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FTSE recovers as China virus spread eases

European markets are notching higher this morning as the outbreak of the coronavirus in China seems to have slowed down for the moment. According to Chinese authorities the outbreak started in Wuhan, a city the size of London, and has so far affected 440 people and claimed 13 deaths. 

On the FTSE, mining companies and travel firms were hit the hardest but a flow of domestic corporate news helped push the index higher. Homebuilders gained ground after Berkeley said it would increase shareholder returns and boost construction by 50%.  

Sainsbury, Burberry drop 

Sainsbury’s chief executive’s decision to leave the top post in July has had a relatively modest impact on the retail chain’s shares which traded down 1.5% in the morning session. The transition from Mike Coupe who initiated the unsuccessful merger between Sainsbury and Asda to a new helmsmen should prove a fairly smooth affair as he is handing over to Simon Roberts, the group’s head of operations.

Hong Kong protests affected the sales of Burberry over Christmas but the group made up for the loss with a 10% increase in sales in mainland China. Still, stocks lost 3.4% after opening Wednesday. 

Sterling waits for trade news 

As Boris Johnson and his ministers prepare to start trade talks with the EU shortly after Brexit the pound is hardly moving, waiting for more decisive news. For the moment sterling remains close to the 1.3 mark to the dollar and 1.090 to the euro.

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