March 4, 2020 / 9:34 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-UK stocks enjoy three-day winning streak as investors eye rate cuts

* FTSE 100 rises 1.5%, FTSE 250 0.3%

* Consumer staples lead gains

* Airlines lag broader rally as virus fears hit travel demand

* Mall operator Intu hits record low (Adds FTSE close, news items)

By Devik Jain and Noor Zainab Hussain

March 4 (Reuters) - London’s blue chip index completed a hat-trick on Wednesday, as investors bet on possible rate cuts in Europe after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s emergency move to protect the U.S. economy from the impact of the coronavirus on Tuesday.

The FTSE 100 index rose as miners and other export-heavy firms were also boosted by a dip in sterling.

The index closed the session 1.5% higher, led by gains for consumer staples including Reckitt Benckiser, Morrison and Imperial Brands. The domestically focussed mid-cap index was 0.3% higher.

The mining index rose 1.9%, while the auto and pharma sectors were up between 4.2% and 3.7%.

Luxury goods makers recovered after being hit hard last month by fears of widespread disruption to supply chains as the virus spread rapidly outside China.

“Even a consideration that maybe the glass is not empty but more akin to being half-full boosts risk assets such as the equity markets which - on a yield basis - look highly attractive versus investment alternatives,” Chris Bailey, European Strategist at Raymond James, said.

Chinese factory and services activity contracted sharply in February, and central banks around the world are scrambling to come up with ways to contain the hit to growth.

In its first such move since the global financial crisis in 2008, the U.S. Federal Reserve unexpectedly lowered borrowing costs by 50 basis points on Tuesday, setting the stage for its European peers to follow suit.

“The positive move has been influenced by speculation that we might see interest rate cuts from the Bank of England as well as the European Central Bank in the near-term,” CMC Markets analyst David Madden said.

“In light of the Fed’s emergency rate cut yesterday, the chatter about other central banks cutting too is likely to do the rounds for a while,” he said.

Airline stocks including British Airways-owner IAG fell as the virus continued to spread in over 80 countries.

The wider travel and leisure sub-sector has now fallen in eight of the past nine sessions.

Among individual stocks, shopping centre owner Intu slumped 40.9% to a record low as it scrapped a planned equity raise and said there was a risk that it might breach some of its debt covenants this year.

Sausage-skin maker Devro gained 8.2% after saying its China manufacturing plant was operating at normal capacity and had not faced labour or supply shortages due to the health crisis. (Additional reporting by Shivani Kumaresan and C Nivedita in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Elaine Hardcastle)

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