FTSE 100 retreats as recovery hopes dim, trade worries resurface

(Reuters) - London’s FTSE 100 ended lower on Thursday as optimism faded about any speedy recovery from the coronavirus-induced economic slump, while U.S.-China trade tensions returned firmly to the forefront of investors’ minds.

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The export-heavy FTSE 100 .FTSE slipped 0.9%, taking the shine off strong gains earlier in the week. However, the mid-cap FTSE 250 .FTMC narrowly extended gains to a fifth day with a 0.1% rise.

Grim economic data continued to pour in; the UK economy shrank again in May, but at a slower pace than April, a survey by IHS Markit showed.

Risk appetite was also hindered by rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called China’s $2 billion pledge to fight the pandemic “paltry”.

“The questioning around globalization is going to come to the fore again, simply because now we’re seeing this escalation in the trade war again,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp.

Banks .FTNMX8350, oil and gas .FTNMX0530 and miners .FTNMX1770 were the biggest decliners among sector indices.

After rallying about 23% since late March on a raft of global stimulus and, more recently, the easing of COVID-19 lockdowns, the FTSE 100 is now about 22% below its January record high.

Premier Inn owner Whitbread Plc WTB.L sank 13.4% to a two-month low after it said it would seek 1.01 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) in fresh cash from shareholders to help weather the COVID-19 crisis.

Car dealer Inchcape Plc INCH.L fell 7.7% as it posted a slump in April revenue and said the global economic impact of the lockdowns would be felt until 2021.

British low-cost airline easyJet EZJ.L climbed 4.4% as it said it would restart a small number of flights on June 15.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal, Devik Jain and Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Pravin Char