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FTSE 100 little changed as traders wait for US jobs data

  • FTSE 100 index gains 9 points
  • US December jobs data due at 1.30pm BST
  • House prices edge higher in December

9.45am: Equities in a holding pattern

It’s beginning to look like traders have “waiting for non-farm payrolls” paralysis, with the FTSE 100 barely holding on to modest early gains.

London’s index of leading shares, which hardly bolted out of the stalls like a thoroughbred, is beginning to look more like a carthorse, plodding to a 9 point (0.1%) gain at 6,865.

House prices in December edged 0.2% higher, according to the Halifax House Price Index.

The year-on-year rise in house prices was 6.0%, the mortgage lender said.

“Average houses prices rose again in December, stretching the current run of continuous gains to six months; however, the monthly rise of 0.2% was the lowest seen during this period and significantly down on the 1.0% increase in November. The average house price was therefore little changed, but nonetheless still reached a fresh record of £253,374,” said Russell Galley, the managing director of Halifax.

“In the near-term, and with mortgage approvals still sitting at a 13-year high, there may be enough residual strength in the market to sustain prices up to the deadline for the stamp duty holiday and the scaling back of Help to Buy at the end of March; however, with the pace of the UK’s economic recovery expected to be constrained by the renewed national lockdown, and unemployment widely predicted to rise in the coming months, downward pressure on house prices remains likely as we move through 2021,” he added.

Halifax House Price Index

Elsewhere in the housing sector, Barratt Developments PLC (LON:BDEV) was going well, up 2.6% at 707p after what Irish broker Goodbody called “a very strong H1 [first-half] trading update”.

“Completions guidance has consequently been increased by around 5% which will deliver upgrades to earnings forecasts. Entering H2 Barratt are over 90% sold for 2021 which is a very strong position to be in,” said equity analyst David O’Brien.

8.50am: Gains continue in new year

The FTSE 100 index started on the front foot on Friday, the final day of the first trading week of 2021 as the Brexit re-adjustment continued.

The index of UK blue-chips advanced 20 points in the opening exchanges to 6,877.26.

Coronavirus vaccine hopes and a seeming return to law and order in Washington also seemed to support trading sentiment, which could very easily turn, however, if December’s US jobless number disappoints later.

Market commentators, meanwhile, were indulging in their favourite post-Christmas pastime – sledging the management and staff of Marks & Spencer (LON:MKS) after yet another lacklustre festive trading update.

 “The song remains the same at M&S, with a strong food offering unable to offset a clothing and home unit in need of urgent repair,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

His top-line analysis could have easily been dusted down from last year, or the year before that, or the year before that … you get the drift.

Anyway, Hunter isn’t wrong. However, the market appeared to have priced all this in as M&S shares, now constituents of the FTSE 250 rather the top 100, nudged 1% higher.

Sticking with the sector, Pets at Home (LON:PETS) showed Marks how it’s done as it raised its profit forecasts.

That said, the pet products retailer does have a tail-wind in the form of lockdown, which has pushed consumers towards its strong online offering. The shares advanced 13% in the early exchanges.

On the Footsie, the stand-out performer was Barratt Developments (LON:BDEV), which advanced 4% after it said it expects to resume dividend payments.

Taylor Wimpey (LON:TW.) – up 3% – and Persimmon (LON:PSN) – ahead 2.3% – were dragged along in Barratt’s wake and after the latest Halifax house price survey .

Proactive news headlines:

Zoetic International PLC (LON:ZOE) said its shares are now trading on the OTCQX Best Market, one of the highest level OTC markets in the US, under the ticker ‘ZOEIF’ after being upgraded from the OTCQB Venture Market. The cannabidiol (CBD) products specialist said the OTCQX market is designed for “established, investor-focused US and international companies” and that graduating to the new market from OTCQB is an “important milestone” and enables firms to build visibility among US investors. Zoetic also said that it is currently evaluating additional opportunities to improve investor relations and communications in North America In addition to the OTCQX trading, the company also revealed it has been included in the UK MSCI Microcap Index.

EQTEC PLC (LON:EQT) said that together with its German engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partner ewerGy it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Greek construction group Nobilis Pro Energy which provides for the collaborative development of the firm’s pipeline of opportunities in the country. The energy-from-waste technology firm said the MoU will allow the firms to work together to deliver advanced gasification projects in the Nobilis pipeline, starting with a 0.9 megawatt electric (MWe) gasification plant in the town of Almyros. EQTEC said the collaboration will be underpinned by a joint venture between the firm and everGy which is expected to source and provide funding and delivery capabilities for any projects provided by the Nobilis pipeline.

Walls & Futures REIT PLC (LON:WAFR) saw its net asset value rise to £3.96mln as at the end of September 2020, up from £3.30mln a year earlier The ethical housing investor and developer revealed in its half-year results that rents received in the six months to the end of September rose to £79,023 from £67,650 in the same period of 2019. The loss before tax narrowed to £52,293 from £92,200. The company also said it had sold its leasehold property in Southfields for £660,000 (before costs), a price that represents a 5.7% discount to the property’s valuation as at the end of March 2020.

88 Energy Limited (LON:88E, ASX:88E) said it is set to expand its footprint in Alaska as the group has been named as the high bidder on the Tract 29 area, via the 2021 Coastal Plain Lease Sale. Tract 29 is positioned as a 23,446 acre area adjacent to the company’s Yukon leases. The company described the expansion as “a logical step in the company’s aggregation strategy” in the North Slope region.

ADES International Holding PLC (LON:ADES) said Khaled Hassan has resigned as the group’s chief financial officer. The oil & gas drilling and production services provider said Hassan has decided to step down from his position to pursue a greater role outside of the group, although he will be sticking around for a while to ensure an orderly transition. The board has already begun the search process for a successor and is confident of being able to recruit a high-quality replacement.

Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited (LON:COPL) is advancing its deal to acquire Atomic Oil & Gas LLC and said it has achieved two important milestones. The company said it had paid US$8mln as the second payment under the agreement to buy Atomic, which secures it a 15% interest in Atomic’s leases. At the same time, COPL confirmed it had closed an equity issue to raise £3mln which is in addition to a £6mln raise announced at the end of December 2020. The share issue is at the same price and same terms.

Pembridge Resources PLC (LON:PERE) has said it is to raise £570,000 by issuing shares to some existing shareholders and directors at 4p a pop. As well as issuing 14.25mln shares to raise fresh capital, the company has issued 308,793 shares to satisfy a liability. Pembridge chief executive and chairman Gati Al-Jebouri has subscribed for 3mln shares, taking his holding up to 15.4mln shares, which is equivalent to 30.7% of the company’s share capital. The mining company said the money raised will enable it to fund its operations without requiring any additional financing to meet its current operating costs and those related to maintaining a public company.

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) the AIM-listed metals exploration and development company said it has received notices to exercise warrants over 23,090,600 new ordinary shares of 0.1 pence each in the company at an exercise price of 1.0p each and the exercise of 5,500,000 warrants at an exercise price of 0.7p each. Subscription monies of £217,156 have been received by Power Metal in respect of these exercises.

Supermarket Income REIT PLC (LON:SUPR), the real estate investment trust providing secure, inflation-protected, long income from grocery property in the UK, said its board has declared an interim dividend in respect of the period from October 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, of 1.465p per ordinary share, payable on or around February 26, 2021. The ex-dividend date will be January 21, 2021, with a record date of January 22, 2021. This dividend will be paid as a Property Income Distribution (PID) in respect of the company’s tax-exempt property rental business. At the group’s annual general meeting held on November 11, 2020, shareholders approved the introduction of a scrip dividend scheme. The scrip dividend alternative price is to be calculated using the average of the closing middle market quotations for an ordinary share for the five consecutive business days commencing on the ex-dividend date and will be announced and detailed on the company’s website on January 28, 2021.

Red Rock Resources PLC (LON:RRR), the natural resource development company with interests in gold, copper, cobalt, manganese, and other minerals, has said it will conduct a moderated online question and answer session with chief executive Andrew Bell on Tuesday, January 12, at 7.00pm GMT. Any shareholders or others wishing to attend or submit questions should go to: Questions may be submitted either in advance or during the webcast.

6.50am: Positive first week of 2021

The FTSE 100 index is set to add to the previous session’s modest gains on Friday, albeit ahead of the US jobs release for December.

Spread betting quotes point to the UK blue-chip index opening around 50 points higher at 6,907.

Yesterday, President Trump – or someone purporting to be him – acknowledged that he had lost the election and that a new administration would take over on January 20, 2021.

All it took was for social media companies to take his accounts away from him.

“With the Democrat clean sweep confirmed, financial markets hitched themselves onto the last stimulus train out of town overnight, helped along by a contrite (by his standards) President Trump promising an orderly transition of power. Equity markets powered higher, oil gained, and the US Dollar debasement conspiracy theorists pumped Bitcoin to a new high above $40,000.00 per digital coin,” summarised Jeffrey Halley as OANDA.

Overnight, the Dow Jones industrial average rose above 31,000, closing at 31,041, up 212 points. The index has recently added 1,000 points in record time – just 29 trading days.

The S&P 500 index hardened 56 points to 3,804 and the Nasdaq Composite put on 327 points at 13,067.

Asian markets picked up the baton on Friday with Japan’s Nikkei 225 594 points to the good at 28,085 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 210 points firmer at 27,759.

Trading in London could possibly be subdued until the US jobs data is out, however.

“Economists are expecting the headline reading for December to be 71,000, which would be a huge fall from the 245,000 registered in the previous report. In November, the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% – the lowest reading since March – but the consensus estimate for December is 6.8%. Average earnings are tipped to hold steady at 4.4%,” reported CMC’s David Madden.

“Given the upheaval in the labour market, the participation rate has been given extra attention. The metric fell from 61.7% in October to 61.5% in November and that could be seen as a sign that there is falling confidence in the jobs market. During economic downturns, some people who are out of work get so feed up the weak labour market they stop searching, and that contributes to a falling participation rate,” Madden explained.

Closer to home, the Halifax house price index report will be revealed at 8.30am and economists are expecting the index to have risen 0.5% month-on-month, after increasing by 1.2% in November.

The end of the first full week of 2021 brings updates from retailer Marks and Spencer Group PLC (LON:MKS), housebuilder Barratt Developments PLC (LON:BDEV).

Around the markets:

  • Sterling: US$1.3568, up 0.04 cents
  • Gold: US$1,908.70 an ounce, down US$4.90
  • Oil: US$54.66 a barrel, up 28 cents
  • Bitcoin: US$38,279, down US$1,317

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

South Korea’s Kospi led gains among the Asian markets on Friday by jumping 3.97% higher after Wall Street surged to new record highs overnight.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 1.20% but mainland Chinese stocks dipped with the Shanghai composite shedding 0.29%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 advanced 2.36% while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.68%.


Proactive Australia news:

Creso Pharma Ltd (ASX:CPH) (OTCMKTS:COPHF) (FRA:1X8) has welcomed recent news of the US Democratic Party winning the balance of power in the US Senate – an outcome which increases the likelihood of the decriminalisation of cannabis and passing of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

Venture Minerals Limited (ASX:VMS) has recently completed a trenching program that delivered substantial mineralised intervals of up to 31 metres at 1.0 g/t gold and 20 metres at 0.6 g/t at the 100% owned Kulin Gold Project in Western Australia.

Auteco Minerals Ltd (ASX:AUT) (OTCMKTS:MNXMF) has appointed experienced mining executive Darren Cooke as its new chief operating officer to lead the campaign to grow the company’s 1-million-ounce resource at the Pickle Crow Gold Project in Canada.

Cardiex Ltd (ASX:CDX) is gearing up to expand its products and market access in 2021, after successfully completing a share purchase plan at $0.05 per share to raise $3.207 million.

Auroch Minerals Ltd (ASX:AOU) (FRA:T59) is fully funded headed into the new year after raising $2.9 million in late September last year to fund aggressive exploration plans across its high-grade nickel assets.

engage:BDR Ltd (ASX:EN1) is well-funded after raising $2.37 million through a placement and almost $1.9 million through a strongly supported share purchase plan in December 2020 with the aim of driving growth in the CTV (Connected TV) and advertising realms.

Lake Resources NL (ASX:LKE) (OTCMKTS:LLKKF) (FRA:LK1) has formally begun preparing a definitive feasibility study (DFS) for Kachi Lithium Brine Project in South America’s Lithium Triangle from which the company aims to produce clean lithium for the growing new-age battery market.

Pembridge Resources raises £570,000 through share issue

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