Almost £77 billion was wiped off the value of London’s top 100 listed companies on Thursday as global markets plummeted following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
As fighting continues between Russian aggressors and Ukrainian defenders, traders across the world sold off shares as they tried to figure out the consequences.
In London, the impact was most obvious in the shares of the companies that have close links to Russia.
Traders offloaded so many shares in Polymetal and Evraz that it sent prices down by more than 30%.
At one point, Polymetal shares were trading down by more than half.
By the end of the day, only seven companies were in the green and the FTSE 100 had dipped 3.9% in its biggest percentage fall since June 2020.
The 291.17 point drop saw the index falling to 7,207.01.
“In what has been a sobering and dark day for Europe, the day we all feared arrived today as the Russian military rolled into Ukraine in the early hours of this morning, sending equity markets sharply lower as investors struggled to project forward what is likely to come next,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.
“The FTSE 100 has fallen sharply to its lowest level since December 20, and the Dax to a one-year low, as concerns about the economic consequences of today’s events prompt a wholesale flight to safety, as money flows into the US dollar, gold, and government bond markets.”
Germany’s Dax closed down 4%, while the Cac 40 in Paris lost 3.8%. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 was trading down 0.9% and the Dow Jones was down 1.8% shortly after markets closed in London.
On currency markets, the pound was trading up 0.6% against the dollar to 1.3351, and 0.2% to 1.1975 euros around the same time.
In company news, Rolls-Royce was the third worst faller on the FTSE 100 after Evraz and Polymetal after it announced its boss is stepping down.
Chief executive Warren East said he will leave at the end of the year as now is the “right moment to look to the future”.
Chairwoman Anita Frew said: “Warren is an exceptional leader and has set a pioneering vision and strategic direction for Rolls-Royce to lead the transition to net zero across our markets.”
Shares dropped 13%.
British Gas owner Centrica said its retail arm had seen a 44% jump in adjusted operating profit despite a major squeeze on the energy sector. Shares fell 4.8%.
Lloyds Banking Group said pre-tax profits surged to nearly £7 billion in 2021, a massive rise from £1.2 billion a year earlier.
But the results were below market expectations and shares plunged 10.8%.
The biggest FTSE 100 risers were BAE Systems, up 31p at 630.7, Fresnillo ahead 27.6p at 716.8p, Dechra Pharmaceuticals 68p higher at 3900p and Anglo American 62.5p stronger at 3594p.
The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Polymetal International down 415.1p at 689.9p, Evraz off 74.75p at 171.78p, Rolls-Royce 15.32p lower at 102.49p and WPP 142.5p weaker at 1034.25p.