StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks faced strong headwinds on Thursday as markets around the world dropped on concerns over global growth and over a possible second wave of coronavirus infections in the US.

At last night's US Federal Reserve's committee meeting chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank expected no rate increase until 2022, and forecast that the US economy would contract by 6.5% in 2020, with the unemployment rate expected to top 9% by the year-end.

At midday the FTSE 100 was down 2 at 6,204 points, while the FTSE 250 was also 2% lower at 17,249 points.

Consumer giant Unilever, the largest company in the FSTE by market value, gave up early gains easing 0.5% to £43.55 after announcing it would move to a single legal structure around its UK plc in order to simplify the business.

The firm said getting rid of its current dual-headed structure would give it more flexibility to make strategic acquisitions and disposals, and improve its corporate governance by creating an equal voting basis for all of its shareholders.

Two years ago it suggested moving its corporate HQ to the Netherlands and issuing UK shareholders with Dutch-listed shares, which caused uproar among UK institutional investors.

Among other large-cap losers were travel and leisure stocks which had until recently been chased up by investors. Cruise ship operator Carnival lost 8% to £12.43 while airline groups IAG, which owns British Airways, and EasyJet fell 6% to 271p and 5% to 777p respectively.

Shares in online grocery delivery firm Ocado fell 5.9% to £19.57 after the company placed £1bn of shares and convertible bonds to finance its expansion plans.

The share placing raised £657m after 33.5m new shares were issued at £19.60, a 4.7% discount to last night's closing price.

Defence contractor Babcock lost 3.4% to 394p after announcing pre-tax losses £178.2m for the year to 31 March 2020 compared with a profit of £235.2m last year.

The company also said it would defer its decision on a final dividend until there was greater visibility on the impact from the Covid-19 pandemic on its performance.

Chemicals firm Johnson Matthey fell 2.4% to £21.38 on the news that it would halve its final dividend for last year to 31.1p/share and would cut about 2,500 jobs after profit fell on lower demand for its pollution filters owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

TalkTalk Telecom traded 4.1% lower at 95.2 as it reported slightly lower revenue for the year to 31 March 2020 and warned of a £15m hit from COVID-19.

On the plus side, financial markets firm CMC Markets soared 19% to 237p after it hiked its dividend as profits rose to £98.7m from £6.3m on higher volatility across markets, increasing trading activity by customers and boosting its income.

Foo delivery firm Just Eat Takeaway gained 2% higher at £77.50 following the announcement it would acquire Grubhub in a $7.3bn deal as the food delivery company looked to bolster its presence in the US.

The news came a day after the shares collapsed 12% on the news that the UK's Competition and Markets Authority has extended its review of a proposed deal between Amazon and Deliveroo.




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