London Markets: U.K. stocks pressured by a strong pound as Brexit day arrives

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U.K. stocks fell on Friday, as the pound pressed higher on a day that will mark the country’s official exit from the European Union. There were also more coronavirus worries for investors as the country confirmed its first two cases.

The pound GBPUSD, +0.2139%  rose 0.1% to $1.3106, while the FTSE 100 UKX, -0.69%  dropped 0.8% to 7,326.64. The index is facing a 3.4% loss for the week, which would mark its worst week since early October 2019. A strong pound can weigh on U.K. exporters, as it makes their products less competitive in foreign markets.

“Helping the pound on Friday was also the Bank of England’s decision yesterday not to cut interest rates, giving another vote of support to the U.K.’s economy,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

“The big issues to consider near-term are the impact of the coronavirus and developments with trade talks. Both will be watched closely by the markets and could result in volatile share price movements,” he said.

Read: Brexit’s here—and the rally in British assets has fizzled out

Stocks came under pressure across Europe and U.S. stock futures fell after the U.K. reported its first two cases of coronavirus on Friday, both members of the same family. The death toll from the virus has topped 200 in China, with nearly 10,000 confirmed cases, and the U.S. has advised citizens against travel to China after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global emergency.

Read: Here’s the daring way Europe’s largest fund manager is reacting to the coronavirus outbreak

Among stocks on the move and away from the main index, shares of Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings AML, +24.01%  surged 18% after the luxury automotive maker said Canadian Formula One magnate Lawrence Stroll bought a 16.7% stake for a £182 million ($238 million) injection into the group. The company will raise a further £318 million in a rights issue next month, a way in which a company can sell new shares to raise capital.

“Stroll is planning to use the Aston Martin name, with all its James Bond cachet, for his F1 team. This element of the transaction also implies a long-term commitment to the business,” said Mould.

Back on the FTSE 100, shares of Hargreaves Lansdown HL, -6.76%  fell nearly 6% after the financial services company reported a 12% rise in profits, but slower new business flows.

Banks, major oil companies and mining stocks were among stocks weighing on the index. Shares of heavily-weighted HSBC HSBA, -1.12% HSBC, +0.93%  fell 0.6%, BP BP, -1.33%  fell 1% and Rio Tinto RIO, -1.48%  fell 0.8%.

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