UK stocks suffer losses not seen since 2016 Brexit vote

Trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, US, on Dec 6, 2018.
Trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, US, on Dec 6, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - UK shares plunged on Thursday (Dec 6) and recorded losses not seen since the aftermath of the Brexit vote as a sell-off swept global markets following the arrest of a top Huawei executive that renewed worries about United States-China trade tensions.

European stocks began the day well in negative territory but went further in the red after Wall Street opened strongly lower.

The FTSE fell 3.2 per cent to 6674.01 points, its worst performance since June 2016, when Britons voted to leave the European Union.

The midcap FTSE 250 was down 2.8 per cent, with domestically focused stocks slightly less affected than the wider European market before a crucial Brexit vote next week.

Prime Minister Theresa May is battling to get her Brexit deal through Parliament in a vote scheduled for next Tuesday (Dec 11). She is facing heavy opposition from lawmakers who backed Britain leaving the bloc as well as those who wanted to remain in the EU.

Losses on the British blue-chip index were in line with European peers with falling oil and commodities prices hitting heavyweight oil and mining stocks.

The oil and mining sectors were down 4.5 per cent and 4 per cent respectively as Opec ended a key meeting without making a decision on crude output.


Industrial metals prices fell on Thursday and copper hit a three-week low after the arrest of Chinese smartphone maker Huawei's chief financial officer dampened hopes for resolution to the US-China trade conflict.

"The Huawei arrest appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back," wrote Mr Connor Campbell, an analysts at Spreadex.

"The rapidly dwindling good-feeling towards the US and China's vague trade war ceasefire turned actively hostile on Thursday, investors fearing that, 90-day truce or not, the relationship between the two superpowers might be about to take a turn for the worse," he wrote.

Among other decliners, bookies stocks were hit by a report that gambling companies have agreed to stop advertising during live sport broadcasts, such as football matches, amid growing pressure from politicians.

On the midcap index, Indivior topped the fallers, down 11.4 per cent, as investors moved out of the drugmaker ahead of its demotion to the small-cap index later this month.

The stock has also been hit hard by a US court ruling late last month that allowed a rival to sell a copycat version of its blockbuster Suboxone drug.