results from the UK’s major banks over the last week have been unable to support the blue-chip index.
Astrazeneca, still the FTSE’s most valuable listed company, acted as a drag on the index as it slipped 1.4 per cent, or 110p, to 7766p, after selling heart failure drug Atacand in around 70 countries to German firm Cheplapharm.
The FTSE 100 fell 0.1 per cent, or 4.48 points, to 5577.27 points yesterday, contributing to a sea of red on traders’ screens as global markets tumbled.
In the US, the Dow Jones was down 1.4 per cent, the Nasdaq down 2.8 per cent and the S&P down 1.8 per cent as traders wrapped up a tricky week dogged by rising coronavirus cases, the breakdown of fiscal stimulus talks, and rising election tensions. Asian stocks also tumbled – Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.5 per cent, the Shanghai Composite by 1.5 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index by 2 per cent.
And closer to home, Germany’s Dax index slipped by 0.4 per cent – although traders in France seemed to be coming to terms with new lockdown restrictions as the CAC edged up 0.5 per cent.
David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets, said: ‘A mixture of rising Covid-19 cases and the announcement of tougher restrictions clobbered stocks.
‘Last month, the DAX 30 and the CAC 40 hit multi month highs, while the FTSE100 reached multiweek highs. Back then, optimism was doing the rounds as economies reopened and there were hopes that US politicians would agree a coronavirus relief package.
‘Now, dealers are bracing themselves for stricter lockdowns, and lawmakers in the US haven’t reached a compromise with respect to the stimulus package.’
The biggest drag on the FTSE was Ocado, which slipped 3.2 per cent, or 74p, to 2276p as investors pocketed some of their profits.
The mid-cap FSTE 250 index just managed to pull back some gains before the end of the month, climbing 0.2 per cent or 36.7 points to 17214.38 points.
It was boosted by a 9.9 per cent rise at Cineworld, where shares climbed 2.56p to 28.51p as investors hunted for a bargain at the closed cinema chain. And Aston Martin climbed 5.4 per cent, or 2.8p, to 54.25p, as it successfully priced its new bonds.
However, in order to attract investors, the 007 car maker had to increase the yield on the $1.1billion (£840m) of bonds to 10.5 per cent, making it one of the highest-yielding bond issues in Europe this year.
IT company Computacenter edged down 1 per cent, or 24p, to 2274p as it updated the market.
Traders took the chance to sell up and take their profits after the company hit a record high earlier this month, even as the company said it was comfortable with its full-year expectations and had a strong backlog of orders.
Mining firms, which have had a difficult time during lockdown as demand for materials has fallen, had another lacklustre day.
Glencore, following a third-quarter update, edged up just 0.3 per cent, or 0.4p, at 155.9p, as it admitted coal production would undershoot guidance due to a strike at its Cerrejon mine in Colombia.
And Petropavlovsk slid 2.7 per cent, or 0.75p, to 26.7p, as it lowered its expectations for full-year gold production. The firm has been continually dogged by internal disputes after a shareholder coup in August ousted the miner’s chief executive and several directors.