Market report: Europe breathes sigh of relief as coronavirus fears ease

ALEX LAWSON
Universities in Britain with links to affected Chinese cities are taking urgent measures to stem an outbreak: AFP via Getty Images

A nervous sigh of relief swept through European stock markets today, amid signs the deadly Wuhan coronavirus may not have as devastating an impact as first feared.

The World Health Organisation took the fear gauge down a notch as it has not yet designated the illness, which originated in the city of Wuhan, international emergency status. That’s despite a rising death toll and fears it has spread to other countries.

After two days in negative territory, the blue-chip FTSE 100 rose 104.74 points to 7612.66, and the FTSE 250 was up 191.60 points to 21,731.08.

In Europe, Germany’s Dax index put on 185.20 points to 13,573.70 and France’s CAC40 rose 40.55 points to 1429.37, despite data showing French business activity expanded at a weaker pace in January than in December. Asian market moves were muted.

ThinkMarkets analyst Bethel Loh said: “The spread of the virus hasn’t exactly scared the life out of markets, but it has managed to cap weekly gains given the repeat of a potential devastating Sars 2003 outbreak remains a lingering concern in the back of investors’ minds.

“Even so, it’s worth noting that markets could also be conflating such tail risks with the feeling that it’s an appropriate time to take some money off the table and book profits ahead of Lunar New Year holidays.”

The usual Chinese New Year splurge in the Asian nation was expected to be dampened but in London tourists were still expected to spend big. Chinese visitors to London’s luxury stores were forecast to splash out £1800 per transaction, up from £1675 last year, the New West End Company said.

Medical equipment manufacturer Smith & Nephew snapped up America’s Tusker Medical, which specialises in in-ear tubes to aid hearing, for an undisclosed sum. Investors liked the bolt-on deal with shares up 45p to 1925p.

Budget operator easyhotel was also on the shopping list, as the City shrugged off a plunge into the red due to a one-off charge, and focused on an increase in revenue per room. The shares ticked up 3% to 90p.

Former Iron Maiden manager Merck Mercuriadis rarely goes to bed without doing a deal and today proved no different. He bought the music catalogue of songwriter Brian Higgins for his Hipgnosis Songs Fund acquisitions vehicle.

Higgins has written for pop stars Girls Aloud, Cher and Kylie Minogue. The shares ticked up 0.5p to 109.5p.

Small-cap spotlight

OnTheMarket, the online property firm set up by estate agents to challenge Rightmove and Zoopla, today won a new listing agreement with Bellway. The FTSE 250 housebuilder, which sold 10,892 homes in its most recent financial year, will put its residential properties on OnTheMarket’s website. The shares in AIM-listed OnTheMarket, led by Ian Springett, edged up 0.4p to 71.9p.