The FTSE is struggling this morning, weighed down by losses at Centrica, Barclays’ missed profit and a new way of diagnosing the coronavirus.
Britain’s largest energy supplier Centrica blamed the cap on household energy bills for a loss of more than £1bn in the last financial year and the decline in commodity prices prompted the firm to write down the value of its oil and gas assets. Shares tumbled around 17% in early trade but still managed to hold above the 12-month low of 64p, a testament to a tumultuous year of trading for the stock.
Barclays bank is facing a whole different set of problems now that its chief executive is being investigated by UK financial authorities over his links to the convicted financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Coronavirus spike in context
Latest reports from China indicate that the number of coronavirus-related deaths has risen to the highest level so far but these should be taken in context. China has changed the way it diagnoses infected patients and has broadened the parameters to include a wider range of symptoms. There has been no retroactive analysis yet that would show if there has actually been an increase in cases measuring like for like, but in the past epidemiologists have said that the peak of the spread is likely to happen at the end of February or in early March.
Oil firms and miners reacted the worst to the China numbers, among them the heavily traded Glencore, Shell and BP. The latter two were also affected by a report from the International Energy Agency saying that the outbreak of the coronavirus could reduce the demand for oil by as much as 30% this year, with the worst decline expected in the current quarter. Brent crude prices dropped around 1% on the news while WTI lost 0.6%.