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FTSE-100 slides as Asian tensions mount on HSBC, Standard Chartered and Prudential

JIM ARMITAGE
Anti-government demonstrators scuffle with riot police during a lunch time protest in Hong Kong, China, on May 27, 2020: REUTERS

Shares on the FTSE-100 index fell today as sentiment around China's renewed aggression towards Hong Kong weighed on markets.

The blue chip index lost 69.75 points at 6149.39 as traders became increasingly wary of the potential impact both on Hong Kong stocks such as HSBC, the Prudential and Standard Chartered, but also wider China-US trade relations. HSBC and Standard Chartered fell 2%, Prudential 3%.

In the US last night, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.6% after a late slide in prices after London closed. That gave a negative lead to London and Europe this morning after what has been five straight days of gains.

Investors have been getting increasingly concerned about the influence on Donald Trump that China hawks around him might be having. Some believe the President will buckle under pressure from them to take a hard stance against Beijing in terms of renewed trade wars, others believe he will be pragmatic about taking risks with the US economy ahead of an election where he is already under pressure from perceived mishandling of the covid pandemic.

We will learn more today at his press conference which comes during a session that will see a flurry of economic news from key economies including US stats on personal spending, likely to have been hit hard by job losses triggered by coronavirus lockdowns. March spending was already down a record 7.5% and April's will be nearer 13%.

Expectations that the UK furlough scheme will today be changed to make companies using it pay towards the state contribution also weighed on sentiment. Companies using the scheme are likely to make redundancies as a result, which will be costly and will stretch balance sheets further than they're already stretched.

Markets will be curious about the expected return of the so-called PIPE deal to UK equities. Private investment in public equity deals are where private equity firms more used to buying businesses outright by using huge amounts of debt buy stakes in stock market-quoted plcs. We haven't had one since 2009 but Sky News reports that Clayton Dubillier and Rice is about to announce it's taking a big chunk of building materials group SIG, which delayed results due yesterday.

The deal is that shareholders will take part in a fundraiser alongside the new investor as SIG tries to shore up its balance sheet. Bankers had expected a return of PIPE deals as covid forced businesses to raise money to shore up stretched balance sheets but this is the first to actually take place. CDR bought in at 25p and the shares gained 5% to 29.46p today.

Rolls-Royce continued its volatile trading sessions, falling 10% today on what was a poor showing for those connected to the airlines world. Stocks in the sector took a breather after recent gains, with British Airways owner IAG down 4%.

They say lawyers make money whatever the weather, but that didn't stand for DWF, whcih today said chief executive Andrew Leaitherland was quitting as the board needed "strong and experienced leadership" to see the company through covid. Shares crashed 15%.

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