London stocks retreat as recovery hopes dim


London-listed stocks headed lower on Thursday as a plunge in Japanese exports dulled optimism around a speedy recovery from a coronavirus-induced economic slump, with investors also sifting through another mixed bag of quarterly earnings reports.

The export-heavy FTSE 100 .FTSE slipped 0.7%, taking the shine off strong gains earlier in the week as data showed Japan’s April exports fell the most since the global financial crisis with the pandemic slamming demand for cars and industrial materials.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 .FTMC shed 0.4%, snapping a four-day winning streak. Real estate, financials and consumer discretionary stocks were among the biggest drags on the index in morning trading.

EasyJet Plc (EZJ.L) jumped 4.6% as it said it would restart a small number of flights on June 15, becoming the latest airline to plan for the return of European travel by making face masks mandatory onboard.

“There’s a two-way pull in the market between the impact of the monetary stimulus and, at the same time, evidence of a catastrophic slowdown in the global economy,” said Richard Dunbar, head of multi-asset research at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

After rallying about 22% since late March on a raft of global stimulus and, more recently, the easing of coronavirus-induced shutdowns, the FTSE 100 is now only about 21% below its January record high.

Premier Inn owner Whitbread Plc (WTB.L) tumbled 14.7% to a two-month low after posting a slide in annual profits and announcing a plan to raise 1.01 billion pounds ($1.23 billion) to ride out the looming recession.

Pets At Home (PETSP.L) declined 12.8% to the bottom of the FTSE 250 after forecasting first-half pretax profit to be sharply lower than last year.

Car dealer Inchcape Plc (INCH.L) fell 4.3% as it posted a slump in April revenue and said the global economic impact of the lockdowns would be felt until 2021.