- FTSE 100 index gains 43 points
- UK Construction Total Activity Index rose to 54.7 in November from 53.1 in October.
- Housebuilding the outstanding sector again
10.05am: Car sales collapse in November
Private new car registrations in November were 32.2% lower than in November 2019, after being up 0.6% year-on-year in October.
Total registrations, including fleet and business sales, was down 27.4% year-on-year.
“The sharp fall in car registrations in November is a by-product of the second lockdown. Car dealerships had to close their premises for browsing, but dealers could continue to offer home delivery and click-and-collect services,” observed Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
“Registrations likely will snap back again to pre-Covid levels for a couple of months, given that they are down 30% in the year-to-date and some people who have intended to collect new cars in November will have waited until the lockdown ended. Nonetheless, underlying demand appears to be weakening. For instance, Google Trends data show that the number of people searching online for one of the top five bestselling cars was down 15% year-over-year in November, worse than October’s 8% decline. In addition, the consumer confidence component of the E.C.’s Economic Sentiment survey dropped to -23 in November, from -20 in October, and now is consistent with car sales eventually settling 18% below 2019’s average,” Tombs continued.
“The tightening of unsecured credit availability, as signalled by the BoE’s Credit Conditions survey, also suggests that registrations won’t recover sustainably to last year’s level soon,” Tombs predicted.
Chart from Pantheon Macroeconomics
Car dealer Pendragon PLC (LON:PDG) was 4.5% lower at 13.32p following the data release but most other car retailers shrugged off the news, while Cambria Automobiles plc (LON:CAMB) notched up a 2.6% rise at 59.5p.
The FTSE 100 was up 52 points (0.8%) at 6,542.
9.50am: UK construction sector’s recovery continues
The headline seasonally adjusted IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Total Activity Index rose to 54.7 in November from 53.1 in October.
It was the sixth month in a row that the index registered above the 50.0 level that marks the crossover point between contraction and expansion.
All three broad categories of activity saw higher output in November, said IHS Markit, which compiles the data from the survey.
Construction companies indicated that house building was the best-performing area in November (index at 59.2), despite the rate of growth easing since October. Civil engineering returned to growth in November (52.3), while commercial work increased only marginally (51.9) and at the slowest rate for six months.
“UK construction output stayed on a recovery path in November and there were signs that the main growth driver has transitioned from catch-up work to new projects. The latest increase in new orders was the strongest since late-2014, with construction firms reporting a boost from rising client confidence and the release of budgets that had been held back earlier in the pandemic,” said Tim Moore, the economics director at IHS Markit.
“House building was once again the stand out performer, while a return to growth for civil engineering contributed to the rise in the headline PMI during November. Commercial construction lagged behind the recovery seen elsewhere in the sector amid subdued demand for office space, retail developments and other corporate projects hit by the pandemic.
“Supply chain challenges remain on the horizon, as signalled by another sharp lengthening of lead times for construction products and materials. Transport delays and low stocks among suppliers were reported by construction firms in November, which led to the fastest increase in purchasing costs for over one-and-a-half years,” he added.
Encouraging news on #UK #construction in November as purchasing managers report expansion picked up & was at decent level despite English lockdown. #PMI up to 54.7 from 53.1 in October). Contrasts sharply with April & May major declines. New business strongest since October 2014
— Howard Archer (@HowardArcherUK) December 4, 2020
Duncan Brock, the group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), said the construction sector is moving back to strength,
“The energy behind this success was primarily the housing sector as sales remained buoyed by consumers rushing to meet the stamp duty relief deadline less than four months away and a rise in home improvement projects for locked down citizens. The below par performance of supply chains, overstretched by the bulk of this renewed demand held back further progress as lead times increased and shortages scuppered agile builders ready to get going again,” said Brock.
“Despite this accelerated improvement overall, the employment picture remained cheerless. In a bid to dampen down the effects of the sharpest rise in input costs since April 2019, builders were reducing headcounts to keep their own heads above water leading to another fall in job numbers. As more work fills the sector’s pipelines, the necessity to recruit is likely to become more urgent, and the shortfall could be reversed barring further disruption,” he concluded.
The FTSE 100 was up 43 points (0.7%) at 6,534.
9.20am: Oil giants push the Footsie higher
A firmer oil price is putting some wind in the sails of the oil giants who in turn are driving this morning’s advance by the Footsie.
London’s index of leading shares was up 45 points (0.7%) at 6,536 and although SSE PLC (LON:SSE), up 2.9% at 1,401p after selling a 10% stake in the Dogger Bank wind farm, is the best blue-chip performer, the heavily weighted index constituents BP PLC (LON:BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSB) are doing much of the heavy lifting.
The former is up 1.9% at 271.65p and the latter is 2.4% firmer at 1,340.2p as the price of Brent crude heads higher; Brent crude for February delivery is up 97 cents at US$49.68 a barrel, after OPEC+ ministers agreed to withdraw previous output cuts by no more than 500,000 barrels a day each month, starting in January, with production hikes subject to review each month.
“OPEC+ took a lesson from the EU and kicked the (oil) can down the road,” according to Marshall Gittler at BDSwiss.
“The group couldn’t decide whether to increase production by 1.9mn barrels a day (b/d) as scheduled from 1 January or to delay the production hike for three months as had been widely expected before the meeting. So they decided to raise output by 500k b/d in January and then hold meetings every month to decide what to do. Each month they will be able to raise – or, significantly, to lower – production by 500k b/d, depending on the market,” Gittler explained.
“This decision was difficult and took several more days of negotiation than had been expected, as some producers wanted to increase production while others were worried about upsetting the fragile balance in the market. The group, therefore, seems to be setting itself up for just a string of difficult meetings every month,” he added.
“The news was bullish for oil and for CAD. Both Brent and WTI hit their highest level since the pandemic began back in March,” Gittler reported.
8.45am: Positive end to week hoped for
So, is the Santa Rally on? Well, four days into the new month it is too early to call. But the trajectory for the FTSE 100 index, after a stand-out November, is promising.
The index of UK blue-chips opened Friday 35 points higher at 6,525.04.
With pictures of the vaccine lorries headed to the UK, the mood within the walls of the City continued to be chipper early on.
Conflicting reports over the status of knife-edge Brexit negotiations failed to dampen buying activity – however, a break-down of those talks might.
US non-farm payroll data later could also administer a ‘bromide’ if the numbers returning to work in the US prove to be as lacklustre as some of the more pessimistic economists are predicting.
On the market, a slide in profitability and new home sales spooked investors in FTSE 100 builder Berkeley Group (LON:BKG), which topped the losers’ list with a 3.2% fall. This led to a wholesale markdown of the sector.
Proactive news headlines:
88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E) has announced a farm-out deal for Project Peregrine in Alaska, which will fund the proposed Merlin-1 exploration well. The partnership is with Alaska Peregrine Development Company (APDC), which is described by 88 Energy as ‘a consortium of private US entities managed by individuals that have extensive experience in oil and gas.’ APDC will earn a 50% stake in Project Peregrine by paying US$11.3mln of the costs of the Merlin well, slated to spud in February. Meanwhile, 88 Energy is expected to cover around US$1.3mln as its share of the well costs.
Coinsilium Group Limited (LON:COIN) (OTCQB:CINGF) said it has completed a follow-on investment agreement with IOV Labs Ltd, the parent company of smart contract platform RSK, while the two parties have also agreed to expand the geographical scope of the IOV Labs Asia joint venture (JV) from regional to worldwide. The Aquis-listed blockchain, decentralised finance (DeFi) and crypto finance venture firm said IOV will invest GBP330,000 in Coinsilium by way of a private placement, subscribing for 11mln new shares at a price of 3p each, a 22% premium to its closing price on Thursday. A warrant will also be issued for every two subscription shares with an exercise price of 4.5p each. IOV Labs will have the right to appoint one director to the Coinsilium board, while the firm’s holding in the group will increase to 13.9%.
SkinBioTherapeutics PLC (LON:SBTX) has said it is planning a ‘self-managed’ human study of its AxisBiotix programme targeting psoriasis in the first quarter of next year. And, subject to a positive read-out, it expects to begin commercialising a product, investors were told in an update running alongside the firm’s full-year results. The market will also be keenly tracking the progress of SkinBiotix, a cosmetic additive being developed under a deal the company has with FTSE 100 speciality chemicals and ingredients giant Croda International PLC (LON:CRDA). The launch of this new line is expected in 2022.
DiscoverIE Group PLC (LON:DSCV), the customised electronic components specialist, said it has bought Limitor, a German designer and manufacturer of thermal safety components and sensors. DiscoverIE is initially paying EUR14.5mln to acquire Limitor on a debt-free, cash-free basis, which will be funded from the group’s existing debt facilities. A contingent payment of EUR3.5mln may be triggered depending on the performance of the acquired business over the next three years.
Feedback PLC (LON:FDBK) has said its Bleepa product will feature in a Healthcare UK virtual healthcare mission to India next week. The medical imaging technology company said the initiative by Healthcare UK, part of the Department for International Trade (DIT), would build on the success of trade delegations that have visited India over the last four years. Innovation in healthcare delivery is a key priority for healthcare providers in India, as India’s healthcare market is projected to grow to US$372bn by 2022, Feedback said.
Gfinity PLC (LON:GFIN) said it has acquired EpicStream, a leading online news community for fantasy and sci-fi movies, television, video games, collectable cards and comic books. The AIM-listed esports media firm said it will monetise all of EpicStream’s social channels and that it believed the site’s user numbers and revenues can be “grown through the deployment of a search engine optimisation strategy, technology toolkit and advertising performance optimisation techniques” which it said have delivered strong results for its existing platforms. EpicStream.com currently reaches 600,000 unique visitors per month, with a majority of visitors based in the “attractive high-value advertising markets” of the US and Canada as well as a growing following in the UK.
Metal Tiger PLC (LON:MTR) announced that it has subscribed for 141,956 units in Marimaca Copper Corp, at C$3.15 per unit, for a total investment of C$447,161 (approximately GBP257,000). The AIM-listed investor in natural resource opportunities said the investment is being made as part of Marimaca’s C$28.98 million equity financing which was announced as having closed on December 3, 2020. Each unit acquired consists of one common share in Marimaca and one-half of one common share purchase warrant exercisable at C$4.10 for a period of 24 months following the closing date of the fundraising. Accordingly, Metal Tiger now holds, in aggregate, 146,956 shares in Marimaca, representing approximately 0.2% of the group’s issued share capital and 70,978 warrants.
MetalNRG PLC (LON:MNRG) has said that it plans to revise the pre-feasibility study (PFS) on Imwelo Project when it completes the acquisition of the project owner, Lake Victoria Gold. The company plans to get the consultant that did the original PFS and reserves estimate to revise, optimise and update the numbers and projections to take into account the significantly higher gold price at present and planned investment optimisation. It is envisaged that the updated study will facilitate the project’s fast track to production, with the resultant cash flows supporting further resource development and underground mining studies.
Horizonte Minerals PLC (LON:HZM) said it has made “significant progress” with key workstreams required to commence construction at its Araguaia nickel project in Brazil. In an operational update, the AIM-listed firm said it has completed a value engineering phase at the project with improvements made to plant design and flow sheet to optimise operational performance, while the capital and operational expenditure remain in line with a feasibility study following a comprehensive review. Horizonte also said an operational readiness plan is “well advanced” with all key permits in place for the commencement of the construction phase while key environmental and social programmes are underway in preparation for this stage.
BlueRock Diamonds PLC (LON:BRD) announced that it has recovered a 12.6-carat diamond from its Kareevlei Diamond Mine in the Kimberley region of South Africa. In a statement, Mike Houston, executive chairman of the AIM-listed diamond mining company, commented: “In line with our reporting policy to inform the market of diamonds recovered estimated to be valued at over $50k, we are delighted to announce that another large diamond has been recovered from Kareevlei. “To put this into perspective, given the average engagement ring weight in the UK is 0.6 carats, a 12.6-carat diamond is considered exceptional. We are hopeful that the recovery of this diamond marks the start of mining better quality diamonds, having worked through a difficult area in recent months.”
Tissue Regenix Group PLC (LON:TRX), the regenerative medical devices company, has said it intends to appoint Brian Phillips and Trevor Phillips (no relation) as independent non-executive directors of the company. It noted that Brian Phillips is an entrepreneurial investment professional with over 25 years’ experience. He is the current principal of Ethos partners which he co-founded in 2018 to assist individuals in establishing a portfolio of assets under private equity investments. The group pointed out that Trevor Phillips is the current chairman of the Board at NEPeSMO and has extensive experience in the UK and US in corporate development, M&A and operations in the pharmaceutical and life science industries including previously held positions as executive chairman of hVIVO (2017-2020), chief operating officer for Vectura Group PLC (2011-2017) and former CEO and COO of Critical Therapeutics, Inc. (2002-2008).
United Oil & Gas PLC (LON:UOG) has told investors that an outstanding milestone payment attached to last year’s sale of the Crown asset is now expected in the second quarter of 2021. Crown was sold to Anasuria Hibiscus, a subsidiary of Malaysian firm Hibiscus Petroleum Berhad, last December and, at that time, a US$3mln payment (US$2.85mln net to United) was anticipated before the end of 2020. The payment is triggered by the approval of a field development plan for Marigold – a project that now includes Crown – and amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic this milestone has slipped to 2021.
Panther Metals PLC (LON:PALM), the company focused on mineral exploration in Canada and Australia, has announced the completion of a placing for a total of 3,000,000 ordinary shares at 10p each, raising gross proceeds of approximately GBP300,000. The Placing Shares being issued represent approximately 5.54% of Panther’s issued ordinary share capital before the placing. The placing price represents a 3.5p premium to the company’s last fundraise in July 2020.
Tavistock Investments PLC (LON:TAVI) has said it will shortly be writing to shareholders to postpone the general meeting (GM) of the company that had been scheduled to take place at 11.30am on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. The purpose of the GM is to seek shareholders’ support for a proposal to replace the existing long-term incentive arrangements for members of the company’s leadership team, including executive directors Oliver Cooke and Brian Raven, with an alternative long-term incentive scheme. The group said its board has received feedback on the proposal from several shareholders which has highlighted that certain aspects of the proposal could inappropriately favour the interests of the company’s leadership team over those of shareholders in certain circumstances. It said this is counter to the board’s intention and, as a consequence, the board recognises that certain aspects of the proposal need to be amended. The company’s board said it welcomes constructive engagement with shareholders and now wishes to take the opportunity to reflect on these discussions, to consult further with the company’s advisers and to revise the proposal as appropriate. It added that it will write to shareholders again in the New Year to provide them with further details.
Diversified Gas & Oil PLC (LON:DGOC), the US-based owner and operator of natural gas, natural gas liquids and oil wells and midstream assets, said that its dividend in respect of the second quarter to June 30, 2020, of 3.75 cents per share will be paid on December 18, 2020, to those shareholders on the register on November 27, 2020. The company added that shareholders who have elected to receive their dividends in GBP sterling will receive an equivalent payment of 2.78p per share, based on December 3, 2020, exchange rate of GBP0.74055=US$1.00.
Polarean Imaging PLC (LON:POLX), the medical imaging technology company, with a proprietary drug-device combination product using hyperpolarised xenon-129 gas to enhance magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in pulmonary medicine, has announced the appointment of Stifel Nicolaus Europe as its joint corporate broker with immediate effect.
6.50am: Footsie called higher
The FTSE 100 index was expected to open higher on Friday, more or less replicating yesterday’s gain ahead of the latest US jobs report this afternoon.
London’s index of leading shares was seen opening 27 points higher at 6,518, despite a mixed showing by US indices overnight.
The Dow Jones Industrials Average rose 86 points to 29,970 but the broader-based S&P 500 dipped a couple of points to close at 3,667.
In Asia, markets were also mixed on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 was off 48 points at 26,761 but in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng marched 46 points higher to 26,774.
It is the first Friday of the month so that means US non-farm payrolls data. As ever, traders have been given an inkling of what the numbers might be like from the jobs number released by payrolls processing firm ADP on Wednesday, although this is not always a reliable guide.
According to ADP, the private sector added 307,000 jobs in November, down from the revised figure of 404,000 in October and well below analyst estimates of 440,000.
The four-month low for job creation has been attributed to a surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases slamming the brakes on US hiring. If the slowdown is confirmed in Friday’s official numbers it will likely raise concerns that the US employment outlook could be in for a rough winter.
“The US non-farm payrolls report will be released at 1.30pm (UK time) and it is expected to show that 469,000 jobs were created last month, and that would be a drop from the 638,000 registered in October. The unemployment rate is tipped to be 6.8%, down from the 6.9% in the previous update, and the yearly average earnings metric is expected to slip from 4.5% to 4.3%. A fall in wages could be viewed as positive for the economy as it could be an indication that more lower-income workers have returned to the workforce,” said CMC’s David Madden.
On the corporate news front, Berkeley Group Holdings PLC (LON:BKG) is releasing its half-year results on Friday, and analysts at UBS expect revenue to decline by 6% to GBP872mln, with profit before tax of around GBP212mln from last year’s GBP278mln.
The figure is in line with recent guidance of splitting profits 40-60 across the two halves, meaning the full-year profit should come in at GBP500mln.
Around the markets:
- Sterling: US$1.3455, up 0.05 cents
- 10-year Gilt: 0.325%, down 3.06 basis points
- Gold: US$1,842.60 an ounce, up US$1.50
- Oil: US$49.74 a barrel, up US$1.03
- Bitcoin: US$19,274, down US$191
6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia
Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed on Friday after the US added chipmaker SMIC and oil producer CNOOC to a blacklist of alleged Chinese military companies.
Mainland Chinese stocks were lower, with the Shanghai composite slipping 0.17% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 0.15%.
South Korea’s Kospi led gains among major Asia markets by surging 1.30%.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 0.22% while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged higher by 0.28% to close at 6,634.
Proactive Australia news:
TNT Mines Ltd (ASX:TIN) has secured firm commitments from new and existing institutional and sophisticated investors to raise A$3.9 million through the issue of 30 million shares at 13 cents per share.
Great Southern Mining Ltd (ASX:GSN) has received a funds boost with the approval of the first payment of $109,000 relating to a co-funded drilling campaign at its Cox’s Find Gold Project in Western Australia under the 2020 Exploration Incentive Scheme.
Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Ltd (ASX:ROO) is set to benefit with its Root Zone Temperature Optimization (RZTO) technology following the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs’ (UNCND) decision to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Drug Convention Treaty.
Cyclone Metals Ltd (ASX:CLE) is confident the timing is right for the development of new environmentally friendly processing technology at its copper-gold-cobalt assets in the Mount Isa region of northwest Queensland.
Elementos Ltd (ASX:ELT) (OTCMKTS:ELTLF) (FRA:9EM) has completed 14 diamond drill holes for a total of 1,025.7 metres at its flagship Oropesa Tin Project in Spain, as part of a wider optimisation program to increase the project’s overall resource, annual production rate and mine life.