Could The FTSE 100 Be About To Collapse?

After enjoying a handsome relief rally towards the end of January, another hefty downleg in stock indices has dominated the headlines once again in recent sessions.

Just today the dash from ‘riskier’ assets into safe-havens like gold has seen the FTSE 100 (INDEXFTSE: UKX) sink to around the 5,600-point marker, a level not seen since November 2012 .

A plunge through this psychologically-critical level is likely to see fresh buckets of blood on the trading floor, a scenario that — in my opinion at least — would appear to be an inevitability, as fears concerning harsh cooling across the global economy click through the gears.

Drillers, diggers and banks still diving

Somewhat inevitably, the FTSE 100’s latest shunt lower has been driven by further weakness across natural resources stocks.

Dedicated copper miner Antofagasta has led the way down with a 9% slump from Monday’s close. And commodity clangers Anglo American, Glencore, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto make up the remainder of the top five losers in Tuesday’s session.

The continuation of the severe, multi-year downturn across the metals and energy stocks comes as no surprise as recent manufacturing data from China indicates an increasingly-bumpy economic landing.

And investors are being given little reason to expect a turnaround in commodity values as major producers across the oil and mining industries steadfastly refuse to curtail rampant production levels.

But raw materials producers have not been the sole culprit in dragging the FTSE lower — indeed, the index’s heavy weighting towards the banking sector has also been cause for much of the recent weakness.

Predictions of escalating PPI-related penalties at the likes of Lloyds and RBS has added to creaking investor appetite, while concerns over slowing emerging markets has driven HSBC and Santander firmly lower.

Profit warnings pounding higher

Market sentiment hasn’t been helped by a spate of worrying financial updates in recent weeks. FTSE 100 plays AstraZeneca, Pearson and Royal Dutch Shell have all released profit warnings since the start of the year, and Rolls-Royce is expected to be the latest member of the club later this week.

Consultancy EY advised late last month that British-listed companies issued 313 profit warnings in 2015, up from 299 in the prior 12 months. And the number of warnings released between October and December clocked in at 100, the highest quarterly total since the start of 2009. And the signs are ominous looking ahead as macroeconomic troubles persist.

Alan Hudson, EY’s head of restructuring for UK & Ireland, said “Many of the challenges that dominated last year — oil, China, and the emerging markets — have continued into 2016.” And Hudson added that new factors, such as the upcoming ‘Brexit’ referendum, have thrown more mud into the water.

Fortune favours the brave

But while fresh turbulence for the FTSE 100 is just about guaranteed in my opinion, I believe that now is a great time for investors to pick up some great blue-chip stocks that are currently going for a song.

The likes of Diageo, Vodafone and BAE Systems, for example, are all top-quality operators with great growth prospects, but which have been washed out as part of the wider bear market enveloping global indices. These three stocks in particular are currently dealing at multi-month lows. Indeed, Vodafone is changing hands at levels not seen since the end of 2014.

As ever, investors should always look past near-term share price bumpiness and consider the long-term returns on offer. And there are still plenty of stunning stocks to be found at terrific prices across each of the major FTSE indices.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca, Diageo, HSBC Holdings, Rio Tinto, and Royal Dutch Shell. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.