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FTSE 100 in the doldrums as sterling gains more than a cent against the greenback

  • FTSE 100 down 16 points
  • Sterling rises by 1.2 cents against the US dollar
  • Man United shares rise despite ESL drama

London’s leading shares are lower on balance, as sterling adds more than a cent against the dollar on foreign exchange markets.

The FTSE 100 was down 16 points (0.2%) but the FTSE 250, whose constituents tend to prefer a strong exchange rate, was up 25 points (0.1%) at 22,548.

Sterling has risen by almost 1.2 cents against the greenback to hit US$1.3961.

“We continue to believe that the fast vaccination in the UK will keep offering support to sterling through upbeat recovery expectations for the UK economy. From a positioning perspective, this may imply that sterling may well remain the most overbought currency in the G10. As highlighted in previous positioning notes, GBP positioning in recent years had a tendency to be skewed towards net short positions due to the Brexit uncertainty factors. Now that this factor no longer affects GBP, speculative positioning should see more instances of overshooting towards net long territory, especially considering that the set of fundamentals is supportive for the currency,” said Francesco Pesole, a foreign-exchange strategist at ING.

Marks & Spencer Group PLC (LON:MKS), up 4.4% at 163.3p, is leading the FTSE 250 higher. It’s probably nothing to do with the Colin the Caterpillar dust-up with German retailer Aldi and more to do with a generally favourable attitude towards retailers that has also seen Frasers Group PLC (LON:FRAS) harden 3.2% at 518.5p.

That benevolence seems to be restricted, however, to bricks and mortar store owners because online electrical goods flogger AO World PLC (LON:AO.), down 4.8% at 298.2p, is not getting any love.

2.48pm: Wall Street on the back foot

The main indices on Wall Street opened in the red on Monday as rising cases of coronavirus around the world rattled market sentiment.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.17% at 34,141 while the S&P 500 dropped 0.14% to 4,179 and the Nasdaq fell 0.25% to 14,015.

While cases are falling in the US, countries such as India and Brazil are experiencing ongoing heavy numbers of new cases, meaning the pandemic is far from over on a global scale.

In terms of company news, shares in football club Manchester United were up 7.4% at US$17.36 in early deals, as investors seemed to be the only ones greeting the news of the club’s participation in the proposed European Super Leagues positively, in contrast to the uproar that has swept across the rest of the industry today.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 had shifted into reverse into late-afternoon and was down 17 points at 7,002 at around 2.45pm.

12.40pm: Lower start predicted for US stocks

US stocks are set to lose ground today as concerns over rising levels of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases worldwide dampen sentiment.

Spread betting quotes indicate the Dow Jones will open 74 points lower at 14,127 while the broader-based S&P 500 is set for a 9 point fall to 4,176.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 is seen sliding 38 points to 14,004.

On the COVID-19 front, things are not looking too bad for the US, with some reports indicating the more than half the adult population has had at least one jab – or “taken one shot” as the Americans might put it, albeit at the risk of confusing foreigners who think they have been gunned down or are slamming down tequila.

“After rising at a modest pace for a couple weeks, the past four straight days have seen new U.S. Covid cases falling on a week-to-week basis. Sunday’s 40K cases, according to the New York Times database, were down 16% compared to Sunday last week, following a 19% drop on Saturday. That’s the best two-day performance since late February,” reported Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“It’s not clear why cases have started to fall again—and it’s too soon to be sure that the emerging down trend will continue—but the fading of Easter effects, the gradual increase in average temperatures, and the accelerating vaccine rollout likely are all playing a part. Changing behaviour in response to soaring cases probably has made a difference too, especially in Michigan and Minnesota, where restaurant diner numbers have plummeted over the past week.

“Cases in both states now appear to have peaked,” Pantheon noted.

If the pandemic was the major stock market theme of last year, the GameStop saga has been one of the big themes of this year and today ir was reported that the computer gaming retailer’s chief executive, George Sherman, will quit before the end of July.

The shares were up almost 10% in pre-market trading.

In acquisition news, Herman Miller Inc and Knoll Inc have agreed to merge in a US$1.8bn cash-plus-stock deal. Miller will pay US$11 in cash ad 0.32 Miller shares for each Knoll share.

“Earnings reports ramp up this week with Coca-Cola and IBM in focus today ahead of Netflix, Johnson & Johnson and United Airlines tomorrow. The upcoming earnings and forward guidance will allow investors to gauge whether the recent rally has overshot or whether there is more wind in the sails,” said Sophie Griffiths at OANDA.

On the cryptocurrency market, Bitcoin recovered some of its poise after a torrid weekend, rising US$642 (1.1%) to US$56,881.


In London, the FTSE 100 is keeping its head above the 7,000 level and is up 19 points (0.3%) at 7,038.

10.50am: Tedious nil-nil draw in London; all eyes on Manchester United shares in New York later today

London’s leading shares remain mixed; meanwhile, it is all kicking off in the football world.

The FTSE 100 was unchanged at 7,020.

In the football world, Tottenham Hotspur football club has sacked its manager, Jose Mourinho, after he reportedly failed to hold a training session in protest at the club’s decision to join a proposed breakaway European Super League.

Across the pond, eyes will be on the Manchester United PLC (NYSE:MANU) share price when trading starts this afternoon. The stock was down 0.8% at US$16.17 on Friday but is trading at US$$17.96 in screen-based trading, up 11%. 

According to reports, Manchester United has stood down from the European Club Association and the club’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, has quit his roles at UEFA, the European football association.

There are other things going on this morning apart from football, such as the release of the house price index (HPI) from Rightmove.

The average asking price for UK houses on sale rose by 2.1% this month to £327,797.

During the first two weeks of April houses sold had been on the market just 45 days on average, as sellers raced to take advantage of the government’s stamp duty holiday. According to Rightmove, houses are selling more quickly than they ever have during the property listings website operator’s existence.

“The Rightmove HPI also shows that while many new properties were put on the market this month, there was still not enough to meet buyer demand. In fact, the average number of days it takes to sell reached its lowest ever level making it a great time for anyone looking to sell their house fast – and signals some issues for buyers who may struggle to find suitable property,” said Ross Counsell at GoodMove, the property buying company.

“Given the extension of the Stamp Duty Holiday until the end of June, this surge is not necessarily that surprising, but does propose the question of what will happen after June.

“Looking ahead, we predict the property market will continue to thrive in the first half of 2021; however, following the end of the Stamp Duty Holiday the state of the property market remains uncertain. Therefore, we expect that house prices and demand will ease in the last 6 months of 2021 resulting in a slower housing market,” Counsell said.

9.50am: Modest progress despite oil titans weighing things down

Despite the oil giants weighing it down, the FTSE 100 is in positive territory.

London’s index of leading shares was up 15 points (0.2%), with grocery delivery technology company Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO), up 3.4% at 2,254p, leading the leisurely advance.

Also going well is London Stock Exchange Group PLC (LON:LSEG), which is up 2.2% at 7,872p, clawing back 172p of recent heavy losses as it prepares for investor opposition to the new remuneration package of its chief executive officer.

Platinum refiner Johnson Matthey PLC (LON:JMAT) is 1.4% better at 3,230p after it announced a strategic partnership for sustainable battery materials production.

Meanwhile, BP PLC (LON:BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB) were off 0.6% and 0.8% respectively, reflecting a softening of the oil price.

“Global stock markets remain supported by a combination of the very strong cyclical impulse as vaccinations and better economic resilience to lockdowns spur activity, ongoing monetary policy support and some pretty large fiscal stimulus in some parts of the world, most notably the US,” said Neil Wilson at

“As highlighted by Moody’s, the US$5.4tn in excess savings, which is worth around 6% of global GDP, is not to be ignored as consumers come back to the fray. US bank earnings and the release of bad loan loss provisions show the extent to which aggressive policy action has stopped a lot of potential damage to the economy. A retreat in US yields has helped calm nerves but value stocks remain the play as the global economy reopens. Discretionary spend is the name of the game,” he added.

Talking of games, and a funny old one at that (according to Jimmy Greaves), Wilson notes that shares in Juventus rose 7% after it was one of the ‘dirty dozen’ football clubs to announce plans for a breakaway European Super League.

Given how few football clubs are quoted, the development has generated a surprising amount of commentary among the financial community; it’s almost as if the stock markets is an inherently geezerish place.

“IT’s RED!” A straight red card for Global Neoliberalism United, that is. 12 of Europe’s top football (‘soccer’) clubs are planning to break away from their already-lucrative elite domestic leagues, and their even-more lucrative Champions League, in order to form a breakaway closed-loop European Super League with no relegation and no cup competitions,” said RaboResearch, not so much sitting on the fence as digging the fence up and hurling it onto the pitch in disgust/

“In short, the richest (if not most successful) clubs, and the world’s most famous players, are potentially about to walk away from the entire global system of football –including the quadrennial World Cup– to keep all of the global money in the game rather than sharing just a little of it with others: this is of course backed by Wall Street and private equity to the tune of USD8bn,” RaboResearch said.

“Even the US football system sees the least successful team get first pick of the draft new players; by contrast, global football has long seen increasing returns to the biggest clubs and their subsequent de-anchoring from their own domestic and now pan-European leagues. Amazingly, this puts UEFA –an institution with the transparency and public affection of a Bond Villain– in the position of the good guys trying to hold the game’s gossamer-thin ties to its grassroots. This is, sadly, perhaps what the market wants though: endless ‘Clash of the Titans’ games with no consequences. No true fans needed, just click-bait viewers.”

8.35am: More interest in the football than the Footsie

A little like Harry Maguire bombing with the ball towards the opposition’s 18-yard box, the FTSE 100 found itself in nose-bleed territory.

The instinct among London’s trading fraternity was to stop and look for support – much as the Man U defender might.

The portents look reasonably positive. Asia’s main markets made a buoyant start to the week, while US stock futures were pointing upwards.

So, the blue-chip index may get off the launchpad later in the day.

Progress in the year to date, meanwhile, has been reasonably serene with the Footsie up almost 9% thus far.

“The UK is receiving renewed investor attention, as a successful vaccine rollout and resilient economic readings combine with improved sentiment following the next stage of the gradual release from lockdown,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

“Long since an investment pariah in global terms, the beaten-down indices have seen the benefit of buying interest based on a valuation gap compared to many global markets, while the cyclical nature of the UK indices is also expected to feel the force of a pronounced economic recovery.”

A buoyant copper price appears to be keeping Antofagasta (LON:ANTO) afloat ahead of its trading update later this week. The stock opened 1.3% higher.

Melrose (LON:MRO), the owner of aerospace group GKN, topped the risers with a 1.7% advance after it said it planned to offload Nortek Air Management for around US$3.6bn.

Proactive news headlines

NFT Investments PLC (LON:NFT) said it has filed an application with OTC Markets Group for its shares to be traded on the OTCQB Venture Market, which it said will make its stock more widely available to investors in North America.

genedrive plc (LON:GDR) said it has been included in a Public Health England framework agreement for diagnostic equipment and services

EQTEC PLC (LON:EQT) expects revenues will rise to around €15mln in 2021 from €2.2mln in 2020, shifting it into the black.

Shanta Gold Ltd (LON:SHG) has completed a further 3,590 metres of drilling at the New Luika gold mine in south western Tanzania and the West Kenya project in Kenya. As a result indicated resources at the Luika underground deposit have increased by 76,461 ounces, before the depletion of first quarter mining activities is taken into account. 

Greatland Gold PLC (LON:GGP) has announced results of its final four drill holes from the 2020 drilling campaign at its 100%-owned Scallywag licence, with multiple new targets identified for further drill testing. Greatland’s 2021 drilling in the Paterson region is expected to commence in the coming weeks.

Guild Esports PLC (LON:GILD) said it had won its second major trophy after its Rocket League team achieved first place in the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) EU Spring Regional, held on 15-18 April.

Metal Tiger PLC (LON: MTR) said the board of its joint venture Kalahari Metals Ltd (KML) has approved a major drilling programme on the Kalahari Copper Belt. 

Directa Plus PLC (LON:DCTA) has announced that its new G+ graphene coating for fabrics has been tested by an independent third party laboratory and found to be suitable for human skin contact.

4D pharma PLC (LON:DDDD; NASDAQ:LBPS) said it will collaborate with Parkinson’s UK as it continues to advance into clinical trials a drug that treats neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s.

Live Company Group PLC (LON:LVCG) said the new date for the Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour, which was due to take place in Cape Town, South Africa, in March, has now had its new date confirmed for October 10.

Empire Metals Ltd (LON:EEE) lost £572.989 in the year to 31 December 2020. The company had cash in the bank as at 16 April 2021 of £1.23mln. Non-executive chairman Neil O’Brien said that for Empire 2020 had been a “year of significant forward momentum.”

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) secured a further short extension to its option to acquire First Development Resources (Pty) Ltd, an Australian private company with copper-gold exploration interests in the Paterson Province in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Remote Monitored Systems PLC (LON:RMS) said it has appointed Gareth Cave and Felicity Sartain as non-executive directors with immediate effect.

Coro Energy PLC (LON:CORO) said it is excited about its potential to add value for shareholders in the next 12 months ‘and beyond’, as it released its financial results statement for 2020.

Mosman Oil and Gas Ltd (LON:MSMN) told investors it started the workover of the Duff-2 well at the Greater Stanley project in Texas. The Duff-2 well will be recompleted in a zone which is in production at the adjacent Stanley field.

Deltic Energy PLC (LON:DELT) highlighted significant progress with its natural gas focused exploration strategy, as it released results for 2020.

Caledonia Mining Corp PLC (LON:CMCL, NYSE:CMCL) said gold production was lower than anticipated in the first quarter at its Blanket mine in Zimbabwe due to flooding, although it still expects to meet its output target for the year. “Gold production has often been lower in the first quarter of each year and increases in the following quarters,” said chief executive Steve Curtis.

Tavistock Investments PLC (LON:TAVI) that it has received further letters from two shareholders stating their intention to reject the possible offer by Team PLC.

Mode Global Holdings PLC (LON:MODE) filed an application with OTC Markets Group for its shares to be cross-traded publicly on the OTCQB Venture Market (“OTCQB”) under the ticker “MODE”.

Bushveld Minerals Ltd (LON:BMN) has reported an unofficial work stoppage at its Vametco vanadium operation in South Africa. The action has been taken in regard to lower than expected payments under the terms of a recently signed employee participation plan.

Enteq Upstream PLC (LON:NTQ) announced that finnCap Ltd has been appointed as the company’s nominated adviser and sole broker with immediate effect.

TomCo Energy PLC (LON:TOM) announced it appointed Louis Castro as a non-executive director with immediate effect.

Incanthera plc (AQSE:INC) announced the purchase of shares in the company by five board directors and senior management. In total, 177339 shares were bought at prices ranging from 13p to 13.5p.

Benchmark Holdings PLC (LON:BMK) notified investors that it will announce its Q2 and interim results for the three and six month periods ended 31 March 2021, on Tuesday 18 May 2021. 

United Oil & Gas PLC (LON:UOG) announced that its full year results for the period ending 31 December 2020 will be published on Monday 26 April 2021. Management will host a shareholder call that day at 12.00 BST and will be taking questions.

Chesnara PLC (LON:CSN) said its 2021 annual general meeting will be held at its offices at West Strand Business Park, West Strand Road, Preston on Tuesday 18 May.

Bango PLC (LON:BGO) announced that warrants have been exercised over 210,074 new ordinary shares of 20p each, with an exercise price of 180p per share. Proceeds of £378,133 have been received by Bango in respect of this warrant exercise.

Accesso Technology Group PLC (LON:ACSO) said its annual general meeting will be held on Tuesday 18 May 2021 and will be run as a closed meeting. 

Greencoat UK Wind PLC (LON:UKW) notified investors that, due to government guidance in relation to COVID-19, the location of its annual general meeting has been moved to the offices of Greencoat Capital LLP.

6.50 am: Slow start predicted 

The FTSE 100 looks set to make a subdued start to proceedings, ignoring the buoyant open to the week on Asia’s main markets.

Having closed above 7,000 for the first time since February last year, it seems likely that London’s traders will take stock rather than push on from here.

By contrast, China’s two major markets set the pace in the region as economic recovery hopes continued to drive sentiment.

US futures were also well bid, while treasury yields slipped further.

It was a roller-coaster day for holders of bitcoin as the cryptocurrency fell as low as US$53,511 before recovering to US$56,000. That said, it is well down from its recent high of around US$65,000.

The battle for battery metals moved into a new phase as Aussie groups Orocobre and Galaxy Resources agreed a $4bn merger – a deal that would catapult them into fifth place in the lithium chemical space.

Back here at home, we have updates this week from miners BHP (LON:BHP), Rio Tinto (LON:RIO), Antofagasta (LON:ANTO) and Hochschild (LON:HOC).

Away from the diggers, there are half-year results from Primark owner Associated British Foods (LON:ABF) and a trading statement from (LON:MONY).

Around the markets

  • Pound worth US$1.3850 (+0.13%)
  • Bitcoin US$56,807.34 (+1.86%)
  • Gold US$1,778.70 (flat)
  • Brent crude US$66.52 (-0.37%)

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed on Monday as Reuters reported over the weekend that financial technology giant Ant is exploring options for Jack Ma to divest his stake in the firm and “give up control”.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 0.62% while the Shanghai Composite in China surged 1.18%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 0.06% and South Korea’s Kospi advanced 0.02%.

Shares in Australia gained, with the S&P/ASX 200 trading 0.10% higher.


Proactive Australia news:

Rumble Resources Ltd (ASX:RTR) has hit a new record after fast-tracked assay results from two reverse circulation (RC) holes at Chinook Prospect of the Earaheedy JV Project in Western Australia confirmed a zinc-lead discovery.

Elementos Limited (ASX:ELT) (OTCMKTS:ELTLF) (FRA:9EM) has received firm commitments from institutional, sophisticated and accredited investors to raise A$6.1 million through a placement to progress the development of its wholly-owned Oropesa Tin Project in Spain.

Creso Pharma Ltd’s (ASX:CPH) (FRA:1X8) target acquisition Halucencex Life Sciences Inc has signed a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) with leading nanotechnology company Sixth Wave Innovations Inc (CNSX:SIXW) (OTCMKTS:ATURF) to assess Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIPs).

Chalice Mining Ltd (ASX:CHN) (OTCQB:CGMLF) has strengthened its position at Gonneville Intrusion within the Julimar Nickel-Copper-PGE Project near Perth in Western Australia by entering binding agreements to acquire four additional key private properties.

K2fly Ltd (ASX:K2F) has completed a strongly supported share placement and received irrevocable commitments to raise A$7.25 million at an issue price of A$0.29 per share.

Australian Potash Ltd (ASX:APC) has received green-loan verification for the debt issued to partly fund development at its flagship Lake Wells Sulphate of Potash Project (LSOP) in Western Australia.

Carnavale Resources Ltd (ASX:CAV) (FRA:YBB) has extended the McTavish East and McTavish North gold anomalies in the second round of air-core drilling at the Kookynie Gold Project in Western Australia.

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