Shares tank on fears of another lockdown within weeks

Shares in companies that would suffer in a second lockdown plunged as ministers warned ‘circuit-break’ restrictions could come into force within weeks.

Firms in every corner of the economy were hit by the warnings with airlines, engineering groups and banks leading the fallers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK was ‘seeing the start of a second wave’ of the pandemic as another 4,322 coronavirus cases and 27 deaths were reported in the UK.

Warning: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK was ‘seeing the start of a second wave’ of the pandemic as another 4,322 coronavirus cases and 27 deaths were reported in the UK

The Government is now considering a partial ‘circuit-break’ lockdown for two or more weeks across the whole of England, which could include asking some hospitality businesses to close and limiting the opening hours of some pubs and restaurants nationwide. 

But business leaders have warned that another lockdown could ‘cripple’ the already-fragile economy just as it has started to recover.

Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘While protection of public health must be the priority, government should do everything in its power to avoid further national lockdowns that will cripple businesses.’

Ryanair grounds flights 

Ryanair will further reduce its operations due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

The budget airline said its capacity in October will be 40 per cent of 2019 levels, compared with the 50 per cent it previously announced. 

The firm said it expects to fill 70pc of seats on its planes. A Ryanair spokesman said: ‘While it is too early yet to make final decisions on our winter schedule (from November to March), if current trends and EU governments’ mismanagement of the return of air travel and normal economic activity continue, then similar capacity cuts may be required across the winter period.’

It is thought the restrictions will come in over the half-term break – which would dash any hopes of an autumn holiday for families.

It would also threaten weakening consumer confidence even further at a time when the economy was getting back to normality.

Shares in British Airways-owner IAG plunged 14.6 per cent, or 18.9p, to 110.55p, making it the largest faller on the FTSE 100 index.

Holiday Inn-owner Intercontinental Hotels Group tumbled 4.5 per cent, or 194p, to 4137p, while Premier Inn-owner Whitbread slid 2.4 per cent, or 53p, to 2200p.

On the FTSE 250 Easyjet slumped 9.2 per cent, or 54.6p, to 539.6p, while cruise operator Carnival sank a further 7.9 per cent, or 81.4p, to 947.6p. 

Travel and tourism companies have been among the hardest hit in the crisis after the pandemic brought global air travel virtually to a standstill through spring and the early summer. 

Airlines were further pummelled by confusing and last-minute quarantines being imposed on many popular summer holiday destinations – and are now having to row back their tentative autumn schedules even further.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: ‘The Government wants to avoid economic disruption, but clearly a return to tighter lockdown measures next month would disrupt businesses and put further pressure on jobs.’

Shares in British Airways-owner IAG plunged 14.6 per cent, or 18.9p, to 110.55p, making it the largest faller on the FTSE 100 index

Shares in British Airways-owner IAG plunged 14.6 per cent, or 18.9p, to 110.55p, making it the largest faller on the FTSE 100 index

Shares in British Airways-owner IAG plunged 14.6 per cent, or 18.9p, to 110.55p, making it the largest faller on the FTSE 100 index

Engineering groups that supply airlines with parts and engines were also put under pressure.

Shares at Rolls-Royce dived 5.1 per cent, or 9.75p, to 180.15p, while GKN-owner Melrose fell 3.4 per cent, or 4.25p, to 120p.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: ‘The continued reduction by airlines to their flight schedules puts more pressure on Rolls-Royce’s cash flow as they get paid in line with how much time aircraft are actually in the air.’

Kate Nicholls, the boss of UK Hospitality, said the sector was still on a ‘knife edge’.

Wagamama-owner The Restaurant Group lost 2.4 per cent, or 1.35p, to close at 54.65p, while train station and airport café operator SSP fell 3.1 per cent, or 6.2p, to 196.2p.

There was further pressure on banks after traders were spooked this week by talk of negative interest rates. Fears are rising that negative interest rates might be one of the only policy tools left in politicians’ arsenals to fight Covid.

HSBC ended down 2.2 per cent, or 6.8p, at 304p last night, while Lloyds fell 3.9 per cent, or 1.01p, to 25.24p, and Natwest fell 3.2 per cent, or 3.17p, at 96.88p.

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