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FTSE 100 finds silver lining

  • FTSE 100 index finishes 58 points higher
  • US stocks ahead
  • Fresnillo shares shine

5.15pm: FTSE closes higher

FTSE 100 closed ahead on the first day of the new trading week as the anxious feel of last week became a distant memory and the Reddit brigade that were at war with hedge funds turned their attention to silver.

Britain’s blue-chip benchmark finished almost 59 points higher on the day, at 6,466.

FTSE 250 was also ahead, gaining around 164 points at 20,392.

“The swarm of retail investors that descended upon Gamestop recently has turned its attention to silver,” said David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets.

“Similar tactics were applied, whereby it was discussed on Reddit that the hoard would snap up the metal in a bid to squeeze the price higher.”

Madden added: “The wider markets are in good shape, probably because a high single digit percentage move in silver poses less of a threat to certain hedge funds than a colossal short squeeze on selected stocks.

“Although the Reddit-retail investor-fuelled silver rally is a big deal, there have been no obvious losers from the move, which has helped keep a lid on stability fears,” he added.

Silver reached an eight year high, and unsurprisingly, top riser on Footsie was silver giant Fresnillo PLC (LON:FRES), which shone 8.95% higher to 1,076p.

4.05pm: New month, new direction

London looks set to complete a solid day with nary a short squeeze in sight.

The FTSE 100 was up 64 points (1.0%) at 6,471.

Away from the blue-chips, Clear Leisure PLC (LON:CLP) was the best performer with a 73% rise to 0.57p after a business update.

The company said that the Bologna Court has elected to continue Clear Leisure’s EUR1.03 million legal claim against the previous management of Sosushi through an arbitration process.

3.10pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc (CSE:AGN) (OTCQB:AGNPF) (FRA:AGW) poised to investigate psychedelic compound DMT as treatment for stroke

Australis Capital Inc (CSE:AUSA) (OTCMKTS:AUSAF) (FRA:AC4) acquiree ALPS inks deal to build a high-tech California greenhouse

Empower Clinics’ Inc (CSE:CBDT:) (OTCQB:EPWCF) (FRA:8EC) Kai Medical Laboratory to deliver on-site COVID-19 testing for Dallas Market Center

Imagine AR Inc (CSE:IP) (OTCMKTS:IPNFF) (FRA:GMS1) brings on technology executive Masa Ishimitsu as advisor to help launch augmented reality platform in Japan

CytoDyn Inc (OTCQB: CYDY) partners with Chiral Pharma to register Vyrologix in the Philippines

Benchmark Metals Inc (CVE:BNCH) (OTCQB:CYRTF) welcomes latest drill results from AGB zone at Lawyers project, which could become open pit mine

Byrna Technologies Inc (CSE:BYRN) (OTCQB:BYRN) adds veteran marketing executive Luan Pham to its C-suite

WeedMD Inc (CVE:WMD) (OTCQX:WDDMF) (FRA:4WE) announces that its Color Cannabis branded products are now available in Quebec

DRDGOLD Limited (NYSE:DRD) (JSE:DRD) continues to benefit from higher Rand gold price as it reports profit boost for first half

Q BioMed Inc (OTCQB:QBIO) metastatic bone pain drug Strontium89 made available to 3,000-plus urologists in contract with group purchasing organization UroGPO

2.48pm: Wall Street opens higher

The main Wall Street indices managed to open on the front foot on Monday

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.84% higher at 30,235, while the S&P 500 climbed 1.08% to 3,754 and the Nasdaq rose 1.33% to 13,245.

Investors seem to be trying to shake off some of the anxiety caused by the volatility of the GameStop frenzy, which has seen the Reddit retail trader crowd seemingly flock to silver at the start of the week as their next target to go “to the moon”, although some have pointed out that any such rally in the price of the metal could be short-lived.

Meanwhile, Rupert Thompson, chief investment officer at Kingswood, has said the influx of retail investors looking to push up stock prices to levels that do not correlate with the fundamentals of a business “is classic bubble behaviour and brings back bad memories of the tech bubble 20 years ago”.

However, the CIO added that such occurrences were “all a symptom of the liquidity sloshing around the markets which is unlikely to be withdrawn any time soon”.

“There is still a mountain of cash on the side-lines, potentially available to drive markets higher. Importantly, central banks have no plan to start scaling back their QE programs any time soon. Fed Chair Powell was at pains last week to emphasise that it would tread very cautiously on this front, not least because the economy still badly needs supporting”, Thompson said.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 had lost some of its steam into late afternoon but was still up 60 points at 6,468 at 2.45pm.

2.15pm: FTSE 100 consolidates the morning’s gains

London’s leading shares rested on their laurels over the lunchtime session, waiting to see how high Wall Street will jump.

The FTSE 100 was up 71 points (1.1%) at 6,479.

“Today has been all about silver and silver-linked stocks, which have rallied sharply along with the underlying prices of the metal,” said Fawad Razaqzada of ThinkMarkets, and it is hard to argue with that, what with precious metal miners Fresnillo PLC (LON:FRES) and Polymetal International PLC (LON:POLY) sitting atop the Footsie leaderboard.

Having said that, retail JD Sports Fashion PLC is – to borrow a phrase – on their coat-tails with a 6.4% increase at 794.6p after it bought US retailer, DTLR Villa.

Hargreaves Lansdown PLC (LON:HL.), the wealth management platform operator, was the worst blue-chip performer, sliding 5.7% to 1,611.5p after its half-year report.

12.15pm: Hi-ho, Silver, away!

The FTSE 100 has kicked on again ahead of what is expected to be a US trading session where stocks rebound after Friday’s shake-out.

The FTSE 100 was up 72 points (1.1%) at 6,479.

Spread betting quotes indicate the Dow Jones industrial average, which tanked to the tune of 621 points on Friday, will claw back 228 points of those losses to open at around 30,211.

The S&P 500, which slumped 73 points, is set to open recoup about half of those losses with a 35 point gain at 3,749 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite is seen opening 24 points lower at 13,046.

Last week was the worst week for US markets since October but traders are apparently singing “Happy days are here again”, despite some iffy data from China that suggests the People’s Republic’s economy is coming off the boil.

“The Caixin China Manufacturing PMI fell to a seven-month low, faster than expected by analysts, hinting that the only bright spot of the world economy could also succumb to the renewed Covid pressure on its economic activity. While the economic activity is normally slower into the Chinese New Year holiday, we could see a more-severe -than-usual slowdown in the run-up and during Chinese festivities, as Chinese population will not be travelling to see their loved ones this year, and that’s some 800 million Chinese who won’t travel, eat, drink and ‘gab bei’ together, and offer gifts to their families,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya at Swissquote Bank

That may or may not be bad news for silver producers, not that those trading the shiny metal seem to be that bothered, as irrational exuberance appears to be in abundance in the commodities markets, with the most actively traded futures contract in silver up 11% or so.

Some pundits are suggesting this is the latest example of retail investors sticking it to Wall Street but Twitter is awash with Reddit users saying this is a smokescreen for the activities of the common or garden Wall Street wolves, and that Reddit users are not behind the spike in silver prices.

“In true wolf pack fashion though, the Reddit submariners have slipped under the waves and reappeared in another part of the financial shipping lanes. This time the convey in question is the silver market, where the call to arms on the SS Silver ETF has seen silver jump 6.0% this morning in Asia, and rally nearly 13.0% over the last three sessions,” said Jeffrey Halley at OANDA, using a “submariner” metaphor to set up a truly groan-inducing pun (in the next paragraph).

“The Reddit wolf pack should tread more carefully here, though. Nelson Bunker Hunt and his brothers deployed the same strategy. While bearing fruit at first as silver hit $50.00 an ounce, their attempts to corner the silver market came to a gruesome end in 1980. Silver plunged, as did the brothers’ fortune. With a large physical off-exchange market, and a lot more liquidity theoretically, then the sparely traded stocks dallied with so far, the retail wolf pack is in dangerous waters. The wolves of Wall Street may well be luring them into a trap in their Bunker Hunt for Reddit October.”


Net positions in silver

Marshall Gittler of BDSwiss has also been musing over retail investors’ apparent new-found interest in silver.

“When the wallstreetbets crowd talks about attacking the silver shorts, I don’t know who they’re talking about – only the producers are short in the futures market, and they’re normally short as they’re selling their production ahead to lock in prices,” he noted.

Connor Campbell has noted that although there are pro-silver posts on WallStreetBets, “the ‘top post’ on the subject is against the trade, claiming that by ‘going long on silver, you would be directly putting money into the pockets of the EXACT HEDGE FUNDS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF $GME’. The same poster also stated that the short squeeze was ‘a hedge-fund co-ordinated attack so they can keep fighting the $GME fight’.

The plot thickens.

Returning to the subject of purchasing managers’ indices (PMIs), the US manufacturing PMI for January is due out this afternoon, with economists expecting the final reading to be unchanged at 59.1.

The ISM (Institute of Supply Management) manufacturing PMI for January is expected to dip to 60.0 from 60.5 previously while the ISM prices paid reading is expected to slide to 75.5 from 77.6.

“In the US, the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) version of the manufacturing PMI is expected to fall slightly, which would be in contrast to the 2-point rise in the Markit version of this index; however the actual numbers are quite close so I’m not sure the different direction is significant – either way, US manufacturing remains in expansion,” pronounced BDSwiss’s Marshall Gittler.

10.40am: Brexit begins to bite

We’re starting to get some hard data on the effects of Brexit, such as January’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI).

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), meanwhile, has released a report on stockpiling by British business ahead of the introduction of post-Brexit regulations in January.

“Early evidence suggests that some companies were stockpiling at the end of 2020, but this could be as much because of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as the end of the EU transition period on 31 December,” the ONS said.

“According to our Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey (BICS) in December 2020, businesses in the manufacturing industry more commonly reported stockpiling from EU suppliers, while those in the accommodation and food service activities sector were much more likely to report stockpiling from UK suppliers,” the government’s statistics bureau added.

The BICS revealed that across all industries, 6.4% of companies were stockpiling between December 14 and December 23.

Anecdotally, while Brexit was a concern for business during 2019, the ONS reported that the coronavirus (COVID-19) was a much bigger factor behind changes in stock levels in 2020.

As for the manufacturing PMI, which fell to 54.1 in January – still above the 50.0 crossover point between contraction and expansion – from 57.5 in December, “Brexit is biting”, according to Chris Barlow, the head of manufacturing at MHA, a network of independent accountancy firms.

“The fall in the index compared to previous months is no surprise; UK manufacturing was artificially boosted in December 2020 because companies took measures to avoid the anticipated Brexit chaos at UK ports. Now Brexit trade friction is starting to bite,” Barlow pronounced.

“There is no doubt that the Brexit deal is better than no deal for UK manufacturing, but we are fooling ourselves if we think companies are not experiencing major difficulties as a result of the new red tape. Some companies have ceased trading with the EU altogether because of this (at least temporarily) and are looking for new markets or suppliers.

“As Brexit comes on top of Covid-19 and all its attendant problems, manufacturing firms lack confidence. Many are understandably worried about cash flow and for this reason, are holding back new investments. It is time for the government to help the sector with a new industrial strategy.

“UK manufacturing needs a renewed focus on skills and innovation. The government needs a combined policy where additional funding, possibly in the form of R&D relief as well as improved training and apprenticeship schemes go hand in hand with promoting innovation. If this is done quickly and well it should restore confidence and kick-start investment in the sector. If nothing is done, there is more pain to come for UK manufacturers,” Barlow suggested.

In other economic news, December could have seen the last month of the mortgage lending boom, according to Pantheon Macroeconomics.

House purchase mortgage approvals fell to 103,400 in December from 105,300 in November. Economists had pencilled in a figure of 100,000 for December.

“The mortgage market remained hot in December, with house purchase approvals higher than at any point between September 2007 and October 2021, despite falling back from November. As a result, approvals were 3.7% higher last year than in 2019, despite the near-cession of lending in Q2. Timely indicators, however, suggest that demand has begun to fade, now that time is extremely tight to complete a transaction before the threshold for stamp duty returns to GBP125K, from GBP500K, at the end of March,” said Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist who is a big fan of using Google Trends data to gauge the temperature of the housing market.

Google’s data suggest that the number of people visiting one of the three main property websites last month was only 10% above its January 2016-to-2019 average level, “a clear step down from the 20% excess in prior months”, Tombs said.

“In addition, the rapid rollout of Covid-19 vaccines suggests that most people will be content again with their pre-pandemic housing choices by the summer. Meanwhile, most of the recent rise in mortgage rates reflects banks pricing-in the greater risks of lending while the labour market is weak. We expect the unemployment rate to rise to 6% by the summer, from 5% in November, persuading lenders to maintain chunky mortgage spreads. So unless government policies change, we expect house purchase mortgage approvals to drop below their 60.7K 2010-to-2019 average level in the remaining three quarters of this year. Remortgaging also likely will remain subdued, reflecting a shift in the late 2010s to fixing mortgage payments for five years, as well as tighter lending criteria,” Tombs said.

Unless government policies change, did he say? You can bet that will happen in a heartbeat if Britain’s huge “never mind the pension plan, what’s the price of my house” constituency has anything to do with it.

Either way, housebuilding stocks were in demand following the release of the data, with Barratt Developments PLC (LON:BDEV), Berkeley Group Holdings PLC (LON:BKG), Taylor Wimpey PLC (LON:TW.) and Persimmon PLC (LON:PSN) notching up gains ranging from 4.2% to 3.4%.

Net consumer credit dropped by GBP1.0bn in December, which was a smaller fall than November’s GBP1.5bn drop and the consensus forecast of a decline of -GBP1.1bn.

“Households continued to accumulate cash in December, with their broad money holdings rising by 1.3% month-to-month and 10.3% year-over-year. We remain cautious, however, on the potential boost to GDP from dis-saving. The continuation of above-average levels of ad-hoc mortgage repayments and the further net repayment of consumer credit in December suggests that households will use some surplus cash to pay down debt,2s said that man Tombs again.

“In addition, many households likely will purchase imported items–especially foreign holidays and new cars–when they feel more confident, which won’t boost GDP. Finally, most of the cash has amassed by high-income households, who have a relatively low propensity to spend out of their wealth and who likely face tax rises ahead,” he concluded.

In equity markets, silver is apparently the new black. Or the new GameStop. Or something.

READ Silver surge sparked by Reddit’s WallStreetBets drives mining shares

Silver prices have shot up nearly 12% to eight-year highs in what has been attributed to a new surge in affection from retail investors inspired by the WallStreetBets forum on Reddit, although some “Redditors” have denied they are interested in ramping up the silver price.

Small wonder then that precious metals miner Fresnillo PLC (LON:FRES), up 16% at 1,147.5p, was leading the Footsie higher, while sector peer Polymetal International PLC (LON:POLY) was in the silver medal position, up 7.4% at 1,698p.

The FTSE 100 was up 44 points (0.7%) at 6,453.

9.55am: Manufacturing PMI falls to a three-month low

It’s a new week, a new month and a new direction for the FTSE 100; upwards.

London’s index of leading shares was up 43 points (0.7%) at 6,451 despite the release of the IHS Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for January, which showed small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) are feeling the strain of increased paperwork, post-Brexit.

The index clocked in at a three-month low of 54.1 in January, falling from December’s three-year high of 57.5.

Declining new orders intake and a steep reduction in input stocks both weighed on the PMI level, IHS said.

“Whereas many countries are seeing manufacturers provide a much-needed support to economic growth as the service sector is hit by COVID-19, the UK’s manufacturing sector has come close to stalling. A mixture of harsher COVID-19 restrictions and Brexit led to near-record supply-chain disruptions, lower exports and increased costs. The impact was felt most at consumer goods producers, who reported steep falls in output and new orders. There were also early signs that smaller companies were being hit harder by the tougher operating environment than medium- and larger-scale producers,” revealed Rob Dobson, IHS Markit director.

“The hope is that the current constraints will start to ease once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, vaccines are rolled out and ports, suppliers and manufacturers adapt to the new trading environment post-Brexit. If so, supply, demand and production bottlenecks should slowly work through the system and growth will not be knocked too far off course through 2021; however, there is no swift end in sight to these headwinds, and the longer the current circumstances remain the greater the potential damage to the sector and its suppliers,” he added,

Duncan Brock, the group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) described the start of the year as “a damp squib”.

“Primarily, it was SMEs who bore the brunt of the downturn, as they struggled to cope with increased demands in paperwork, border controls and the effects of port disruption where corporates with larger resources were able to tap into current stocks and find workarounds to these obstacles,” Brock said.

“As the delivery of important goods was nearly totally immobilised in some sectors, this resulted in overall manufacturing cost inflation rising to a four-year high and customers subsequently saw charges rise at rates not seen for 28 months. The price of transportation difficulties and competitive pressures could not be absorbed by hard-hit businesses any longer.

“A marginal rise in job creation was a small ray of sunshine, but starting at a low base, we can only hope that this will build up in the coming months driven by the impetus from vaccine programmes. The sector appeared to agree, with optimism amongst manufacturers improving from last month’s six-month low,” he added.

8.55am: Reddit roiling recovery

The FTSE 100 got off to a marginally better than expected start to the new trading week on Monday with market jitters instigated by the Reddit day-trading hordes slowly wearing off.

The UK blue-chip index opened 34 points higher at 6,441.00.

Retail focus instead turned from stocks to precious metals and in particular, silver, which up 5% overnight and has advanced 12% over the past week.

This sent Fresnillo (LON:FRES), the Mexico-focused precious metal miner, soaring 18% in opening trade.

Gold digger Polymetal (LON:POLY) was ahead 6% in lockstep, while on the FTSE 250 Hochschild (LON:HOC) and Centamin (LON:CEY) jumped 12% and 4% respectively.

“First GameStop, next up silver seems to be the message on social media as the precious metal’s price hits a six-month high at just under $29 an ounce and traders look to storm a new market,” said Russ Mould, investment director a funds group AJ Bell.

“Whether it will be quite so easy to shunt around silver as it was GameStop remains to be seen, especially as Nelson Bunker Hunt and his brothers came a cropper in 1980 when they tried to corner the market for the precious metal, losing billions in the process.

“Regulatory intervention to cut the degree to which borrowed money (or ‘leverage’ or ‘margin’) could be used to buy silver did for the Hunt brothers and regulators may again find themselves having to address this issue, alongside the use of derivatives, should anyone lose a packet this time around as well.”

Away from the gold and silver plays JD Sports (LON:JD.) stood out after announcing the US$495mln acquisition of DTLR Villa, a Baltimore-based sportswear company. The purchase comes hard on the heels of another US deal – the US$325mln purchase of Shoe Palace. The shares jumped 7%.

Proactive news headlines:

88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E) confirmed it is expected to spud the Merlin-1 exploration well in Alaska, as it has now landed approval for its permit to drill. The company said that the permit was deemed complete by the Alaska Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the January 28, 20231, and was submitted to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. There, it was approved on January 29, ahead of an expected spud date of February 12.

e-therapeutics PLC (LON:ETX) said it is in the process of securing patents to protect its advances in liver gene silencing. The application relates to GalNAc-conjugated short interfering RNA (siRNA). Additional patents will be sought for siRNA constructs that have been designed with potentially beneficial safety and potency profiles, it added. e-therapeutics said its platform will provide it with a “significant competitive advantage” in the field RNA interference, also known as co-suppression or gene silencing.

Mosman Oil and Gas Limited (LON:MSMN) has provided a further update on the Stanley project, in east Texas, which last week averaged 210 barrels of oil per day (bopd) gross. That outperforms the average rate of 139 bopd reported over the six months ended December 31, 2020. The company noted that the Stanley-3 and Stanley-4 wells continue to produce oil without artificial lift – with the former yielding 50 bopd and the latter showing 120 bopd – whilst Stanley-1 is now operating with a pump-jack and last week yielded 40 bopd.

SkinBioTherapeutics PLC (LON:SBTX) said its subsidiary AxisBiotix has expanded its food supplement study by 50 participants to 250 following a “high level of demand”. Chief executive Stuart Ashman said he was “overwhelmed” by the “extraordinary number of applicants” in a very short period of time, the majority of which were psoriasis sufferers. Enrolment began on January 14 for the self-managed assessment, which will be monitored through a mobile app that involves answering questions evaluating symptom progression.

Open Orphan PLC (AIM:ORPH) said its Venn Life Sciences drug development consultancy arm has extended its contract with client Carna Biosciences to the end of the year. The extension is expected to “deliver significant revenue for Venn over the next twelve months”, investors were told. Venn’s office in Breda, the Netherlands, will provide chemistry, manufacturing and control, non-clinical, clinical and regulatory consultancy services for two of Carna’s development programmes.

BATM PLC (LON:BVC) said strong demand for its coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnostics products will mean sales and profits for the year to end-December 2020 coming in well ahead of forecasts. The London-listed tech group expects revenue for full-year 2020 to be at least US$180mln or annual growth of over 45% with underlying profits [EBITDA] to be ‘substantially ahead’ of market expectations. Growth has been driven by the Bio-Medical division and particularly orders for diagnostics testing kits, reagents and instruments, the Israeli group said.

Seeing Machines PLC (LON:SEE) said it expects to report a 14.6% year-on-year increase in revenue for the six months to December 31, 2020. The technology company, which designs artificial-intelligence-powered operator monitoring systems to improve transport safety, said the first half of its current fiscal year had been a period of growth. Despite the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the company said it continues to trade in line with expectations for the full-year. Revenue for the six months to the end of December 2020 rose to A$18.1mln from A$15.8mln in the same period of 2019. Annualised recurring revenues, including royalties, rose 17.4% to A$15.5mln from A$13.2mln.

Parity Group PLC (LON:PTY) said it has been awarded a three-year contract to help oversee Scotland’s roll-out of superfast digital broadband. The Scottish Government has appointed Parity as its Digital Technology Resources partner to support the Reaching 100% (R100) superfast broadband infrastructure programme. Through the contract, Parity will provide a managed service supplying Digital Technology personnel for the R100 programme’s project management and deployment offices. The total opportunity is worth up to GBP5mln over the next three to six years, it said.

DeepVerge PLC (LON:DVRG) has announced the pre-launch registration for its Skin Trust Club Artificial Intelligent (AI) Skincare App and Home Test Kit. Registration for the Skin Trust Club is free, as will be the downloadable app when it is ready, DeepVerge said. When the home test kits are formally launched, priority will be given to those users who have already registered their interest in receiving them. The company also announced the appointment of Fiona Joyce as its legal counsel and company secretary. Joyce has previously spent more than 20 years with IBM where she served as Country Counsel for Ireland.

Live Company Group PLC (LON:LVCG) said it has signed a contract to design and build a fully glued 3D model representing a climate change environment with the branches of the UK Environment Agency. The AIM-listed firm said the model will feature various sites of interest including a river running into the sea, a cycle path next to a river and houses with solar panels and turning wind turbines. It will also be interactive with several moveable parts.

Frontier IP Group PLC (LON:FIPP) has revealed the part it played in the development of a technology that reduces the chances of wine becoming corked. The company noted that the world’s leading producer of cork products, Corticeira Amorim has announced a technological breakthrough to remove the major cause of cork taint in wine from natural corks – a chemical compound called TCA (2,4,6 – trichloroanisole). Frontier IP said this breakthrough came about as a result of Amorim’s collaboration with the company’s partner university, NOVA University of Lisbon – NOVA School of Science and Technology.

FastForward Innovations Limited (LON:FFWD) said it has invested GBP250,000 in South West Brands Limited (SWB), a London-based group targeting the cannabidiol (CBD) market. The investment is by way of a two year, 6%, convertible loan note (CLN) as part of a funding round by SWB to raise GBP500,000. If the loan notes are converted into equity, FastForward could end up with a 5% equity stake in SWB. The funds raised will be used to launch and market SWB’s pipeline of new CBD brands in several markets, including its first new brands in the menstrual cycle care and beauty categories in April 2021

San Leon Energy PLC (LON:SLE) said there has been progress on a loan agreement to fund a fast-track redevelopment of the Oza oil field in Nigeria. Following the completion of due diligence and a technical report, loan documents are anticipated to be issued by the end of this week. As part of a deal struck in September, San Leon will invest in US$7.5mln of loan notes issued by Decklar Petroleum, a subsidiary of Asian Mineral Resources (CVE:ASN), and roughly US$4,600 for a 15% stake in Decklar.

Union Jack Oil PLC (LON:UJO) has told investors that oil is free-flowing at the Wressle field, in Lincolnshire. It comes after successful operations to recomplete the Ashover Grit reservoir interval. The well has now been placed on a continuous 24-hour production test.

Kodal Minerals PLC (LOM:KOD) has updated on progress on its gold assets in Mali and Cote d’Ivoire. Kodal said it has received a request from Resolute Mining for an additional extension of the joint venture in Cote D’Ivoire term, as Resolute’s expenditure in the joint venture of approximately US$2 million falls short of its commitment under the agreement. However, after consideration, Kodal has refused the extension request and will now retain 100% ownership of the concessions on expiry of the agreement on February 25, 2021.

United Oil & Gas PLC (LON:UOG) has said it expects production to rise further in 2021 as more of its acreage in Egypt comes onstream. A farm-out process of the Walton prospect offshore Jamaica starts shortly with first gas from Italy also due this quarter, said the AIM-listed junior. Production from the time it acquired its Egypt assets from Rockhopper at end-February 2020 averaged 2,195 barrels equivalent daily (boepd), generating total revenues of US$9-9.2mln net with an average U$37.7 price per barrel.

AEX Gold Inc (LON:AEXG) (CVE:AEX) has revealed results from its 2020 exploration campaign at the Kangerluluk property within the Nuna Nutaaq licence in Greenland. The Kangerluluk gold prospect lies 120 kilometres northeast of AEX’s Nalunaq project and within the wider Nanortalik gold belt. The prospect is deemed highly prospective by AEX and during 2020 the company carried out reconnaissance exploration designed to confirm historic grades from the main shear zone, sampling potential down-dip extensions, and capturing high-resolution images to assist with 3D modelling and future exploration planning.

Trident Royalties PLC (LON:TRR)(FSX:5KV) said it received a total of US$291,832 in royalty payments during the fourth quarter of 2020. The income came from the iron ore royalty on Koolyanobbing, and from the Mimbula copper project. Trident undertook six royalty transactions in 2020, including the acquisition of the Pukaqaqa copper royalties in the fourth quarter from Orion Resource Partners, Trident’s first all-equity deal.

Empire Metals Ltd (LON:EEE) said will focus primarily on the development of gold mining interests in Western Australia during 2021, as it moves away from its Georgian interests. The second phase of drilling at Empire’s 75%-held Eclipse gold project is now well advanced, with approximately 3,800 metres of the 4,400 metre reverse circulation programme drilled in January 2021. The drilling has intercepted a number of wide quartz veins in areas beyond and below the Eclipse old workings, and assays are awaiting laboratory analysis to determine the degree of mineralisation.

Remote Monitored Systems plc (LON:RMS) said that two of the engineers from the Lemu Group, which is currently working on commissioning the company’s new mask manufacturing machine, have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) and are now self-isolating for 10 days. The company said the engineers received the positive test results on Saturday morning, adding that three team members at its subsidiary Pharm 2 Farm (P2F) have been recorded as close contacts of the Lemu engineers in accordance with Public Health England (PHE) guidelines and will also need to self-isolate for 10 days.

Bidstack Group PLC (LON:BIDS) said it has exceeded market expectations in terms of revenues for its 2020 financial year. In a trading update for the year to December 31, 2020, the AIM-listed in-game advertising specialist said its results for the period are expected to include revenues of GBP1.7mln, up from GBP140,000 in the prior year, while losses are forecast to be GBP7.18mln compared to a GBP5.36mln loss in 2019.

Iconic Labs PLC (LON:ICON) has issued an update on the status of its discussions with the European High Growth Opportunities Securitization Fund (EHGOF) to settle all outstanding issues. The company said that following the failure of EHGOF to accept a revised settlement offer that the company made to settle all matters outstanding with EHGOF as well as the outstanding issues with OTT Holdings Limited and Alpha Blue Ocean (ABO), and which the group considered to be commercially acceptable and fair to all parties, directors John Quinlan, Liam Harrington and Sam Asante have considered their position in light of EHGOF, OTT Holdings and ABO’s failure to engage in meaningful dialogue in order to reach a settlement, and considered their roles to be untenable and resigned with immediate effect on January 31, 2020. In a separate announcement, Iconic said it has received notices of termination of the management service agreements between the company and Greencastle Capital in respect of the JOE Media and TheLondonEconomic businesses, which are to take immediate effect.

Impax Environmental Markets PLC (LON:IEM) has announced the appointment of Simon Fraser as an independent non-executive director of the company, with effect from March 1, 2021. The group said Fraser brings a wealth of investment trust experience and deep knowledge of global markets, having had a long and distinguished career in asset management at Fidelity International Ltd, retiring in 2008 as president, Investment Solutions Group, Fidelity Retirement Institute and having held other senior roles including president of Fidelity’s European and Institutional business and Global Chief Investment Officer. In December 2019 he retired as chair of the GBP3 billion F&C Investment Trust PLC. He is a former non-executive director of Barclays Bank PLC.

Learning Technologies Group PLC (LON:LTG), the provider of services and technologies for digital learning and talent management, has confirmed that all conditions relating to the acquisition of Reflektive Inc have been satisfied and that the transaction has now completed, further to the announcement of the proposed acquisition on January 20, 2021.

Blackbird PLC (LON:BIRD), the developer and seller of the market-leading cloud video editing platform, Blackbird, has said it will announce its final results for the year ended December 31, 2020, on Monday, March 22, 2021. The company said that Ian McDonough, its chief executive officer, Stephen White, its chief operating and financial officer and Stephen Streater, R&D director, will provide a live presentation relating to the final results and an update on execution against the group’s previously announced strategy, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, at 11.30am via the Investor Meet Company platform. Investors can sign up to Investor Meet Company for free and add to meet Blackbird PLC via:

Panthera Resources (LON:PAT), the gold exploration and development company with assets in India and West Africa has announced that the sale of the Kalaka Project (Kalaka) to Moydow Holdings Ltd (Moydow) has now been completed. On July 22, 2020, Panthera announced that it has entered into a conditional sale and purchase agreement to divest its interests in the Labola gold project in southwest Burkina Faso and the Kalaka gold project in southwest Mali to Moydow. With the transfer of Kalaka now completed, Panthera is entitled to receive the remainder of the deferred consideration (US$60,000) and refund to Panthera the 2H 2020 historical costs on Kalaka forecast at US$115,000. Furthermore, Panthera is entitled to receive 0.5 million shares in Moydow increasing its ownership interest in Moydow to 46.2%. The consideration is anticipated to be received shortly. In a separate statement, Panther noted that a presentation will be made by Moydow executive chairman, Brian Kiernan at this week’s 1 to 1 Mining Investment in Africa Conference. The presentation is available on the company’s website.

Sareum Holdings PLC (LON:SAR), the specialist small molecule drug development business, announced that its CEO, Dr Tim Mitchell, will give a company presentation at the 7th Annual LSX World Congress, which will be delivered digitally between February 1 and 5, 2021. The presentation will showcase Sareum’s two proprietary TYK2/JAK1 kinase inhibitor programmes, SDC-1801 and SDC-1802, targeting autoimmune diseases and cancers, respectively. Dr Mitchell will also highlight the emerging potential of this mechanism to modulate the severe inflammatory responses and respiratory symptoms arising from coronavirus (COVID-19) and other viral infections. The presentation will be made through the conference website and will be available to registered participants throughout the event – A copy of the presentation will also be made available on Sareum’s website:

Base Resources Limited (LONLBSE) (ASX:BSE), the African mineral sands producer has said its latest company presentation, an abridged version of which was made available for the 121 Mining Investment Africa Conference, is available from its website:

IronRidge Resources Limited (LON:IRR), the African focused minerals exploration company has announced that it will be attending the following online conferences in the coming months: 121 Mining Investment Online Africa | 1-3 February 2021 (Digital event); Benchmark Minerals African Mining Battery supply chain special on February 4, 2021; Mining Indaba Virtual February 2-3, 2021 (Online event); PDAC One on One Meeting Virtual March 8-11, 2021 (Digital event); 121 Mining Investment Online APAC March 17-19, 2021 (Digital event); Mining Indaba Virtual Investment Programme March 30-31, 2021 (Digital event); 121 Mining Investment Online Americas April 27-29, 2021 (Digital event); 121 Mining Investment Online EMEA May 25-27, 2021 (Digital event); and Mines and Money Global (multi commodity) June 22-24, 2021 (Global digital event) IronRidge Resources chief executive officer Vincent Mascolo and chief operating officer Len Kolff will be providing an update on current projects in the group’s portfolio; company presentations can be found at

AfriTin Mining Limited (LON:ATM), an African tin mining company with its flagship asset, the Uis Tin Mine in Namibia announces that Anthony Viljoen, its chief executive officer, will be presenting at an investor webinar being hosted jointly by Turner Pope Investments Ltd and Vox Markets on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, at 5.30pm GMT.

6.50am: Footsie called higher

The FTSE looks set to open its account in positive territory on Monday after a horrendous end to the last trading week for the UK blue-chip stocks index.

The Footsie is now below its opening level for 2021 with hope around a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, the new presidential era and US fiscal stimulus package having dissipated in a rough few days for investors.

In Asia, stocks moved higher Monday, though China’s purchasing manager’s data, while robust, was not robust enough to move the dial.

After GameStop and AMC retail activity ahead of the US open appeared to be focused on silver, with the price of the precious metal up just under 5%.

Gold, meanwhile, lacked the same momentum as it nudged up 0.93% but stalled below US$1,900 an ounce.

The corporate news agenda here in the UK looks likely to be dominated by big oil and big pharma with updates from BP (LON:BP.) and GlaxoSmithKline (LON:GSK) this week.

In the US, reporting season is still in full swing. Alphabet (LON:GOOG), the parent company of Google, and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) are the stand-outs from a packed roster.

Around the markets:

  • Pound US$1.3743 (+0.26)
  • Bitcoin US$33,861.79 (+0.44%)
  • Gold US$1,867.40 (+0.93%)
  • Brent crude US$ 55.36 (+0.53%)

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in Asia-Pacific were higher on Monday as Chinese manufacturing data showed growth slowing in January, with the Caixin/Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index coming in at 51.5, compared to 51.9 in December.

South Korea’s Kospi was among the biggest gainers regionally as it jumped 2.70% with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index following closely with a 2.36% surge.

Mainland Chinese stocks were also higher with the Shanghai composite up 0.59%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 1.55% while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.84% higher.


Proactive Australia news:

Pan Asia Metals Limited (ASX:PAM) has completed drilling the first-ever hole at the highly prospective Bang I Tum prospect within Reung Kiet Lithium Project (RKLP) in southern Thailand.

Matador Mining Ltd (ASX:MZZ) hits 18 metres at 11 g/t gold and 19 metres at 4.6 g/t gold following having received exploration drill results at the Cape Ray Gold Project in Newfoundland, Canada.

Kingwest Resources Ltd (ASX:KWR) has received the first assays from its inaugural aircore drilling program at the highly prospective Goongarrie Gold Project (GGP) in Western Australia.

Musgrave Minerals Ltd (ASX:MGV) (FRA:6MU) has reported strong reverse circulation (RC) assay results from the newly discovered White Heat prospect on its 100%-owned ground at its flagship Cue Gold Project in Western Australia’s Murchison district.

Havilah Resources Ltd (ASX:HAV) (FRA:FWL) has reported further economic-grade copper and gold drilling results in the last three reverse circulation (RC) drill holes from its 2020 West Kalkaroo drilling campaign.

Jinadalee Resources Ltd (ASX:JRL) has received the first assay results from 10 of 15 drill holes completed in December 2020, which have intersected substantial thickness of the flat-lying sediments hosting lithium mineralisation at the McDermitt Project in Utah, US.

K2fly Ltd (ASX:K2F) is acquiring the business assets associated with ‘Decipher for Mining’ (Decipher) from CSBP Ltd (CSBP) and Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers Ltd (WesCEF) for 3.7 million in shares, plus performance shares.

Lotus Resources Ltd (ASX:LOT) has found high-grade rare earth oxide (REO) material up to 16% total REO and 3.4% critical REO at the Milenje Hills prospect, 2 kilometres from its Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Malawi, after a preliminary low-cost exploration program.

Creso Pharma Ltd (ASX:CPH) (FRA:1X8) (OTCMKTS:COPHF) has welcomed the introduction of over-the-counter sales of low-dose cannabidiol (CBD) products in Australian pharmacies from 1 February 2021.

Great Southern Mining Ltd (ASX:GSN) has cemented its position as a major gold explorer and developer in the Laverton Goldfields in Western Australia after it secured an exclusive, irrevocable option over three large exploration license applications around its Cox’s Find Gold Project in the Laverton region, Western Australia.

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