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FTSE lower on RBS, NMC and AstraZeneca

Negative company news is dragging down the FTSE even as the Chinese virus outbreak is showing signs of containment.

Royal Bank of Scotland lost 5.4% in early trading after the majority state-owned banking group reported an increased profit for the fourth quarter but reduced its medium-term returns target. Shares in the embattled health operator NMC Health also dropped after the vice chair Khalifa Butti Omeir Bin Yousef resigned from his position, only days after the company’s co-founder B.R. Shetty left the board after admitting to potentially inaccurately reporting his holdings in the company. AstraZeneca also took a hit in its share price having reported a drop in core operating profits and missing expectations.

Brent crude steadies as Russia decision expected

The slide in Brent crude prices has stopped for the moment and prices seem to have stabilised just above the $56/bbl mark thanks to the slowdown of the spread of the coronavirus in China. A large part of China’s industrial production has come back on line this week or is due to restart over the next three days after several weeks of closures. OPEC and Russia have yet to come to some agreement over whether the extended producer group will increase its existing production cuts to counter the decline in oil prices. Russia is dragging its feet and even a meeting between the country’s energy minister and main oil producers has not yielded an answer to OPEC’s proposal to reign in production by another 600,000bbl/d. WTI is also marginally higher, trading close to $51.50.

The pound perked up overnight at the prospect of higher government spending under the new Chancellor of the Exchequer but has since given up about 0.1% against the dollar, settling just above the $1.3 mark.

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