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FTSE 100 defies early predictions to open in the green; JD Sports leads blue-chips as it looks to du

  • FTSE 100 gains 11 points
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection rates falling in UK
  • Symphony Environmental jumps as antiviral material proves highly effective against COVID-19

8.50am: Positive start to the week

The FTSE 100 defied the early gloomy predictions to open in the green on Monday morning – but only just.

The index of UK blue-chips opened 11 points higher 6,378.46.

The optimism may have been spurred by a better than expected fall in UK coronavirus (COVID-19) infection rates, which have dropped by a third during lockdown.

Certainly, London’s move higher seemed to be at odds with the mood in Asia, where the main markets succumbed to profit-taking – with the exception of China, where a revival in manufacturing activity made for a more resilient performance.

Here in the UK, Brexit remains the great imponderable as the clock ticks down to 2021.

“Investors are hoping that a last-gasp compromise will prevent the economic pain of a no-deal to both parties, and for the UK this has particular ramifications given the parlous state of the economy both now and post-pandemic – a further deterioration of the nation’s finances would be a material blow,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

Heading the Footsie risers list was JD Sports (LON:JD.), up 7.7%, following a report it is ready to step back from its risky rescue of department store group Debenhams.

A fall in precious metals prices prompted an early markdown for Fresnillo (LON:FRES), the Mexico-focused silver miner.

Worries over OPEC’s next move in the oil market, which forced crude prices down 2% overnight, had an impact on both Shell (LON:RDSA) and BP (LON:BP.), which each fell 2.2% early on.

Among the small-caps, Symphony Environmental (LON:SYM) starred with a 16% gain after gloves and face masks using its antiviral material proved highly effective against Covid.

Proactive news headlines:

Oracle Power PLC (LON:ORCP) has begun field exploration work at the Northern Zone gold project, in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia. The project, located some 25 kilometres from the major gold mining centre in Kalgoorlie – home to ‘Super Pit’, Australia’s second-largest gold mine – is seen to host potential gold mineralisation in ‘auriferous veins in granitic intrusions’, the company said. Oracle’s exploration campaign will see the company acquire high-resolution imagery and digital terrain model of entire the project area. It will also conduct a geochemical survey to refine the targeting model.

Symphony Environmental Technologies PLC (LON:SYM) shares shot up 16% in early trading after a highly successful coronavirus (COVID-19) test of antiviral gloves and masks containing the company’s d2pAM antimicrobial technology. The assessment was carried out at the Laboratory of Virology at the University of Campinas, Brazil, and researchers looked at how effectively the protective equipment was able to combat the coronavirus strain MHV. This is the same genus and family as SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and MERS. The results were impressive. The d2pAM glove showed a 99.99% virus-reduction after only one hour of contact. The d2pAM facemask showed a 99% virus-reduction after one hour of contact with the facemask, and 99.9% after two hours.

Mkango Resources Ltd (LON:MKA) (CVE:MKA) is to be the beneficiary of a grant from the Industrial Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The grant has been awarded to HyProMag Ltd, a subsidiary of Maginito Ltd, a unit of Mkango in which it holds a 25% stake. The project is “Rare-Earth Extraction from Audio Products” and will investigate ways of recycling rare earth magnets from speakers used in automotive and consumer electronics applications.

Premier African Minerals Ltd (LON:PREM) has returned assay results from recent sampling at its newly acquired Mozambique tenement. The best grade returned was 23.7 grams per tonne gold, with several samples carrying grades of between 1.11 grams and 1.72 grams. “This remains an early-stage exploration and no resource conclusions may be drawn at this time,” said Premier African’s chief executive George Roach in a statement.

CentralNic Group PLC (LON:CNIC) saw revenue more than double year-on-year in the first nine months of 2020, with record organic revenue growth of 17%. The acquisitive internet platform operator saw revenue rise by 118% to US$168.5mln in the nine months to the end of September 2020, up from US$77.1mln the year before. Adjusted underlying earnings (EBITDA) jumped 68% to US$22.1mln from US$31.1mln the year before. Operating profit expanded to US$1.88mln from US$99,000 the year before.

discoverIE Group PLC (LON:DSCV) returned to organic revenue growth in September and in the last two months the group has seen orders running ahead of sales. The designer and supplier of customised electronics saw its momentum checked by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the six months to the end of September but the second half of its financial year has started well enough for the company to resume dividend payments. Revenue in the reporting period eased to GBP217.9mln from GBP232.0mln in the corresponding period of last year.

Scotgold Resources Ltd (LON:SGZ) gas said it is on course to commence Phase 1 production at the Cononish gold and silver mine last today. Phase 1 targets average annual gold equivalent production of 9,910 ounces. Phase 2, which targets the expansion of production to 23,500 ounces, has been brought forward by 11 months to May 2022, the group added.

Custodian REIT PLC (LON:CREI) has acquired four industrial units covering an aggregate 23,250 square foot on Hilton Business Park, Derby, one mile from the A50 which connects the M1 and M6. The agreed purchase price of GBP1.975mln was funded from the company’s existing cash resources, resulting in net gearing increasing to the group’s 24.1% loan to value.

OKYO Pharma Limited (LON:OKYO) has said it expects to make an investigational new drug application for a treatment it is developing for dry eye disease (DED) in December 2021. OK-113 inhibits Chemerin, one of a key group of cell surface receptors called G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), which play an important role in inflammation and were the basis of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The drug candidate has shown “potent anti-inflammatory activity” in preclinical testing, investors were told in commentary accompanying OKYO’s interim results.

Location Sciences Group PLC (LON:LSAI) has signed up a second US customer for its Verify Audience platform and is continuing its work with the NHS to help analyse how people’s movements are affecting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections. The marketing location data specialist said US group The Spoken Thought, which trades as Mira, will use the platform to verify audience segments independently and offer customers a visibly differentiated premium product. The two companies have been working together throughout 2020 and this formal agreement will now allow Mira to deliver more accurate high-value audience segments to its customers.

Eco Atlantic Oil & Gas Ltd (LON:ECO) told investors it has successfully negotiated the reissue of four licences in the Walvis Basin, offshore Namibia. The licences awards remain conditional subject to customary final government signature, the company added. It negotiated the reissues and the establishment of a new 10-year life cycle for each of the four new Petroleum Exploration Licenses.

Bushveld Minerals Limited (LON:BMN) has satisfied the conditions required to draw down from the Orion Mine Finance facility announced at the end of September. The vanadium producer is in the process of drawing down funds from the US$30mln production financing agreement and has also informed Orion it plans to issue convertible loan notes to the finance group in return for US$35mln. The production financing agreement will provide funding to continue to grow production at Bushveld’s Vametco project and to repay debt.

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC (LON:BPC) told investors that, in Trinidad, the Goudron field’s Enhanced Production Sharing Contract (ESPC) has now been signed. The ESPC gives the company with the continuing exclusive right to extract petroleum at Goudron until June 30, 2030. It replaces an existing 10-year production sharing contract which was due to expire at the end of 2020. The company noted that the ESPC had been anticipated earlier this year but was delayed amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

US Oil & Gas PLC (USOP), in a statement at Friday’s close, announced that the Eblana-9 well, in Nevada, was spudded on November 27. The well is targeting a prospect in Hot Creek Valley that is estimated to host some 28 million barrels of oil in place. It will be a vertical well, drilled down to a depth of 5,300 feet. A total of three horizons are targeted – anticipated at 4,420 feet, 4,920 feet, 5,140 feet.

Gore Street Energy Storage Fund PLC (LON:GSF) has initiated the programme to finance a major expansion of its portfolio of industrial battery assets. The first stage is a subscription and placing of 60mln new shares at 100p each to be sold through an initial placing, offer for subscription and intermediaries offer. Following this initial raise, Gore Street intends to issue up to a further 250mln shares at the same price.

Tharisa PLC (JSE:THA) (LON:THS) boosted revenue by 18.4% to US$406mln in the year to September 30, 2020. The firm’s earnings rose by 119.8% to US$113.1mln, while operating profit rose 262% to US$87.6mln. Earnings per share increased by 305.0% to 16.2 US cents. Net cash flow was US$73mln as the company’s chrome and platinum group metal production in South Africa was supported by strong commodities prices.

Caledonia Mining Corporation PLC (LON:CMCL) has fully equipped the new central shaft at its Blanket gold mine in Zimbabwe, from the base to the collar. The shaft is now on track to be commissioned in the first quarter of 2021. The work has been completed considerably below budget and within a time frame to underpin the company’s expectation of delivering production of 80,000 ounces of gold in 2022.

AFC Energy PLC (LON:AFC) said it has appointed Iain Thomson as its new Head of Communications & Stakeholder Management, effective from January 4, 2021. The provider of hydrogen power generation technologies said it is a newly created role that will see Thomson take on the day-to-day responsibility for the company’s Communications & Investor Relations programme.

6.50am: Footsie called lower by spread betting firms

The FTSE 100 looks set to kick off the trading week in the red with coronavirus vaccine hopes giving way to lockdown reality.

Little support is likely to be provided by Asia, where performances were mixed. Sporadic upticks in infection rates across the region added to nerves, while a stronger-than-expected performance from China’s manufacturing sector last month was largely overlooked.

Here in the UK, the political wrangling over the new coronavirus tiering system, which is set to kick in on Wednesday, looks likely to rumble on.

Brexit negotiations, meanwhile, are nearing the take-it-or-leave-it stage, according to the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

The weekend’s main business headlines were dominated by Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, which looks to be heading into some form of administration with as many as 15,000 jobs at risk.

An offer of a GBP50mln loan from Mike Ashley’s Frasers is been seen in some quarters as little short of a publicity stunt.

Weekend reports also suggest Debenhams could be pushed to the brink with JD Sport apparently ready to back out of a rescue deal.

Looking ahead, the big economic news on a quiet week is likely to be Friday’s US non-farm payrolls.

The rate of growth in the American labour market is set to have almost stagnated with as few as 60,000 new jobs added in November, down from 638,000 in October and 4.8mln in June. This after a record 20.8mln joined the ranks of the unemployed in April.

The corporate diary here in the UK looks a little quieter than recent weeks with Berkeley Homes (LON:BKG), funds supermarket AJ Bell (LON:AJB) and publisher Future (LON:FUTR) representing the main highlights.

Around the markets:

  • Pound US$1.3324 (+0.25%)
  • Bitcoin US$18,554.12 (+4.2%)
  • Gold US$1,772.40 (-0.88%)
  • Brent crude US$47.19 (-2.1%)

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Stocks in the Asia Pacific region were mostly lower on Monday as China’s commerce ministry announced preliminary anti-dumping duties ranging from 107% to 212% on imported Australian wine.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dipped 1.50% while South Korea’s Kospi was down 0.97%. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 0.79%.

Chinese stocks were slightly higher with the Shanghai composite rising 0.10% after the country’s National Bureau of Statistics announced 52.1 as the official manufacturing PMI for November. That was above expectations of a 51.5 level forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was off to a good start but slipped 1.26% to close at 6,518.


Proactive Australia news:

Horizon Minerals Ltd (ASX:HRZ) has executed a binding agreement for the acquisition of a 50% interest in the high-grade Penny’s Find Gold Project in the Western Australian goldfields for $1.5 million cash from Orminex Ltd (ASX:ONX).

Aeris Resources Ltd‘s (ASX:AIS) first drill hole at Anomaly K target of the Tritton copper operations in New South Wales has intersected an 18.8-metre interval containing disseminated and banded sulphides, including a 6.8-metre interval of massive pyrite bands with visible chalcopyrite.

Meteoric Resources NL (ASX:MEI) has received a second batch of assays from a maiden drilling program at Palm Springs Gold Project in WA, which returned wide high-grade gold intercepts at the Southern Extension, including 69 metres at 4.4 g/t.

FYI Resources Ltd (ASX:FYI) has received firm commitments to raise up to $6 million through a strongly supported placement to sophisticated and professional investors to advance its strategy of producing high-purity alumina from an innovative and fully integrated HPA project in Western Australia.

PNX Metals Ltd (ASX:PNX) (FRA:4P1) is undertaking a capital raising exercise comprising a placement and rights issue to raise up to $6.67 million to advance its exploration and development strategy focused on gold and zinc-gold-silver projects in the Northern Territory.

Castillo Copper Ltd (ASX:CCZ) has confirmed the strong potential of its Big One Deposit within Mt Oxide Project in northwest Queensland’s Mt Isa Copper Belt amidst a strong copper market with assays returning shallow copper mineralisation of up to 4.14%.

Ironbark Zinc Limited (ASX:IBG) is progressing towards the bankable feasibility study for its 100%-owned Citronen zinc-lead project in Greenland, with most of the heavy lifting already completed.

Nelson Resources Ltd (ASX:NES) plans to start drilling and Induced Polarisation (IP) surveys at its Woodline Gold Project on the boundary of the Albany Fraser Oregon and the Norseman-Wiluna Greenstone belt in WA.

Maximus Resources Limited’s (ASX:MXR) field geological mapping and review of the Hilditch Gold Project within the company’s northern Spargoville tenements in Western Australia have outlined an extensive alteration domain.

Platina Resources Limited (ASX:PGM) (FRA:P4R) has completed the A$13.7 million sale of its Skaergaard gold and palladium project in Greenland to Canadian-listed Major Precious Metals Corp (CSE:SIZE) (OTCMKTS:SIZYF) (FRA:3EZ).

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