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FTSE 100 closes on the front foot, with AstraZeneca the top riser

  • FTSE 100 closes around eight points higher
  • AstraZeneca top blue-chip riser
  • US benchmarks seeing red

5.05pm: FTSE closes ahead

FTSE 100 closed on the front foot at the end of the trading week, with drugs giant and much-in-the-news COVID-19 vaccine producer AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) the top dog.

Footsie finished ahead by around eight points, or 0.12%, at 6,969, with the psychologically significant 7,000 level now coming back into view.

Over the week as a whole , the FTSE 100 added around 0.45%.

AstraZeneca shares closed up over 4% at 7,715p as traders welcomed an upbeat first quarterly results statement, which showed sales of US$7.3 billion, around 15% higher compared to the first quarter of 2020.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed around 211 points at 33,848; the S&P 500 lost 25 points at 5,186 and the Nasdaq shed 62 points to 14,019.

3.40pm: AstraZeneca closes the week with impressive run

FTSE 100 trimmed its gains before close, rising 28 points to 6,999.

AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) extended its gains and was up 5% to 7,760p in the afternoon after a 3% jump in the morning.

It is quite the leap for such a massive company, worth £101.7bn based on Thursday’s closing price of 7,398p.

Albeit suffering from reputation issues in the EU due to issues with the COVID-19 vaccine supply, the stock is well liked by investors for its pipeline beyond the jab and other coronavirus treatment.

In fact, the pharma giant reckons trading will be even better as infections drop in its markets, so restrictions will no longer hinder performance.

Full-year revenue is forecast to jump 11-12%, which doesn’t include any revenue or profit impact from sales of the COVID-19 vaccine, nor the proposed acquisition of rare disease firm Alexion, which will close in the third quarter.

The Anglo-Swedish group also released quarterly results that beat expectations, with revenue climbing 15% to US$7.3bn in the quarter ended 31 March.

2.45pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Numinus Wellness Inc (CVE:NUMI) (OTCMKTS:LKYSF) (FRA:LR23) ends 2Q with C$28.5M after closing Mindspace Wellbeing acquisition

Gevo Inc (NASDAQ:GEVO) (FRA:ZGV3) officially breaks ground on its renewable natural gas project in northwest Iowa

Naturally Splendid Enterprises Ltd (CVE:NSP) (OTCPINK:NSPDF) (FRA:50N) appoints CANEX Foods as master distributor for NATERA Plant Based Foods in Canada

KushCo Holdings Inc (OTCQX:KSHB) reveals the future leadership team following its merger with Greenlane Holdings

Bragg Gaming Group (TSE:BRAG) (OTCMKTS:BRGGF) (FRA:SL4A) to undergo 10:1 reverse stock split in effort to earn Nasdaq listing

Los Andes Copper Ltd (CVE:LA) (OTCMKTS:LSANF) (FRA:L41A) receives environmental approval for drilling, allowing it to complete PFS at Chile copper project

Playgon Games Inc (CVE:DEAL) (OTCQB:PLGNF) (FRA:7CR) goes live in South Africa’s $2.9B gaming market with Intelligent Gaming

Aurania Resources Ltd (CVE:ARU) (OTCMKTS:AUIAF) (FRA:20Q) extends Tiria-Shimpia target in Ecuador to 22km after discovering Shimpia North

Empress Royalty Corp (CVE:EMPR ) (OTCQB:EMPYF) (FRA:53G) funds silver stream agreement on Tahuehueto project in Mexico

Marble Financial Inc (CSE MRBL) (OTCMKTS:MRBLF) (FRA:2V0) partners with 55Rush and its 1.1M Parent Life Network to build audience for financial literacy tools

2.38pm: Wall Street opens in the red

Markets on Wall Street have opened lower on Friday morning as traders stood back and took a breather after Thursday’s blockbuster session.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.45% at 33,907 while the S&P 500 dropped 0.55% to 4,188 and the Nasdaq fell 0.6% to 13,997.

While the wider market was negative, shares in Amazon jumped 1.3% to US$3,515 in early deals following the ecommerce giant’s strong quarterly numbers overnight.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 was heading in the opposite direction to Wall Street, rising 37 points to 6,998 at around 2.40pm.

2pm: Apple breaks competition rules, says EU Commission

FTSE 100 swung back in the green in the early afternoon, up 26 points to 6,987.

Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) was found in breach of competition rules, the EU said.

The Commission said it abused its dominant position for the distribution of music streaming apps through its App Store.

That’s because music streaming app developers have to use Apple’s own in-app purchase mechanism to distribute their apps via Apple’s App Store.

The Commission also expressed concerns that Apple prevents app developers from informing iPhone and iPad users of alternative, cheaper purchasing possibilities by imposing restrictions.

1pm: Wall Street to open softer after stellar week

FTSE 100 clawed back its losses and was down only 3 points to 6,958.

US futures are pointing to a softer start, with Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all expected to shed a few points at open as they simmer down after a stellar run on Thursday.

It’s been a tech-focused week in New York, with Amazon Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) ending the release flurry with a blockbuster set of quarterly numbers as a boom in online shopping during lockdowns across the world sent profits surging.

Net income more than trebled to US$8.1bn in the three months to 31 March compared with US$2.5bn a year ago, while net sales jumped 44% to US$108.5bn.

Twitter, instead, saw its shares drop after second-quarter forecasts fell short of expectations, after guiding down on its monetizable daily active user average growth rate.

Friday will see the release of the latest personal spending and income numbers for March, “which are expected to see a skew as a result of the second round of stimulus payments”, according to Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

“Given we already know that retail sales numbers for March were very good, it’s not too much of a stretch to see similar strong numbers here. In February we saw personal income decline -7.1% after a 10% rise in January,” he said.

“The March stimulus payments are expected to see personal income rise by 20%, however regarding spending the estimates appear to be much more conservative, with an expectation of a 4.2% rise, after a February decline of -1%.”

12pm: AstraZeneca on the rise after posting bullish update

FTSE 100 dipped in the red at midday, shedding 11 points to 6,950.

AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) rose 3% to 7,653p after posting a strong set of quarterly results and forecasting a boost in performance in the second half.

The pharma giant expects full-year revenue to jump 11-12%, which doesn’t include any revenue or profit impact from sales of the COVID-19 vaccine, nor the proposed acquisition of rare disease firm Alexion, which will close in the third quarter.

The firm, which made US$275mln in sales of the COVID-19 vaccine, has seen its trading hindered by restrictions worldwide and hospitals postponing non-essential treatment.

Analysts at Hargreaves Lansdown said the company is in “a good place”.

“A robust looking pipeline gives it options in the future and Alexion will be an extra shot in the arm on that front. Meanwhile the distribution network looks in good health, giving it options when drugs mature that many other pharmaceutical giants lack,” they noted.

“The newly acquired expertise in vaccines  is no bad thing either in a world which will be far more aware of viruses going forwards. If the group can nudge up it’s free cash flow as pandemic headwinds subside it will be in a sweet spot few pharmaceutical groups enjoy.”

11am: Darktrace jumps over 40% on first day of trading

FTSE 100 held its gains in the late morning, rising 11 points to 6,973.

Darktrace PLC (LON:DARK) rose to highs of 360p on its first day of trading, an over 40% jump from its IPO price of 250p per share.

The flotation price valued the cybersecurity group at £1.7bn, which is well below the initial estimates when it first announced it would join the market earlier this month.

When the British tech first announced it would float on 19 April, valuations had gone as high as £3.6bn but signs that it was proving a struggle to get away came last week with reports the price had been cut to between £2.4-2.7bn.

The disastrous recent float of Deliveroo, which slumped after being shunned by a raft of high profile institutional investors and also the presence of controversial Autonomy founder Mike Lynch as a backer were said to reasons investors were being cautious.

9.50am: House prices up by largest monthly increase since 2004

FTSE 100 trimmed its gains in mid-morning and was up 13 points to 6,974.

House prices increased by 2.1% in April compared to March, the largest monthly increase since February 2004.

The previous Nationwide report showed a 0.3% month-on-month dip in March.

The year-on-year gain in house prices rebounded to a four-month high of 7.1% after slowing to 5.7% in March from a peak of 7.3% in December, the highest since November 2014.

The already strong housing market was given a boost by supportive measures announced by the Chancellor in the Budget on 3 March, including the extension of the stamp duty holiday and government-backed 5% mortgages.

Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, said the positive outlook may be short-lived.

“The EY ITEM Club suspects house prices will lose momentum again later on this year and could well be flat year-on-year by early 2022 with some quarters of falling prices as the Stamp Duty benefit ends, unemployment rises and there is a waning of pent-up demand,” he said.

“Housing market activity may also be affected from the latter months of 2021 by growing expectations that interest rates could start to rise before long.”

8.50am: Barclays sold off after costs shock 

The FTSE 100 made a tentative but positive start to proceedings as traders resisted the end-of-month profit-taking urge.

Instead, they focused on the positives, including the economic benefits from the UK’s emergence from lockdown.

On the market, the tail-end of the banking reporting season provided a surprise.

Barclays (LON:BARC) went off-script to register an increase in its cost-to-income ratio, which was at sharp variance to the positive quarterly updates from its rivals.

On the up was AstraZeneca (LON:AZN), whose report card for the first three months of 2021 was more impressive than under siege rival GlaxoSmithKline’s (LON:GSK) – at least from an investor standpoint. The shares rose 2.5%.

Among the small-caps, genedrive (LON:GDR) stood out with a 17% rise following Indian sign-off for its Covid PCR testing kit.

Proactive news headlines

Genedrive PLC (LON:GDR) said its COVID-19 PCR test has been approved by Indian regulator after the 96 SARS-CoV-2 kit achieved 100% sensitivity and specificity in the performance evaluation conducted by the country’s Council of Medical Research.

Enteq Upstream PLC (LON:NTQ) said it landed a new US$1.1mln rental contract from an existing North American customer. The customer will rent Enteq’s core Measurement While Drilling (MWD) technology for a minimum of eight months.

Synairgen PLC (LON:SNG) chief executive Richard Marsden said he was “delighted by the findings” from a phase II study of 221 hospitalised and home-based Covid patients.

Futura Medical PLC (LON:FUM) said it has now received its CE mark approval for its MED3000 erectile dysfunction gel formulation as a Class 2B approved medical device.

Diversified Gas & Oil PLC (LON:DGOC) has acquired a package of assets in Louisiana, marking its first deal in a newly identified ‘central’ regional focus area (RFA).

Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX) has updated investors on the outcome of its strategic implementation review while also unveiling a number of changes to its board.

Westminster Group PLC (LON:WSG) has reported improved losses during 2020 as the company said it had “successfully navigated” the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic due to its multiple revenue stream business model, with revenues remained relatively steady at £10mln.

Chaarat Gold Holdings Ltd (LON:CGH) informed that the board has exercised its discretion to waive the requirement for a mandatory offer for the company by Labro Investments Limited upon the acquisition of up to 10,000,000 ordinary shares in the company.

MetalNRG PLC (LON:MNRG) said it came out of 2020 stronger than it went in and expects to make progress across its portfolio with the possibility of additions.

Sensyne Health PLC (LON:SENS) has inked a strategic research agreement with the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) that gives it secure access to 1.2mln patient records.

Salt Lake Potash Limited (LON:SO4) (ASX:SO4) (OTCMKTS:WHELF) (FRA:W1D) has updated investors in a quarterly report for the period to March 31 as it focused on completing the development of the Lake Way sulphate of potash (SOP) project in Western Australia.

Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited (LON:COPL, TSE:XOP) described a remarkable year as it filed its full year results. “The first half of the year was difficult, but was truly outstanding at year-end,” said Arthur Millholland chief executive said in a statement.

Jersey Oil and Gas PLC (LON:JOG) has introduced a Carbon Policy that sets out its commitments relating to the management of carbon emissions, low-carbon targets and initiatives.

Thor Mining PLC (LON:THR) said its next phase of work will comprise drilling at Ragged Range, its US uranium-vanadium project in Colorado, and resource extension work and ISR test work at Alford East.

Trident Royalties PLC (LON:TRR) said it has eleven active non-disclosure agreements in force currently with opportunities across mineral sands, lead, nickel, copper, gold, zinc, cobalt, potash, and iron ore.

Brickability Group PLC (LON:BRCK) said it has appointed its interim chief financial officer Mike Gant to the position permanently and to the board with immediate effect.

H&T Group Plc (LON:HAT) said Richard Withers has tendered his resignation as chief financial officer to pursue a project outside of the group.

Destiny Pharma PLC (LON:DEST) announced that it was notified on 29 April 2021 that on that same day, Nick Rodgers, chairman of the company, purchased 1,511 shares at a price of 148.7p apiece.

Scancell Holdings PLC (LON:SCLP) said Vulpes Life Sciences Fund, a person closely associated with non-executive director Martin Diggle has purchased 400,000 ordinary shares in the company at a price of 20.4p apiece.

Curtis Banks PLC (LON:CBP) announced that its annual general meeting will be held on Thursday 27 May 2021. Due to Covid-19, shareholders are strongly recommended not to attend the AGM in person and are instead requested to complete their form of proxy or submit their votes electronically.

Shanta Gold PLC (LON:SHG) notified that chief executive Eric Zurrin and chief financial officer Luke Leslie will provide a live investor presentation via the Investor Meet Company platform at 10:30am BST on Wednesday 5th May 2021.

6.50 am: End of month profit-taking in store?

It looks like we could be in for a bit of end-month profit-taking, with UK equities again looking sedate compared to US stocks.

Spread betting quotes indicate the FTSE 100 will slide 14 points to 6,947 at the open.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the tech giants continue to make out like bandits – well, except for Twitter.

Amazon followed in the wake of Apple and Facebook by comfortably topping expectations, with revenues of US$108.5bn and earning per share of US$15.79 (versus the consensus forecast of US$9.54). The shares roared ahead in after-hours trading.

Twitter remains the ugly duckling of the US tech scene; although its revenues and earnings were better than expected, investors were disappointed in the growth in the number of what are called “monetisable daily users”.

Twitter’s earnings per share came in at 16 cents, compared to expectations of 14 cents.

All of that came after US markets had powered ahead, with the Dow rising 240 points to 34,060 and the S&{ 500 leaping 28 points to 4,211.

In Asia this morning, both the Nikkei 225 and the Hang Seng have caught a spring chill.

The Nikkei 225 was down 220 points at 28,834 and the Hang Seng was off 447 points at 28,856.

China Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Indices (PMIs) for April came in at 51.1 and 54.9, respectively, well below expectations.

“Conversely, the China Caixin Manufacturing PMI rose above expectations to 51.1. The Caixin index is more narrowly concentrated, encompassing a population of SME’s weighted towards the Eastern seaboard, than the broader official PMIs. Divergence isn’t unusual, and the Caixin number should limit the damage from the fall in the official index, although it may play catchup next month,” speculated Jeffrey Halley at OANDA.

In London, AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) and Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) are the big names scheduled to report earnings.

UBS is forecasting total revenues of US$7.07bn for AstraZeneca, which puts it above the consensus forecast of US$6.95bn.

It goes for a core operating profit of US$2.76bn (consensus: US$2.55bn) and core earnings per share of US$1.54 versus a consensus forecast of US$1.45.

“We expect the COVID-19 vaccine might negatively impact the margin in Q1,” UBS said.

“We will also look for any commentary around further COVID-19 impact for the rest of the year. Even though the Alexion/AZN deal obtained FTC approval recently we don’t expect an update quite yet,” UBS said.

Morgan Stanley is expecting first-quarter sales of US$6.85bn and core earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of US$2.49bn.

As for Barclays PLC (LON:BARC), investment bank revenues are expected to be strong in the quarter, while loan impairment charges in the quarter are expected to be low.

Barclays’ own banking analysts expect the discussion to “increasingly focus on the potential for write-backs of loan loss provisions”.

Morgan Stanley is forecasting net interest income of £1,923mln, gross operating income of £5,842mln, profit before tax of £1,835mln, net profit of £1,188mln and common equity tier 1 ratio of 14.5%.

Around the markets

  • Sterling: US$1.3941, n/c
  • Gilt: 0.845%, up 4.42 basis points
  • Gold: US$1,767.90 an ounce, down 40 cents
  • Brent crude: US$67.66 a barrel, down 39 cents
  • Bitcoin: US$54,109, up US$1,103

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were lower on Friday as China’s factory activity expanded at a slower-than-expected pace in April with the official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index falling to 51.1, from 51.9 in March.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 1.77% while the Shanghai Composite in China slipped 1.11%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 dipped 0.86% and South Korea’s Kospi retreated 0.83%.

Shares in Australia declined, with the S&P/ASX 200 trading 0.89% lower.


Proactive Australia news:

Buru Energy Limited (ASX:BRU) (OTCMKTS:BRNGF) (FRA:BUD) has received firm commitments from institutional, professional and sophisticated investors to raise a total of $15 million at 15 cents per share.

White Rock Minerals Ltd (ASX:WRM) (OTCMKTS:WRMCF) has completed the placement of fully paid ordinary shares to various institutional and sophisticated investors raising approximately A$8.578 million.

Auteco Minerals Ltd’s (ASX:AUT) (OTCMKTS:MNXMF) successful March quarter, which saw drilling returning a host of high-grade results from the Pickle Crow Gold Project in Canada, will underpin a resource update planned for July.

Cellmid Ltd (ASX:CDY) has received Chinese import permits for its Jo-Ju® and Lexilis® branded shampoos from the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA).

Firefinch Ltd (ASX:FFX) (OTCMKTS:EEYMF) (FRA:N9F) has received encouraging high-grade results from drilling of satellite deposits that are set to further enhance the growing gold bounty of the Morila Project in Mali.

Noxopharm Ltd’s (ASX:NOX) results from a CEP-1 study (Chemotherapy Enhancement Program) Phase 1a/1b trial that shows the success of Veyonda® as a booster of chemotherapy in late-stage cancer patients have been published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Current Therapeutic Research.

Red River Resources Ltd (ASX:RVR) (FRA:R1R) generated $26 million in revenue during the March quarter with $25.4 million from base metal concentrate sales at the Thalanga Project in Queensland and $600,000 from the new Hillgrove Gold Mine in New South Wales and is well-funded for further development at both.

Elementos Ltd (ASX:ELT) (OTCMKTS:ELTLF) (FRA:9EM) has confirmed further zones of tin mineralisation in its current drilling and optimisation campaign aimed at increasing the confidence of the mineral resource at its flagship Oropesa Tin Project in Spain.

Horizon Minerals Ltd (ASX:HRZ) has received the remaining assay results from a 21-hole drilling program at Penny’s Find Gold Mine Joint Venture with Orminex Ltd (ASX:ONX) (FRA:GG2) that returned further high-grade intercepts.

Kinetiko Energy Ltd (ASX:KKO) enjoyed a productive March quarter that has set the stage for first production and revenues in the near term at its Amersfoort Project in South Africa.

Red Rock Resources updates on Jupiter Mines spin-off plans, Australian joint venture with Power Meta

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