- FTSE 100 index gains 6 points
- Dow Jones and S&P 500 to open higher; Nasdaq Composite set to slide
- UK productivity rebounds in third quarter
12.10pm: US markets to open positively
UK shares marked time for the second half of the morning session, waiting for some sort of steer from US markets.
Wall Street, which was closed yesterday to honour Martin Luther King Day, is set to open on the front foot, with bullish investors pinning their hopes on president-elect Joe Biden’s pandemic stimulus bill providing a spark for the US economy.
Statistics show that the US stock market tends to fare better under a Democratic Party government and investors may be getting in early on the last day of President Trump’s last full day in office, with the Dow Jones expected to burst through the 31,000 barrier – just – with a rise of 188 points.
The S&P500 is tipped to open 28 points firmer at 3,796 but the Nasdaq Composite is expected to slide 71 points to 12,927.
“The US will see more stimulus in Biden’s first 100 days, but the question is will some Republicans in the Senate play ball with the Democrats? It is very unclear how life after President Trump will be, but some Republicans up for re-election in 2022 could take Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan as an opportunity to distance themselves from the Trump administration,” speculated Edward Moya at OANDA.
“The headline figure will likely come down a bit but if Republicans show a willingness to coordinate with Democrats, risk appetite has not priced that in. Biden’s Cabinet appointees grilling in the Senate and the Trump impeachment proceedings will garner much attention, but many political insiders will look to see if some Republicans don’t immediately reject everything the Democrats bring to the table,” he added.
The Senate Finance Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who has been nominated as Biden’s Treasury Secretary.
“She’s a labour economist by training and placed a lot of emphasis on the ‘full employment’ aspect of the Fed’s dual mandate when she was at the Fed. She’s likely to emphasise the need to get employment back to where it was before the pandemic rather than worrying about inflation, a stance that would agree totally with the current thinking on the FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee],” said Marshall Gittler at BDSwiss.
Yesterday’s market holiday interrupted banking results season but it has resumed with Bank of America today reporting earning per share of 59 cents, four cents above the consensus forecast.
There is little in the way of macroeconomic data planned today for the US.
Back in the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released labour productivity data this morning.
Output per hour, the UK’s headline measure of labour productivity, increased by 4.0% in the third quarter of 2020, compared with the same quarter of 2019. The ONS said it was the largest increase since the final quarter of 2005.
Output per worker fell by 7.9% over the same period, reflecting the impact of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which reduced hours worked but preserved workers’ employment statuses.
Since records began in 1959, output per worker has only fallen by more on one occasion and that was the preceding quarter when the nation was in the grip of the first lockdown.
Output per hour worked increased by 5.6% in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020 compared with Quarter 2 (Apr to June).
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) January 19, 2021
“While welcome, the rebound in productivity in the third quarter 2020 does not fundamentally change what is still a weak underlying trend. The UK’s productivity performance has recently been significantly affected by COVID-19, and the flat overall productivity performance over 2019 after an underwhelming 2018 extends the UK’s overall poor productivity record since the 2008/9 recession,” said Howard Archer at the EY ITEM Club.
“COVID-19’s impact on the UK economy over 2020 has had a significant negative impact on productivity and UK growth potential. This is reinforced by the current challenge posed to economic activity by new COVID-19 cases.
“In particular, business investment has been pared back and there is the risk that companies will be cautious for an extended period in new investments.
“Productivity may also have been affected by businesses having to invest to make their premises compatible with social distancing requirements rather than using the resources to invest in new equipment and productive practices.
“Increased working at home may well be having mixed implications for productivity. On the positive side, the time saved commuting may be lifting output for many workers. On the negative side, productivity may be affected by reduced social interaction and the building-up of experience from people being in the office,” Archer postulated.
The FTSE 100 was up 6 points 0.1%) at 6,726.
9.40am: Early gains pared
After a bright start, London’s blue-chips are backsliding although the FTSE 100 remains in positive territory.
London’s index of heavyweight shares was up 15 points (0.2%) at 6,735.
“It feels like the market remains wary of risk sentiment in the short term with the virus situation deteriorating across most of the world. Once inaugurated Biden may have plans for tougher restrictions in the US which could weigh on risk sentiment in the short term. Also, vaccine rollouts are proving more difficult than expected and likely to take longer than initial estimates,” reported Rony Nehme, the chief market analyst at Squared Financial.
Be that as it may, aerospace-related stocks are among the better performers on the Footsie, presumably on the assumption that the roll-out of vaccines will make air travel viable for the masses again later this year.
Aircraft engines maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.) was the best performer, up 4.0% at 108.4p while on the FTSE 250, low-cost airline easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ), up 5.3% at 858.3p, was top of the tree on that index after it reported that bookings for this summer with its holidays division are up 250% on year-on-year.
Of deaths involving #COVID19 since the start of the pandemic (registered up to Week 1 of 2021), 60,057 deaths (68.5%) occurred in hospitals. The remainder mainly occurred in
▪️ care homes (21,621)
▪️ private homes (4,232)
▪️ hospices (1,173)
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) January 19, 2021
In the mining sector, Glencore PLC (LON:GLEN) nudged 0.8% higher to 279.15p after it agreed to sell its underlying 73% stake in Mopani Copper Mines for a nominal sum of one dollar. On completion, US$1.5 bn will remain owed by Mopani to Glencore group creditors.
Rio Tinto PLC (LON:RIO) was little changed after it said iron ore production was strong in the three months to end-December, 2020, with gross output from the Pilbara region rising by 2% quarter-on-quarter.
8.45am: Recovery from Monday’s weakness
The FTSE 100 opened firmly in positive territory on Tuesday amid hopes that US president-elect Joe Biden will push through a bumper stimulus package.
London’s blue chips opened 42 points to the good at 6,762.43, having shed 15 points on Monday.
Certainly, that appeared to be the implication of ‘prepared remarks’ attributed to incoming Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen.
According to the Financial Times, she is likely to tell her confirmation hearing that it is ‘time to act big’, suggesting she will push for a bail-out programme at the upper end of the US$1.4-$1.9 trillion scale suggested.
The new mood music prompted a surge in optimism (and share prices) in Asia earlier on Tuesday. It will likely give Wall Street, absent Monday for a public holiday, pause for thought.
On the market, there was a surge in love for stocks hit hard by severe international restrictions on travel.
Rolls Royce (LON:RR.), the jet engine maker for hundreds of the world’s airlines, was up 4%. Following in its vapour trail was British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG), which advanced 2.2% in the early exchanges.
“The performance of the business has meant that the company has comfortably kept its head above water during a challenging year, while any economic recovery should provide a springboard for further growth,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.
Among the smaller companies, OKYO Pharma (LON:OKYO) stood out with a 13% gain on news that one the key figures in the discovery of cancer blockbuster Avastin will spearhead the development of a drug for severe coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms.
Proactive news headlines:
IronRidge Resources Ltd (LON:IRR) has released the results of a scoping study for the Ewoyaa lithium project in Ghana. The group said the study supports the case for a two million tonnes per annum production operation with life of mine revenues exceeding US$1.55bn, and significant potential to extend mine life. During the eight year mine life the project will produce an average of 295,000 tonnes per year of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate. The internal rate or return stands at 125%, while the capital cost estimate is USS$68mln. Average underlying earnings (EBITDA) will ring in at US$105mln per annum, the company added.
OKYO Pharma Limited (LON:OKYO) (OTCQB:EMMLF) said a scientist behind two blockbuster drugs will help spearhead the development of a treatment to tackle and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in people infected by coronavirus (COVID-19). Dr Napoleone Ferrara, head of the company’s scientific advisory board, will lead work on the chemerin molecule, which has also been earmarked for use in dry eye disease. The process has begun with the filing of patents covering the use of chemerin and lookalike molecules in the treatment and prevention of SARS-CoV-2 virus. Ferrara brings with him a track record of success and is noted in scientific circles as having isolated vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF.
Falcon Oil & Gas Ltd (LON:FOG) (CVE:FO) confirmed it has a new gas discovery on its hands, as partner and Beetaloo project operator Origin Energy submits a formal notification to the Australian authorities. The regulatory confirmation comes amidst further positive findings from the Kyalla 117 well, part of the Beetaloo shale project in Australia’s Northern Territory. Falcon noted that the Kyalla 117 well had flowed gas unassisted for a period of seventeen hours, following the introduction of nitrogen to lift fluids.
Evgen Pharma PLC (LON:EVG) said 56 people have been recruited to its phase II/III STAR trial assessing its drug in patients with acute respiratory infections, including those with coronavirus (COVID-19). Specifically, researchers will investigate whether SFX-01 can reduce the severity, or prevent the onset of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in pneumonia patients. SFX-01 stimulates, or ‘upregulates’ the Nrf2 pathway, which is part of the natural human defence against inflammatory and oxidative stress, such as the inflammation that occurs during severe viral infection. Preclinical work has shown this up-regulation of the Nrf2 pathway has the potential to reduce the severity of ARDS.
Corero Network Security PLC (LON:CNS) expects to report revenue for 2020 that is ahead of market expectations. The provider of real-time, high-performance, distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyber defence solutions said it had a strong second half to the year with increased momentum in order intake and revenue growth. Order intake for the year just ended is expected to be around US$20.9mln, up from US$13.0mln in 2019.
BATM Advanced Communications Limited (LON:BVC) said it has enhanced its NFVTime virtual networking solution to enable it to be deployed through public cloud networks such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. NFV, which stands for network function virtualisation, allows network functions to be run in software with a single piece of equipment, rather than requiring multiple pieces of physical hardware. More specifically, NFVTime is an operating system that is licenced by BATM to network operators to allow them to create these virtual networks for their customers.
Crossword Cybersecurity PLC (LON:CCS) has said it expects to report revenue growth and full-year results that are in line with market expectations despite what it said was a “challenging 2020”. In a trading update for the year to December 31, 2020, the company said overall revenues are expected to show an increase of 25% to £1.6mln, within which product and consulting revenues are expected to expand by 39% reflecting its shift to a core of products and consulting sales from software development services.
Anglo Asian Mining PLC (LON:AAZ) said it has made a new copper-gold discovery at Zafer, within the central region of its Gedabek Contract Area in western Azerbaijan. This discovery resulted from a regional exploration field mapping programme following the identification of structural trends by the ZTEM geophysics programme. Zafer is situated approximately 1.5 kilometres northwest of the Gedabek processing plant.
Ariana Resources PLC (LON:AAU) said it has received formal approval from the Competition Authority in Turkey for the completion of its joint venture agreements with Özaltin Holding and Proccea Construction Co, as ratified by shareholders on December 30, 2020. The joint venture with Özaltin and Proccea involves the partial disposal of the company’s interests in Turkey in exchange for up to US$37.75mln in cash before costs and taxation. Ariana and Proccea will retain a 23.5% interest each in the expanded joint venture.
Iofina PLC (LON:IOF) said it produced a record amount of crystalline iodine in 2020, despite being affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Full-year production clocked in at 609.9 tonnes of crystalline iodine, up from 602.7 tonnes in 2019, which itself was a record year. In the second half of 2020, 325.5 tonnes of crystalline iodine was produced, up 14% on the first half of the year.
Feedback PLC (LON:FDBK) said it has bolstered its data management security by securing the Cyber Essentials Plus and ISO 27001 certifications for its flagship medical messaging app Bleepa. The Cyber Essentials Plus audit is a UK government-backed scheme to enable organisations to guard against a range of common cyber-attacks and demonstrate a commitment to cybersecurity, while ISO 27001 is the international standard that sets out the specification for information security management systems. Feedback said the new certifications will “provide customers and clinicians with added confidence in the safety of Bleepa’s data security” and that it continuously reviews and updates its security to comply with international standards.
Genel Energy PLC (LON:GENL) has highlighted that it is positioned to grow in 2021, with a twelve-well drill campaign among the slated catalysts. The company said it expects production to be slightly above the 2020 average though there is potential for a higher exit rate and stronger volumes in 2022 subject to results in the appraisal campaign at the Sarta field. Sarta’s start-up was a key highlight of 2020 as it marked the company’s fourth producing operation.
Condor Gold PLC (LON:CNR) (TSE:COG) told investors it has mobilised a second rig for its new 4,000 metres infill drill programme targeting planned ‘starter pits’ for the La India gold project in Nicaragua. The drill campaign began in December 2020, the company noted in an update. It aims to tighten the drill hole spacing within the planned high-grade starter pits on the principal La India Vein. To date, six drill holes have been drilled in the programme and assay results are pending. The addition of a second rig will soon accelerate progress.
OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) has unveiled two new appointments to support the growth of its LPLDL product and its sales in the Asian market. The life sciences company, which is developing compounds to tackle obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and skincare, said Christopher Nother is joining the firm on a part-time consultancy basis to support the growth of LPLDL in pharma, either as an over the counter (OTC) product used by itself or in combination with existing treatments, or a drug biotherapeutic in markets outside the USA. Meanwhile, OptiBiotix said Taru Jain will join the company’s management team in March to focus on business development and growing sales in the “strategically important” Indian and Asian markets.
Xpediator PLC (LON:XPD), the freight management services provider, said it has appointed Michael Williamson as chief financial officer (CFO) of the group. Williamson, who is currently the global director of finance & controlling and the regional CFO of Northern Europe for Rohlig Logistics, an international freight forwarder, will join the Xpediator board on March 1, 2021.
Curtis Banks Group PLC (LON:CBP), one of the UK’s leading SIPP providers, has announced the appointment of Jill Lucas as a non-executive director of the company with immediate effect. The group said she has also been appointed chair of Dunstan Thomas, the leading FinTech provider acquired by Curtis Banks in August 2020. The company noted that Lucas is an experienced business leader with a background in technology, having spent over 30 years in various leadership positions.
Induction Healthcare Group PLC (LON:INHC) a leading healthcare technology company that helps achieve digital transformation for hospitals, announced that Shelley Fraser has resigned from her position as its chief financial officer and from the group’s board with immediate effect. The company said Fraser will leave the company following a short handover period to ensure an orderly transition of responsibilities to Olly Drake, former CFO of Zesty Ltd, who will be Interim Group CFO. Induction Healthcare noted that Drake previously worked at BDO and was UK Finance Director at Next Fifteen Communications Group PLC. The company said it will commence a search for Fraser’s successor during the current quarter.
Thor Mining PLC (LON:THR) (ASX:THR) said it has raised £750,000 via the placing of just over 88mln shares at a price of 0.85p per share. A London-based specialist resources investor will invest £600,000, while Artemis Resources Limited (ASX:ARV) will invest £150,000. Artemis has gold exploration and development projects in Western Australia’s Pilbara, and shares a director with Thor in Mark Potter. Each placee will receive one warrant for each two placing shares.
Emmerson PLC (LONEML), the Moroccan-focused potash development company, announced that it has received notice of the exercise of warrants from Optiva Securities Limited in respect of 389,333 ordinary shares of no par value in the capital of the company at a price of 3p per share. The aggregate gross proceeds of this exercise amounts to £11,649.99.
[email protected] Capital PLC (LON:SYME) has said that, following discussions with its advisors and auditors, it is changing its Accounting Reference Date from September 30 to December 31 to align its financial year-end with the Calendar Tax Year, a more standard accounting reference date and one which is more appropriate to the group’s current and future operating subsidiaries’ trading. It said this change of the Accounting Reference Date will greatly improve the efficiency of the financial reporting process going forward and as a result, the Group’s financial reporting calendar. Accordingly, audited accounts for a shortened nine-month period ended December 31, 2019, are currently being finalised and are expected to be published before the end of January 2021; unaudited Interim Accounts for the six-month period ended June 30, 2020, will be published shortly following the audited December 31, 2019 accounts; and audited accounts for the twelve-month period ended December 31, 2020, are scheduled to be published in April 2021. Thereafter, interim and annual accounts will be published each year for the six months to June 30 and twelve months to December 31 in accordance with the LSE Standard Listing Rules.
The Brunner Investment Trust PLC (LON:BUT) has announced that it has renewed its authority to repurchase a maximum of 6,399,639 of its ordinary shares (being its outstanding shareholder authority). Such authority lasts until the next shareholder authority granted, or where expressly revoked by shareholders. The buy-back may be funded from the company’s resources (including from sales of investments made by the Company and debt facilities). No maximum consideration payable has been determined by the company, but it is unable to pay a price for any shares pursuant to the buy-back which would equate to a premium on the net asset value. The company has appointed JPMorgan Securities to act as its broker in respect of the buy-back.
Powerhouse Energy Group PLC (LON:PHE), the UK technology company commercialising hydrogen production from waste plastic has announced that David Ryan, its chief executive officer, and Tim Yeo, its executive chairman, will be presenting at an investor webinar being hosted jointly by Turner Pope Investments (TPI) Ltd and Vox Markets. The event will be held on Thursday, January 21, 2021, at 5.30pm.
6.50am: Better mood predicted for London
The FTSE 100 is expected to be in better spirits on Tuesday morning as traders anticipate the return of their good old buddy, Wall Street, after an extra day’s holiday.
Like when your best friend is off school, London’s blue chips had a dull day on Monday falling 15 points or 0.2% to 6,720.65, but are predicted by spread-betters to bounce back with a 35-point gain
An example has been set by Asian markets, which headed higher on Tuesday, with the Hang Seng up 2.2% and the Nikkei rising 1.4%.
Giving them some impetus is a report that the incoming US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, feels that with interest rates at historical lows, now is the time to “act big”, as with US president-elect Joe Biden’s proposed US$1.4trn-US$1.9trn stimulus package, with the benefits outweighing the challenges of a larger deficit.
In prepared remarks to be delivered later today, obtained by the FT, the former Federal Reserve chief will state that the US risks a more prolonged recession and long-term scarring if it did not inject more government spending into the economy now.
“Yellen will also need to convince the more sceptical cohort of US lawmakers that the new Biden fiscal plan, where there is agreement on another $1,400bn stimulus cheque, but where the increases in the minimum wage and other safety net programs, are slightly more problematic, won’t cause an unsustainable rise in the US national debt,” said market analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.
“This is the main concern of the more fiscally conservative US lawmakers, and something that Janet Yellen will have to use all of her political skills to convince is necessary in the short term at least. Her biggest problem will be arguing the case that further stimulus is required urgently to deal with a problem which to a large extent has been exacerbated by the very policies that the Federal Reserve has been at the forefront of over the last twelve years,” he added.
Around the markets:
- Pound: up 0.1% at US$1.3602
- Gold: up 0.1% at US$1,838.51
- Oil: up 0.6% at US$55.07
6.45am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia
Asia-Pacific shares were mostly higher on Tuesday as investors awaited remarks from US president-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen.
South Korea’s Kospi led gains among the Asian markets as it jumped 2.67% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also saw robust gains, rising 2.16%. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 1.27%.
Mainland Chinese stocks were an exception with the Shanghai composite dipping 0.74%.
Australian shares saw gains, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 1.19% higher.
Proactive Australia news:
Elementos Limited’s (ASX:ELT) (OTCMKTS:ELTLF) (FRA:9EM) drilling campaign aimed at converting existing inferred resources into indicated resources at its flagship Oropesa Tin Project in Spain has confirmed significant zones of mineralisation.
Musgrave Minerals Ltd (ASX:MGV) (OTCMKTS:MGVMF) has received further strong, near-surface, high-grade aircore drilling results which extend gold mineralisation at Target 5 within the Cue Gold Project in Western Australia to more than 120 metres.
Lithium Australia NL’s (ASX:LIT) (FRA:3MW) battery research and development subsidiary VSPC is set to capitalise on a lithium ferro phosphate battery market that is expected to expand by 500 per cent by 2030.
American Rare Earths Ltd (ASX:ARR) has improved its cash position to A$5 million following the sale of 8 million of its shares in Cobalt Blue Holdings Ltd (ASX:COB) (OTCMKTS:CBBHF) (FRA:COH) for proceeds of A$2,468,822.
Latin Resources Ltd’s (ASX:LRS) first pass and infill aircore drilling has confirmed highly encouraging significant intersections of bright white kaolinite across the area tested at its 100%-owned Noombenberry Project, east-southeast of Merredin in Western Australia.
European Lithium Ltd (ASX:EUR) (FRA:PF8) (VSE:ELI) (NEX:EUR) has soared on receiving strong support from institutional and high net worth investors for a placement that will boost the company’s cash balance by A$7 million.
Auroch Minerals Ltd (ASX:AOU) has drilling underway at its high-grade Nepean Nickel Project, 25 kilometres south of Coolgardie, WA, to target a series of untested and highly prospective aeromagnetic targets to the north and south of the mine.
Auteco Minerals Ltd (ASX:AUT) (OTCMKTS:MNXMF) is confident that strong drilling results pave the way for an increase in the inferred resource at its Pickle Crow Gold Project in Canada, which currently sits at 1 million ounces at 11.3 g/t gold.
Westar Resources Ltd (ASX:WSR) has identified six high-priority drill targets at its 100%-owned Winjangoo Gold Project, north of Mt Magnet in WA, following the completion of a 749-sample auger drilling program.
Alkane Resources Limited (ASX:ALK) (OTCMKTS:ALKEF) (FRA:AK7) has set the stage for a strong year following a big December quarter of gold production, sales and exploration.