Emerging-market turmoil drags UK's FTSE to worst January since 2009

Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:25am EST

* FTSE 100 down 0.9 pct

* Emerging-market turmoil triggers 4 percent monthly fall

* Diageo, SABMiller hit by analyst downgrades

* BT top riser as it returns to revenue growth

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - British blue chip shares fell to six-week lows on Friday and were set for their worst month since June, as beverage stocks suffered from emerging-market turmoil and disappointing results.

The FTSE 100 was down 60.46 points, or 0.9 percent, to 6,477.99 points by 1556 GMT. It was set for a 4 percent drop for the month of January, its biggest monthly decline since last June and its worst January since 2009.

After an encouraging start to the year, which saw the UK benchmark post gains in the first two weeks, equity markets took a turn for the worse, as unease about slower Chinese growth and the withdrawal of U.S. monetary stimulus spread from emerging-market currencies to the world's big stock markets.

The index hit six-week lows on Friday, after dropping around 5 percent over the last six days, as further turbulence in emerging markets sent world shares to their worst month in two years.

"It did look like we could see some stabilisation at one point this week, but it looks like the emerging-market turmoil is still there ... so the path of least resistance on the FTSE remains to the downside into February," said Fawad Razaqzada, a market strategist at Gain Capital.

"It's based on fear, so it's hard to predict how long it will last, but the fact that the Fed is unwinding its stimulus at the same time is prompting investors to retreat from the stock market at this time."

All sectors bar telecoms posted losses. Growth-sensitive companies such as financials and miners were hit by worries over global growth. More defensive sectors, such as beverage companies, suffered because of their emerging-market exposure.

Aberdeen Asset Management fell 3 percent, leaving the emerging-market-exposed fund manager down 22 percent for the month.

Diageo fell after various investment houses, among them Goldman Sachs, weighed in on the world's biggest spirits firm. Its 1.1 percent drop extended a 4.7 percent plunge on Thursday after the company said its revenues were hurt by weakness in emerging markets.

Goldman Sachs removed Diageo from its Conviction List and downgraded its rating on the stock to "neutral". The investment firm said a weak Diageo performance in the first half would probably persist into the second half of 2014, and emerging- market challenges would continue into next year.

"Goldman Sachs haven't done Diageo any favours. Everything depends on how long this emerging-market crisis continues for. If it blows over, then all will be well in the garden; if it has legs, then the impact is likely to be more profound," said Jeremy Batstone-Carr, an analyst at Charles Stanley.

Coca Cola Hellenic dropped 3.8 percent, the biggest decline in the FTSE 100. Brewer SABMiller, which also has substantial exposure to emerging markets, fell 1.2 percent, hit by a downgrade from Societe Generale.

The FTSE 350 Beverage index fell 1.3 percent, taking its weekly loss to 6.7 percent.

Only 12 FTSE 100 stocks rose. BT gained the most, after it reported quarterly revenue grew for the first time in four and a half years. Record customer demand for superfast broadband and its growing new sports TV service drove the gains.

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