What’s happening: Stocks in Britain closed slightly lower on Wednesday on renewed coronavirus fears.
What happened: After rising for two consecutive sessions, UK stocks ended trading yesterday on a lower note. Stocks delivered a strong rally on the first two days of the week on signs of the growth in new coronavirus cases slowing. The positive sentiment was hurt, however, by the latest count.
Meanwhile, the UK Prime Minister remains in the ICU of a London hospital, although his condition is reportedly improving.
Why it matters: The UK reported a new daily high of 938 fatalities from coronavirus, taking the country’s death toll to over 7,000. The country’s health ministry reported that confirmed infections in the country had surged to around 61,000 after testing 282,000 people. Various health blamed the government’s slow response to the pandemic, with a shortage of tests and poor arrangement of ventilators, intensive care beds and other protective gears.
An independent US health research center, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said it expects the number of deaths from COVID-19 to be the highest in Britain among the European countries.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in ICU. Reporting on the high-profile case, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday that the UK PM is responding to the treatment and his health condition is improving. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is performing duties of the PM, while Boris Johnson is in hospital.
News of Johnson not needing a ventilator was received well by the markets. Johnson is the first leader in the world to test positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized ten days after contracting the virus. The country’s PM was moved to the ICU on Monday due to respiratory problems.
The FTSE 100 fell 0.47% on Wednesday. Whitbread was among the top blue-chip performers, jumping 9%. Fresnillo, the worst performer among the blue chips, saw its shares fall by more than 5%. Shares of retailer WH Smith spiked 8% after the company announced a capital raise of £165.9 million from shareholders.
What to watch: Markets will be monitoring the health condition of the UK Prime Minister. Investors also hope to see a decline in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths. Various economic reports will also remain in focus today, with the country scheduled to release data on balance of trade, industrial production and gross domestic product. Britain's GDP growth is expected to slow to 0.5% in February, from 0.6% in January. Industrial production is expected to rise 0.1% in February, versus a 0.1% decline in January.