LONDON - Britain is in the midst of a new 'Black Monday' today after the FTSE 100 opened down almost 8.5 per cent and saw its value bomb by £140billion in minutes - a freefall not seen since the 2008 financial crash - as world markets crashed because of coronavirus.

The biggest fall in the price of oil since the 1991 Gulf War overnight because of a trade war between Saudi Arabia and Russia has further spooked traders with a global recession now on the cards.

The FTSE 100 was predicted to open at least 300 points down this morning - but the drop was worse and hit 550 points as coronavirus cases raced towards 110,000 worldwide.

Among the biggest fallers were oil giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell, whose stocks tumbled more than 20 per cent, while travel firm Tui was down more than 14 per cent. The top performer was Tesco, down just 1 per cent, as Britons ramped up stockpiling amid fears the UK could soon be placed in an Italian-style lockdown.

The FTSE 100 plunged to a three-year low of 5,900 points this morning - and the 550 point fall was the worst seen in a day since the worldwide crash in 2008, and the fourth worst fall in UK market history. It had recovered slightly by mid-morning today, but was still 420 points down at Midday. The index is also down 1,300 points since the coronavirus crisis set in in Britain last month.

Overnight a barrel of Brent Crude oil fell 30% to 33.60 dollars. Traders, who are already fearful of an economic slowdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, piled out after the Saudis said they would ramp up production and cut prices in a battle royale with the Russians.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said: 'This will be remembered as Black Monday. If you thought it couldn't get any worse than the last fortnight, think again. It's utter carnage out there.

'The oil price shock has totally unnerved investors, while Italy's decision to quarantine 16 million citizens in the north of the country has left markets feeling like the coronavirus outbreak is out of control - where next? The UK is preparing for the worst.'

Ayush Ansal, chief investment officer at Crimson Black Capital, said: 'The FTSE's collapse on Monday morning shows the markets have passed from panic mode into pure hysteria. Markets will always be irrational but Monday morning saw the end of reason'.

It is almost 33 years since the infamous and original 'Black Monday' stock market crash of 1987, when the FTSE 100 fell by more than 20 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei index plummeted 6.2 per cent overnight, while the Australian stock market suffered its worst day since the 2008 crash because coronavirus is now expected to tip the economy into recession.

Global stock markets took hits overnight with the Tokyo stock market index plunging 6.2 per cent, Seoul four per cent, Hong Kong 3.9 per cent, Sydney 6.1 per cent, and Riyadh eight per cent with the panic spreading to London today. With New York expected to fall badly later, oil prices also suffered the biggest plunge since the Gulf War in 1991, adding to the market panic.

It came as a third patient in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus died as the number of cases in Britain shot up to 278 in just 24 hours. The number of global cases reached 107,800, with 3,661 deaths across 95 countries.(FA)