Britain’s FTSE slips on Greek jitters

Britain’s top share index fell sharply on Monday, with investor sentiment punctured by Greece’s deepening debt crisis following the breakdown of talks with creditors and Athens’ imposition of capital controls.

Travel and leisure stocks were hit hard by events in Greece, a popular holiday destination for Europeans, as well as news that tour companies were evacuating thousands of holidaymakers from Tunisia after a gunman killed dozens of people at a beach hotel on Friday.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was down 1.6 percent at 6,643.21 points by 0810 GMT, also pressured by a 2.2 percent drop in UK banking index after Greece closed its banks to check the growing strains on its crippled financial system.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced a referendum for July 5 to decide whether the country should accept or reject the bailout agreement offered by creditors.

“Tsipras devolving the decision to the electorate is a populist move that reduces the likelihood of a deal with Greece’s creditors and which causes the kind of uncertainty markets hate,” Lorne Baring, managing director of B Capital Wealth Management, said.

“We expect downward pressure to resume with this new twist in the Greek saga but it may be short-lived as the political pressure to resolve the situation mounts.”

Concerns over developments in Greece and the attack in Tunisia hit TUI Travel, International Consolidated Airlines Group and easyJet, down 2.6 to 6.2 percent.

“Global markets today face a triple whammy of negative news, with the deterioration in the Greek situation accompanied by the first chance to react to Friday’s terrorist atrocities and a further steep fall in Chinese markets,” Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.

Basic resources stocks also suffered, with the UK mining index falling nearly 1 percent after stocks in China, the world’s top metals consumer, ended more than 3 percent lower on Monday as investors dumped shares despite fresh monetary easing in Beijing. Chinese shares have fallen about 25 percent in two weeks.

China cut lending rates for the fourth time since November and trimmed the amount of cash that some banks must hold as reserves, stepping up efforts to support an economy that is headed for its poorest performance in a quarter century.