FTSE hits March low as financials lead fresh sell-off

LONDON (Reuters) - British shares sank fell more than 1 percent to their lowest since March on Tuesday as a broad sell-off hit stocks across Europe, caused by a toxic mix of weak results, jitters over geopolitical tensions, Brexit, Italy’s budget and cooling markets overnight.

A red London bus passes the Stock Exchange in London, Britain, February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo

The FTSE 100 .FTSE, on track for its worst monthly performance in a decade, was down 1.1 percent by 0941 GMT, after breaching technical support at 7,000 on the open.

European shares fell to their lowest levels in nearly two years after a disappointing batch of third-quarter results, particularly in the tech sector.

Pressure also returned after Asia’s rally cooled amid renewed fears about the impact of the U.S.-China trade dispute, geopolitical tensions and the strength of earnings as peak earnings season arrives.

“We’re back to where we were. We had a week of respite and now the market’s resumed its focus on negative factors more than anything else,” said Mike van Dulken, analyst at Accendo Markets.

St James's Place SJP.L sank to its lowest since December 2016 after results revealed a slowdown of inflows in the third quarter, even as the wealth manager reported funds under management reached a record. Shares were down 4.3 percent.

Net inflow of funds rose 15 percent in the first nine months, compared with 21 percent growth in the first half.

“Q3 must have been a lot slower to average out. The growth of inflows in the third quarter must have slowed considerably,” van Dulken said.

"It all plays into consumer and investor uncertainty," he said, pointing to weakness in Hargreaves Lansdowne HRGV.L and Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust SMT.L, which was the third biggest loser on the main board, down 4.5 percent.

The financial sector knocked 21 points off the index. Energy stocks were hit by lower oil prices.

Gambling stocks were under pressure again after the Financial Times reported that UK chancellor Philip Hammond is considering cracking down on foreign taxes. GVC Holdings were bottom of the FTSE, down 5.4 percent.

Whitbread Plc WTB.L fell 3.1 percent after the owner of Premier Inn hotels reported slower revenue growth in the first half amid growing economic and political uncertainty in Britain.

The FTSE 250 midcap index .FTMC was down 1.8 percent at its lowest since February last year, led by financials.

Among the few risers was Travis Perkins TPK.L, Britain's largest supplier of building materials, which reiterated its full-year forecast after solid demand from trade buyers offset the pressure in Wickes, its UK DIY business.

Reporting by Josephine Mason, editing by Larry King