StockMarketWire.com - Extreme bloodletting on the UK stock market continued in early trade on Wednesday as the coronavirus continued to spread, though supermarket chains were boosted by an emergency tax waiver offered by the government.

At 0821, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 164.5 points, or 3.1%, at 5.130.40.

Supermarket giants Tesco and Sainsbury's rose 2.9% to 232.5p and 12% to 214.7p, respectively, after welcoming UK government moves to grant retailers a business rate 'holiday' for 12 months to soften the coronavirus blow.

Rival supermarket chain Morrisons jumped 12% to 202.4p, as it eked out a 3% rise in underlying annual profit, even as its sales slipped.

Morrisons also suspended paying more special dividends while it assessed the full impact of the coronavirus.

Software company Micro Focus International sank 12% to 354.5p, on announcing that it was no longer recommending a final dividend for its 2019 financial year as it monitors the cost of the coronavirus outbreak.

Pub owner Marston's lost 7.9% to 20.45p, having warned on profits and stating that it may not pay an interim dividend.

The gloomy guidance from Marston's came after the UK government urged people to avoid pubs and other hospitality venues to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Marston's also said it was in talks with its lenders about potential covenant waivers.

Rival pub and restaurant group Mitchells & Butlers dropped 12% to 124.2p, claiming it was bracing for a 'significant downturn' in sales.

Iron ore pellet producer Ferrexpo reversed 2.0% to 120.4p, despite reporting a rise in profit, supported by rising sales at higher prices.

Consumer goods group PZ Cussons shed 1.7% to 170p, even as it agreed to sell Nigerian dairy business Nutricima to an affiliate of Holland's Royal FrieslandCampina, for an undisclosed sum.

Auto retailer Pendragon skidded 29% lower to 4.3p as it reported a deeper annual loss and scrapped its final dividend, though it said its performance had improved in the second half after it shuttered poorly performing stores.

Pendragon said it was closely monitoring the impact of Covid-19 on the UK economy.

Convenience food producer Greencore dropped 6.2% to 93.82p, despite stating thatit continued to trade 'broadly in line' with expectations, even as the spread of the Covid-19 virus gathers pace.

Wagamama and Frankie & Benny's owner Restaurant Group gained 5.3% to 26.85p despite warning on profits amid a precipitous drop in sales.

Restaurant Group said it was discussing convenant 'holiday's' with its lenders, but still forecast a positive operating earnings results for the full year.

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