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FTSE 100 finishes flat as a pancake; Wall Street shakes off capital gains tax increase fears

  • FTSE 100 dup less than a point
  • JP Morgan apologises
  • COVID-19 infections fell by 65% after first dose of vaccine

5.10pm: FTSE ekes out a positive close, but just barely

The FTSE 100 ended Friday very nearly exactly flat, up less than half a point to under 6,939. The FTSE 250 added 7 points to 22,372.

One laggard was easyJet plc (LON:EZJ), considered a reopening play, which saw shares drop 2.5% to £986.40.

In the US, the Dow shook off a slow start and lingering pessimism around a potential capital gains tax increase out of the White House to climb 164 points, 0.6%, to 33,980 at midday. The Nasdaq increased 195 points, 1.4%, to 14,013, and the S&P 500 improved 42 points, 1%, to 4,177. 

“US services activity is rebounding at a rate not seen for at least 11 years, as the PMI for the sector hits 62.2,” IG Chief Market Analyst Chris Beauchamp wrote Friday. “The European figures remain strong as well, but without the benefit of fiscal stimulus and a still-struggling vaccine response it is perhaps harder to see whether these parts of the global economy can continue to recover at a similar pace to the US. Considering the significant changes expected by the Biden tax hike US stocks are remaining quite resilient, helped along by the continued good news flowing from earnings season.”

3.30pm: JP Morgan apologises for European Super League kerfuffle

FTSE 100 pared its losses before close and was down 14 points to 6,923.

US investment bank JP Morgan Inc (NYSE:JPM) has apologised for its role as the financier of the proposed European Super League (ESL) and said it misjudged the mood of the European football public.

The Wall Street giant had arranged a £4bn finance package to bankroll the project, but it collapsed within days of being announced due to a furious backlash from fans, players and politicians.

In a rare public apology, the bank said: “We clearly misjudged how this deal would be viewed by the wider football community and how it might impact them in the future. We will learn from this.”

3.10pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Naturally Splendid Enterprises Ltd (CVE:NSP) (OTCPINK:NSPDF) (FRA:50N) says third shipping container of Natera Plant Based Foods has arrived from Australia

Energy Fuels Inc (NYSE:UUUU) (TSE:EFR) (FRA:VO51) receives another US$1.75M from US Department of Energy for rare earth feasibility study

FansUnite Entertainment Inc (CSE:FANS) (OTCQB:FUNFF) (FRA:4UY) applauds Canadian parliament’s passing of bill to legalize single event sports wagering

CytoDyn Inc (OTCQB:CYDY) raises another $25M for Vyrologix development in second covertable debt offering this month

Aurania Resources Ltd (CVE:ARU) (OTCQB:AUIAF) (FRA:20Q) intersects sediment-hosted copper at Lost Cities-Cutucu project in Ecuador

Aequus Pharmaceuticals Inc (CVE:AQS) (OTCQB:AQSZF) (FRA:AEQ) sees fiscal 2020 revenue rise by 59%, driven by strong sales of Vistitan and Tacrolimus

Zinc8 Energy Solutions Inc (CSE:ZAIR) (OTCMKTS:MGXRF) (FRA:0E9) inks US$200,000 contract with leading cloud provider for pilot demonstration of energy storage system

2.42pm: Mixed start for Wall Street

It was a mixed picture for Wall Street on Friday morning as investors continued to worry about the potential of US tax hikes.

In the early minutes of trading, the S&P 500 was up 0.23% at 4,144 and the Nasdaq rose 0.42% to 13,876. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was the negative outlier, down 0.1% at 33,783.

Meanwhile, the downturn in crypto markets continued to impact shares in crypto trading platform Coinbase Global Inc (NASDAQ:COIN), which was down 2.3% at US$287.23 in early trading in New York.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 had recovered some losses into late afternoon but was still down 33 points at 6,905 at around 2.40pm.

1.30pm: COVID-19 infections fall significantly after single dose vaccines are rolled out, study shows

FTSE 100 was firmly in the red in the early afternoon, down 41 points to 6,896.

A new real-life study has shown that COVID-19 infections fell by 65% after a first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were administered.

Researchers analysed 1.6mln test results from nose and throat swabs taken from 373,402 study participants between 1 December 2020 and 3 April 2021.

Three weeks after a single dose of a jab, the rates of all new COVID-19 infections had dropped by 65%, symptomatic infections by 72% and infections without reported symptoms by 57%.

A second study compared how antibody levels changed after a single dose of either vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech.

In individuals who had not had COVID-19 before, antibody responses to a single dose of either vaccine were lower in older individuals, especially over 60 years. Antibody responses to two Pfizer-BioNTech doses were high across all ages, particularly increasing responses in older people to reach similar levels to those receiving a single dose after prior infection.

The analysis was conducted by the COVID-19 Infection Survey, a partnership between the University of Oxford, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Department for Health and Social Care.

In a separate announcement, the University of Oxford said that the risk to mothers and babies is greater than acknowledged at the beginning of the pandemic, and that health priority measures should include pregnant women.

This is after a study of more than 2,100 pregnant women across 18 countries worldwide has revealed that COVID-19 is associated with risk of maternal and newborn complications.

12.20am: Bitcoin drops well below all-time high after Coinbase IPO hype simmers down

FTSE 100 stayed put at midday and was down 35 points to 6,902, while sterling jumped 0.3% to US$1.3887 on the back of buoyant UK retail sales data.

Bitcoin has fallen to US$48,231, 19% below its record high of just over US$63,000 seen earlier this month and down 11% in the last 24 hours.

“Regulatory concerns, fears overvaluation and bullish exuberance at overbought levels all added to the selling pressure,” said Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at ThinkMarkets.

“Bitcoin and other cryptos had also gotten overheated during the hype around the Coinbase IPO, which triggered a classic ‘buy the rumour, sell the news’ type of a reaction. With the weekend approaching, not many investors will be in a rush to buy this latest dip, given what happened last Sunday.”

“So, would-be buyers are potentially delaying their decisions to step in on the long side, which increases the risk we may see prices fall further lower in the next couple of days.”

11.25am: Wall Street to open in the green

FTSE 100 dropped further before lunch and plunged 38 points to 6,898, while US indices are called higher.

The Nasdaq, S&P 500 and Dow Jones are all set to start on the front foot, recouping heavy losses on Thursday after reports that the Biden administration is set to propose a 40% capital gains tax for the wealthy.

“The prospect of a doubling to CGT prompted speculation that many wealthy Americans could sell out of their stock holdings before the rise comes into play,” said Sophie Griffiths, analyst at OANDA.

“Follow-through selling is evident in Europe. However, the fact that US futures are once again on the rise suggests that yesterday’s knee-jerk reaction on Wall Street was overdone.”

According to Joshua Mahony, chief market analyst at IG, traders are gradually seeing the “uncomfortable truth” that the financial stimulus has to be paid one way or another.

“Quite whether Biden manages to garner enough support to pass this bill remains to be seen, with the president likely to require almost unanimous support from the Democrats given the expected widespread rejection from the GOP,” he commented.

10.15am: FirstGroup jumps on deal to offload US businesses for £3.3bn

FTSE 100 remained underwater in late morning and shed 22 points to 6,916.

“Friday’s market open was the latest reminder that the FTSE 100 is in no way a proxy for the UK economy. In fact, in the short-term good news for the UK can be bad news for the index as a rise in the pound against other currencies hits the relative value of its constituents’ overseas earnings,” noted AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

“The rollout of vaccines has been impressive in the UK, but the situation globally is decidedly patchy, causing understandable nervousness in the markets. Also, the Biden administration’s latest tax proposals – which look set to include big hikes in capital gains tax – saw US stocks take a tumble overnight.”

FirstGroup PLC (LON:FGP) jumped 9% to 92.8p after agreeing on the sale of its First Student and First Transit bus operations in the US to infrastructure investor EQT for US$4.6bn (£3.3bn).

The Aberdeen-based company said debt will reduce from £1.4bn at the end of March 2021 to around £100mln and it will concentrate solely on its UK rail and bus businesses.

9.20am: UK government borrowing estimated to be £303.1bn for full year

FTSE 100 held onto its losses in mid-morning, sliding 15 points to 6,922.

UK government borrowing for the financial year to March 2021 is estimated to be £303.1bn, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It equates to 14.5% of GDP and it would be the highest figure since WW2.

“The ONS’ figures still do not include an estimate of future write-offs on virus-related loans, which will accrue to when the funds were first dispensed in this fiscal year. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) judges that the eventual cost to the Exchequer will be £27.2bn,” said Samuel Tombs. chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“Public borrowing probably will undershoot the OBR’s forecast again in 2021/22, given that it was based on a forecast that GDP would rise by only 4.0% this year; we look for a 6.6% increase. But the March Budget projections also assumed only a 3% long-term hit to potential supply from the recent recession, much less than after prior downturns. This looks too sanguine, given the sharp fall in capex and immigration to date.”


8.20am: FTSE 100 opens lower 

FTSE 100 opened lower despite a flurry of data showed improved consumer sentiment in the UK.

London’s leading index dropped 19 points to 6,918 at the opening bell.

Despite the non-essential retail stores were closed across the UK, monthly retail sales jumped 5.4% in March after the 2.2% surge in February.

Although not yet as high as the summer 2020 peak when most restrictions were temporarily eased, March retail sales excluding autos were 3.4% higher than their pre-pandemic January level.

Department stores were up 7.2% month-on-month, with textile, clothing and footwear up 17.5% and household good stores up 3.7%.

The latest GfK consumer confidence survey showed a broad-based improvement in underlying sentiment, with households’ current financial situation remaining at a survey high of 31.

Headline consumer confidence only edged up by one point in April to -15.

“Led by a rapid recovery in domestic demand, the UK is building serious recovery momentum heading into the summer. Household confidence continued to rise in April, underpinned by rapid vaccine progress and easing virus restrictions, while monthly retail sales surged above their pre-pandemic level in March,” said Kallum Pickering, senior economist and director at Berenberg.

“Huge excess savings, record household net wealth and stable employment income set the stage for a robust recovery in household spending.”

Proactive news headlines

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC (LON:BPC) said it will convene an extraordinary general meeting and reveal a number of material changes to the business including a £6.9mln capital raise, a new chief executive, and a rebrand to ‘Challenger Energy Group PLC’.

Genedrive PLC (LON:GDR) announced the publication of a large independent multi-centre study evaluating the real-world performance of its HCV test in low and middle-income countries.

Record PLC (LON:REC), the currency and derivatives manager, saw assets under management equivalents (AUME) rise by 37% in the year to the end of March to a record level of US$80.1bn, helped by net inflows of US$9.7bn.

Plant Health Care PLC (LON:PHC) has reported revenue growth and narrower losses in 2020 as the company hailed its commercial business turning earnings and cash positive for the first time. 

Destiny Pharma PLC (LON:DEST) said it was notified on 22 April 2021 that on that same day, Nick Rodgers, chairman of the company, purchased 5,000 ordinary shares at a price of 158p per share, taking his total beneficial interest to 52,462 shares, or 0.09% of the total issued share capital.

e-therapeutics PLC (LON:ETX) has reached two key milestones in its collaboration with Galapagos NV, triggering two payments to the company.

Chaarat Gold Holdings Ltd (LON:CGH) said ESG expert Sandra Stash is to join the board as an independent non-executive director at the beginning of May.

W Resources PLC (LON:WRES) announced a new hire, plant manager for the La Parrilla project, and also updated on recent concentrate shipments from the mine.

XLMedia PLC (LON:XLM) confirmed it will announce its audited preliminary results for 2020 on Tuesday, 27 April.

Westminster Group PLC (LON:WSG) said it intends to announce its audited final results for 2020 on Friday 30 April.

[email protected] Capital plc (LON:SYME) expects to publish audited accounts for 2020 during May and said it annual general meeting will take place during June, full details of which will be announced in due course.

Alliance Pharma PLC (LON:APH) will hold its annual general meeting on 19 May 2021 at its head office in Chippenham.

6.30am: FTSE 100 set for a soft start 

Stocks in London are expected to open modestly lower ahead of retail sales data and a blast of purchasing managers’ indices (PMI) releases.

Spread betting quotes indicate the FTSE 100 will open 27 points lower at 6,911.

The wheels came off the equity bandwagon yesterday in the US after it was reported that the Biden administration is looking to increase the rate of capital gains tax to 39.6% for those Americans earning US$1mln or more per year.

“While one could argue that the prospect of higher taxes is never welcome, and a doubling of a key tax rate even more so, the likelihood of anything of this nature passing through an evenly split Congress, lies somewhere between slim and none, however in these highly uncertainty times it doesn’t take much to spook a little bit of profit-taking, in what has already been a very choppy week. The reality is taxes may rise but certainly not by as much being touted,” suggested CMC’s Michael Hewson.

The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 321 points to 33,816 while the S&P 500 shed 38 points at 4,135.

In Asia this morning, markets are mixed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 is on-trend, sporting red with a 226 point fall at 28,962 but in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng is on the rise, up 259 points at 29,014.

In the UK, retail sales data for March will make for interesting reading as the year-ago data starts to include data from lockdown periods.

Market expectations are for retail sales (including petrol) in March to show a 1.5% increase month-on-month after rising 2.1% in February.

Year-on-year, that would equate to a 3.5% increase compared to February 3.7% decline.

With petrol excluded from the equation, the monthly rise is tipped to be 2.0%, compared to February’s 2.4% hike, while the year-on-year gain is expected to be 4.5%, compared to a 1.1% decline in February.

As for the flash PMIs, these are expected to report an acceleration in growth this month, according to Daiwa Capital Markets, with the composite PMI likely to rise about 2pts from March’s six-month high of 56.5, “thanks not least to improvement in the services sector.”

The consensus forecast is for a reading of 58.0.

Numbers on UK public finances are also scheduled for release.

“We look for a ‘PSNB. ex.’ figure of £18.5bn in March. Bar revisions, this would imply a full-year deficit of £297bn, well below the OBR’s £327bn forecast,” said Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomic.

The consensus forecast is for £21.3bn.

Around the markets

  • Sterling: US$1.3862, up 0.23 cents

  • 10-year gilt: 0.741%, – 0.33 basis points

  • Gold: US$1,785.30 an ounce, up US$3.30

  • Brent crude: US$65.82 a barrel, up 42 cents

  • Bitcoin: US$49,024 a barrel, down US$2,819

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed on Friday as investors reacted to news that US President Biden could almost double the capital gains tax rate for wealthier Americans.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 0.71% while the Shanghai Composite in China slipped 0.08%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 0.84% but South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.23%.

Shares in Australia declined, with the S&P/ASX 200 trading 0.13% lower.


Proactive Australia news:

Great Boulder Resources Ltd (ASX:GBR) is trading higher after securing a major land position in the Earaheedy Basin, east of Wiluna in Western Australia, near the recent zinc-lead discovery made by Rumble Resources Ltd (ASX:RTR).

Boadicea Resources Ltd (ASX:BOA) is confident its growth trajectory is exponential as it sits on a potential $50 million-plus payday from mining partner IGO Ltd (ASX:IGO), amid several other projects in the premier mining regions of northern Western Australia and northern Queensland.

Strategic Elements Ltd (ASX:SOR) has strengthened its books through a successful $3 million placement to institutional investors.

Brookside Energy Ltd (ASX:BRK) (OTCMKTS:RDFEF) is making strong progress on the high-impact Jewell 13-12-1S-3W Well in the SWISH area of interest within the Anadarko Basin of the US with the completion of pre-mobilisation inspection, testing and maintenance works on the contracted rig.

Elementos Ltd (ASX:ELT) (OTCMKTS:ELTLF) (FRA:9EM) is taking big steps to capitalise on strong tin market fundamentals, including high prices, through exploration, development and production of high-grade tin projects in stable jurisdictions.

King River Resources Ltd (ASX:KRR) is making progress with test-work for a pre-feasibility study (PFS) into the production of high purity alumina (HPA) using its specially developed refining process at a proposed processing operation at Kwinana in Western Australia.

Pharmaxis Ltd (ASX:PXS) (FRA:UUD) has multiple potential value inflection points over the next two years, with two drugs in clinical trials that are due to report meaningful efficacy and safety endpoints in patients by the end of 2022.

Cohiba Minerals Ltd (ASX:CHK) has revealed that its tenement package in the Gawler Craton of South Australia contains strong potential for iron oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) deposits and as a part of its 2021 strategy, plans to aggressively undertake exploration activities.

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