London stocks fall as concerns over virus resurgence weigh

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians leave and enter the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

(Reuters) - London stocks fell on Thursday as concerns that a resurgence in coronavirus cases might derail a fragile economic recovery, offsetting a clutch of positive earnings from Royal Dutch Shell and Lloyds Bank.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index .FTSE ended flat in choppy trading, with oil major Royal Dutch Shell Plc RDSa.L gaining 3.6% after it posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and increased its dividend.

Lloyds Banking Group Plc LLOY.L added 2.3% after the domestic lender posted a forecast-beating quarterly profit, boosted by a home-loan boom.

After rising as much as 0.6% in the morning trade, the domestically focussed FTSE 250 .FTMC ended 0.4% lower, dragged down by aero .FTNMX2710 and retailer .FTNMX5370 stocks.

“Because we’re now heading into Q4 which looks much more uncertain in terms of back to lockdowns and restrictions, people can be much more wary about buying into equities when we’re going into a second wave, the duration and scope of which we don’t know anything about at the moment,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.

The UK market has come under pressure this week on concerns that an accelerating second wave of infections could prompt more drastic lockdown restrictions. Both the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 are set for their biggest weekly declines since early June.

Housing minister Robert Jenrick said a second national lockdown in Britain was not inevitable and the government will do everything to avoid one, even as a study by Imperial College showed England’s COVID-19 infections doubled every nine days.

In company news, BT Group Plc BT.L reversed course to close 2.5% lower after Britain's biggest fixed-line and mobile operator said profits probably wouldn't get back to pre-pandemic levels until 2022-23.

Standard Chartered Plc STAN.L tumbled 7.7% after the lender warned it would take longer to hit a key profitability target due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Shailesh Kuber