Jumps in the number of cases of coronavirus in Europe have eaten into the stock markets, as the FTSE 100 ended a three-day winning streak on Friday.
London’s top market gave back 305.4 points, closing the day down 5.3% at 5510.33 points.
The index faced a double-hit as sterling soared, putting further pressure on the FTSE’s export-heavy companies by making British products more expensive for foreign buyers.
But even that was not enough to knock the FTSE off its first week of gains in two months, as the index rose more than 6% since last Friday.
“Equity markets in Europe are sharply lower this afternoon as health concerns have taken centre stage again,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.
Markets closed just before Italy revealed that its daily death toll from coronavirus had hit new heights, as 919 people died in the last 24 hours.
UK Prime Mininster Boris Johnson also on Friday revealed that he was infected with the virus.
Oil companies helped to drag London’s bluechip index lower, as the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil dipped to 24.57 dollars, a 7.2% fall.
As a result BP lost 9%, while Shell’s ‘B’ shares were down by more than 10%.
Meanwhile, housebuilders Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey took a beating as the housing market seized up during Britain’s lockdown.
The banks also ended the day in the red, with supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Morrisons eking out small gains.
Shortly after the end of trade in London, one pound would buy 1.2414 dollars, up 2.1%, and 1.1203 euros, a 1.6% increase.
In company news, Domino’s fell 1.8% amid a wide market sell-off as takeaway demand takes off as people stay home. The pizza business said trading had “accelerated” over the past week despite moving to a delivery-only model.
Higher delivery sales had offset a drop in in-store collections, the company revealed.
Fraser’s boss Mike Ashley, who founded Sports Direct, apologised for “ill-judged and poorly timed” emails to the Government and poor communication with employees and the public in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an open letter, the majority owner also said he had offered the company’s “entire fleet of lorries” to the NHS to help deliver medical supplies and equipment. Shares in the company fell 17.6%.
Persimmon dropped 11% and Taylor Wimpey 9%, amid a sell-off in the housing sector as ministers urged buyers to put moves on hold.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said those due to move house should rearrange to a new date and delay the process of changing property.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Hikma, up 96p to 1,964p, Sainsbury, up 4.3p to 210p, Smith & Nephew, up 25p to 1,427.5p, United Utilities, up 8.4p to 898p, and Bunzl, up 11.5p to 1,513.5p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Carnival, down 253.4p to 981.6p, Flutter Ent, down 860p to 6,550p, Next, down 500p to 4,008p, Persimmon, down 229p to 1,850p, and Royal Dutch Shell ‘B’, down 143.4p to 1,230.6p.