London stocks surge as more fiscal measures eyed

By Sruthi Shankar and Devik Jain
A usually crowded Canary Wharf is seen at lunchtime in London

By Sruthi Shankar and Devik Jain

(Reuters) - London's stock markets surged back into the black on Friday, as investors eyed fresh government support for companies facing financial strain in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 <.FTSE> rose 3.2%, with Royal Dutch Shell <RDSA.L> and BP <BP.L> boosting the index as oil prices jumped after U.S. President Donald Trump hinted he may intervene in the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia at an "appropriate time".

Holiday Inn owner IHG <IHG.L> soared 11% after it announced a series of measures to cut costs and ride out travel restrictions as demand for hotel rooms hit record lows.

Meanwhile, retailer Marks & Spencer <MKS.L> warned trading over the next nine to 12 months in its clothing, homewares and international businesses was likely to be "severely impacted" by the pandemic. Its shares dropped 9.8%.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is set to outline plans to prop up companies and workers, with reports saying he is considering tax holidays for companies and reversing the pay-as-you-earn tax system to funnel cash directly to companies so they can keep paying staff.

"It's clearly a day where some people have decided to cover their shorts, and there's some kind of a relief rally," said Chris Bailey, European strategist at Raymond James in London.

"I don't think there's much aggressive buying, but the broad environment has gotten a bit better."

The Bank of England cut borrowing costs to a record low on Thursday and promised 200 billion pounds of bond purchases, in a second emergency move to cushion the impact of the outbreak.

However, Friday's moves could not pull the blue-chip index, the midcaps and the smallcap indexes from their weekly losses as fears about a global recession overshadowed the frequent dosage of stimulus.

The FTSE 100 is trading about 30% below its January peak, while the FTSE MID 250 <.FTMC> is about 37% its all-time high.

Pub group J D Wetherspoon <JDW.L> surged 28% alongside peers Marston's <MARS.L> and Mitchells & Butlers <MAB.L>, recovering from sharp losses earlier this week when the government asked people to avoid pubs, restaurants and theatres on coronavirus fears.

J D Wetherspoon cancelled its dividend on Friday and said profit would be below market expectations.

Trading platform CMC Markets <CMCX.L> jumped 18.1% as it boosted its annual earnings target amid frantic selling driven by the coronavirus.


(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)