StockMarketWire.com - Global stock markets were rattled by fears about the spread of coronavirus on Thursday, as it continued to take a grip across China. London's FTSE 100 finished the session sharply lower after the Bank of England kept interest rates unchanged, pushing back any potential cut and sending the pound higher as a consequence.

Also weighing on sentiment was the central bank's downgrade to UK growth forecasts, with the Bank of England now forecasting a modest 0.8% GDP increase in 2020 versus its previous estimate of 1.2%.

At 16.35, the FTSE 100 was down 1.36%, or 101.61 points, at 7,381.96.

LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

BT shed 7.2% to 162.7p after the telecoms company reported results that fell 'slightly below' its expectations for the third quarter of the year, led by weaknesses in its global, enterprise and consumer segments.

Reported pre-tax profit tax fell 3% to £1.91m on-year in the nine months ended 31 December.

Unilever advanced 2.1% to £45.33 on the back of underlying sales growth of 2.9% for the full year 2019 helped by growth in emerging markets and in its home care division.

The company has initiated a strategic review of its global tea business.

Wealth manager St James's Place put on 14p to trade at £11.56 as it reported funds under management ended 2019 at a record £117bn and confirmed a 'robust set' of new business results.

Alcoholic drinks company Diageo softened 2.7% to £30.25 as it warned of expected sales within the 'lower end' of its guidance range as growth in the first half was held back by a strong pound and a volatile backdrop across businesses in India, Latin America and Caribbean and travel retail.

Paragon Banking was 3.5% easier at 508.5p following a trading update for the three months ended 31 December 2019, which reported new business volumes rose 3.7% on the previous year to £684.9m.

Specialist buy-to-let lending was 1.1% higher year-on-year at £375.4m, while other mortgage and amateur buy-to-let volumes were lower in comparison.

Renishaw cheapened 2.6% to £40.05 after it highlighted a 'challenging trading period' in the first-half of 2020 that saw revenue for the six months ended 31 December 2019 at £259.4m, down 8% on the £296.7m recorded in the same period a year earlier.

The precision engineering firm reported adjusted pre-tax profit of £14.3m in the first-half period, compared with adjusted previous year of £59.6m, which it said was primarily due to the reduced revenue.

Private equity group 3i edged 1p higher to £11.13 on the news that it saw a rise in net assets in its fiscal third quarter led by growth in its private equity and infrastructure businesses.

Cybersecurity company Avast fell 14.1% to 391.4p after announcing it was looking to offload its analytics business amid privacy concerns, but said the move would not hurt annual performance.

Evraz improved 1.8p to 371.2p after reporting a rise in quarterly steel sales in the fourth quarter of last year.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Materials group Haydale Graphene Industries slumped 14.7% to 1.45p after warning full year sales will fall short of expectations due to a slowdown in the aerospace sector in the US and the decision to close its manufacturing operations in Taiwan.

Aukett Swanke surged 23.1% higher to 2.4p after the international group of architects, interior designers and engineers reported a major financial turnaround, with pre-tax profit restored for the year to September 2019.

Software minnow Pebble Beach Systems, which provides the solutions for the broadcast and streaming service markets, skipped 13% higher to 7.2p after flagging improved sales and earnings and a further reduction in debt during 2019 and issuing a confident outlook for 2020.


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