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FTSE 100 racks up a triple-digit gain

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  • FTSE 100 index gains 106 points
  • DS Smith rises but underperforms after a brief trading update
  • Sterling rises by two-thirds of a cent against the greenback

11.00am: Triple-digit rise for the Footsie as dollar takes a pounding

The Footsie is sporting a triple-digit gain, despite sterling bouncing back against the US dollar.

London’s benchmark of blue-chip stocks was up 106 points (1.9%) at 5,761, it’s highest level in a week.

Sterling is finding favour on foreign exchange markets, rising by two-thirds of a cent against the US dollar, which is having a rough day as US citizens go to the polls.

Packaging giant DS Smith PLC (LON:SMDS) is up 1.2% at 295.3p but underperforming the market. The company said it has seen a “significant improvement” in demand in the past quarter, though half-year profit will still be lower than last year because of the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The piles of cardboard boxes piling up outside houses up and down the country are testament to the explosion in e-commerce sales this year. DS Smith manufactures those boxes, as well as the boxes you see stacked with products on supermarket shelves. Increased demand from both those customer groups is one reason why DS Smith has so far managed to weather the current storm fairly well,” said Nicholas Hyett, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“The group hasn’t been totally unscathed. Costs have increased, there’s been some disruption to industrial customers and the cost of recycled paper has increased as collection was disrupted; however, generally speaking the group has performed much better than we would have expected of a highly cyclical business,” he added.

9.30am: “It’s a fine line between a landslide and a nail-biter”.

The Footsie has got off to a flyer as US citizens head for the polls, which suggests growing confidence in a decisive result.

The FTSE 100 was up 88 points (1.6%) at 5,743, led by housebuilder Taylor Wimpey PLC (LON:TW.) – not a stock whose performance one would normally associate with a correlation with political events in the USA.

“Would Biden make a big difference?” asks Holger Schmiedling at the German bank, Berenberg.

Well, not to Taylor Wimpey but let’s not labour the point; housebuilders are wanted after a strong update from Crest Nicholson.

“During the US campaign, a debate has raged in Europe about the consequences of a potential change in the White House for the continent. Observers seem to come to rather different conclusions. Some hope that Europe would be a major beneficiary of a US return to a much calmer foreign and trade policy. Others warn that, apart from a very different style, not much would change. The US and Europe in general – and the US and Germany in particular – would remain fundamentally at odds on some key issues,” the Berenberg economist said.

“Both sides have a point but like many Berlin-based observers, I am inclined to side more with the optimists than the pessimists,” he added.

“Of course, it remains to be seen who wins the US election today (or, sadly, the potential court battles thereafter) and which policies Biden – if elected – would actually pursue. As before, I put the probability of a Biden win at 60%,” Schmiedling said.

Polling guru Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com said Biden his favoured in his web site’s final presidential forecast “but its a fine line between a landslide and a nail-biter”.

The full-year results from Primark owner Associated British Foods PLC (LON:ABF), coming hot on the heels of yesterday’s scary announcement about how much revenue Primark is expected to lose as a result of tightening lockdown restrictions, have put extra pressure of the retail and foods firm’s share price.

AB Foods was down 1.7% at 1,693.5p.

“AB Foods has once more underlined the importance of a diversified business model, which has helped to lessen the impact of an extraordinary year on trading,” said Richard Hunter at interactive investor.

“The lack of a dividend is disappointing if understandable news, and comes against hopes that at least a reduced payout was to be made. It is likely that the dividend is simply the victim of the latest announced lockdown, as the company attempts to hunker down once more,” he added.

8.50am: Bright start on US Election Day

Taking its cue from Wall Street after hours, the FTSE 100 opened strongly on US election day with investors picking off a few bargains.

London’s benchmark stocks index kicked off 68 points higher at 5,722.96.

Perhaps it was the calm before the storm with American shopkeepers boarding up their stores after the most divisive presidential campaign on record.

Threats of legal action if the poll result isn’t clear cut also served to juxtapose the eerie placidity ahead of the vote.

On the market back here in the UK, the builders were given a lift by Crest Nicholson (LON:CRST), up 17% after it raised its earnings forecasts.

Barratt Developments (LON:BDEV) and Taylor Wimpey (LON:TW.) both marched 4.2%  higher on Crest’s coat-tails.

Industrial threads specialist Coats Group (LON:COA) was another to benefit from better than expected trading conditions as it soared 15%.

Upgrades from Morgan Stanley left BP (LON:BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSA) little changed.

Associated British Foods’ (LON:ABF) update left investors cold. The stock was off 2% in early deals, with the lockdown in England expected to cost its Primark clothing chain an estimated £375mln.

“Investors have been rattled by extent to which the lockdown could hit the bottom line,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“The company may well regret its resistance to creating an online presence, as it can’t make up the shortfall in digital sales,” she added.

Proactive news headlines:

[email protected] Capital PLC (LON:SYME) said it has partnered with a European bank and iMass Investments to launch a Shariah-compliant version of its inventory monetisation platform. The bank, which is a specialist in Shariah funding, has confirmed that SYME’s platform is compliant with Shariah rules from both an inventory funding and client company perspective and together with iMass has agreed to support SYME through the formal authorisation process. iMass is a direct investor in companies and commercial projects in the EMEA region and became SYME’s Middle Eastern partner In August.

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC (LON:BP.) told investors it is seeing green shoots of improvement at the Trinidad oil fields acquired via its merger with Columbus Energy. A substantial increase in field activities has arrested prior production decline and there are now early signs of sustainable improvement in production rates. Programmes in Trinidad are run by separate operational management from BPC’s core focus, the pending Perseverance exploration well which is due to spud before the end of 2020.

Mkango Resources Ltd (LON:MKA)(CVE:MKA) has commenced an extensive hand-auger drilling and soil sampling programme to identify rutile prospects within its 869 square kilometre Mchinji licence in Malawi. The drill programme follows reconnaissance work which resulted in the discovery of rutile during a shallow soil sampling and auger programme completed in September. That programme suggested the potential for discovering high-grade rutile deposits within Mkango’s large licence area, which is adjacent to an area that Sovereign Metals believes could potentially be a new province of rutile mineralisation.

IXICO PLC (LON:IXI), the data analytics specialist focused on neuroscience, said it has landed three new contracts in the area of Alzheimer’s disease. The group will carry out work on a phase I study, it has also signed an expansion deal for a phase II clinical assessment, and it will deploy its expertise on an open-label extension phase III trial. IXICO said the new business builds on its expertise in the field of Alzheimer’s and pointed out that it was in addition to the partnership with the Global Alzheimer’s Platform announced in September.

AFC Energy PLC (LON:AFC), the hydrogen power specialist, has hailed a year of significant progress that has seen it move into the commercial phase. The group noted that “all leading indicators” suggested the momentum will continue into 2021. Its achievements in the 12 months just gone were evident in its first contracts – totalling more than £1mln and already generating income. Underlining confidence in the business, meanwhile, was an oversubscribed £31.6mln fundraiser.

Westminster Group PLC (LON:WSG), a leading supplier of managed services and technology-based security solutions worldwide, said it has been identified as one of the ‘1,000 companies to inspire Britain’ in 2020 in a report issued on Tuesday by the London Stock Exchange Group PLC (LON:LSE). The report recognises the UK’s fastest-growing and most dynamic small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), highlighting the regional and sector diversity of the UK’s SMEs and the entrepreneurial spirit shown by these companies.

Itaconix PLC (LON:ITX) has appointed Mona Manning as vice-president of Marketing & Sales as it prepares to expand its commercial activities. The sustainable speciality polymers specialist said Manning has a track record of generating demand for speciality materials. She served most recently as the general sales manager of North America and Latin America for Glatfelter, having previously worked at Peter Cremer, Siovation, and ABITEC.

Trident Royalties PLC (LON:TRR) has appointed Martin Page as its chief financial officer. Page has over 10 years’ experience in the natural resources sector, most recently as CFO of Toro Gold Ltd, a private equity-backed West African gold producer which was sold to Resolute Mining in July 2019 for US$300mln. Page was a member of the senior executive team that guided Toro through the latter stages of its development and subsequent divestment.

Genel Energy PLC (LON:GENL) has told investors that net production from the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq averaged 32,140 barrels per day (bopd) over the first nine months of 2020, up 7% from the previous year. Gross production from the 25%-owned Tawke field averaged 56,880 bopd in the third quarter, 14,220 barrels net, and, the neighbouring Peshkabir field yielded 56,860 barrels per day. At the 44%-owned Taq Taq field, the average rate was 8,580 bopd, 3,780 net.

Ncondezi Energy Ltd (LON:NCCL) has said that certain members of its board and management of who represent 39.6% of the outstanding shareholder loan have signed a binding undertaking not to call in the loan before the later of November 30, 2022, or when the group’s ongoing restructuring is completed. The undertaking prevents the loan from being called in, as a majority agreement representing 66.67% of loan holders is required, and enables the company to focus on delivering key milestones at its flagship 300MW Ncondezi project in Mozambique, the group added.

Touchstone Exploration Inc (LON:TXP) has raised US$30mln via a share placing with the funds earmarked to advance ongoing and successful programmes within the Ortoire project. The Trinidad oil and gas firm is issuing 24.29mln new shares priced at 95p each to institutional and other investors in the United Kingdom and Canada. Three successful exploration wells have so far been drilled at Ortoire – Coho, Cascadura and Chinook – and a fourth, Cascadura Deep, was spudded last week.

World High Life PLC (LON:LIFE) said it has completed a fundraising through a private share subscription that will be used to conduct due diligence on further investment opportunities. The company said it has raised £381,143 through the private subscription of around 38.1mln shares at a price of 1p each, a 67% discount to its closing price on Monday.

Scancell Holdings PLC (LON:SCLP), the developer of novel immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and infectious disease, has announced that funds managed by Redmile Group, a holder of unsecured convertible loan notes (CLNs) issued by the company in August 2020 on Monday converted approximately £3.25mln in principal amount of CLNs into new ordinary shares of £0.001 each in the capital of the company. In accordance with the terms of the CLN instrument, 53,326,124 new Scancell ordinary shares have been issued to Redmile Funds on conversion of its CLNs. Following the issue of the new shares, Redmile Funds’ shareholding is 237,306,384, which is approximately 29.97% of the enlarged share capital. The remaining principal amount of Redmile Funds’ CLNs is approximately £1.75mln.

Argo Blockchain PLC (LON:ARB, the leading cryptocurrency miner based in the UK has provided an update on its proposed capital reduction. It said that following the resolution passed at the company’s AGM on June 25, 2020, to approve, subject to the confirmation of the Court, the cancellation of its share premium account, the company has applied to the Court for approval of the capital reduction. The initial directions hearing in relation to the capital reduction took place on October 30, 2020, with the final hearing scheduled for November 10, 2020. Subject to the approval of the Court, the capital reduction on registration of the Court order with the Registrar of Companies.

Thor Mining PLC (LON:THR) (ASX:THR) said it has received binding option exercise notices for the conversion of 1,500,000 ASX listed options at an exercise price of A$0.01, resulting in aggregate gross proceeds being receivable by the company of A$15,000. The group noted that one of the two option holders to have provided an exercise notice is Richard Bradey, a former director of the company who retired on October 29, 2020, with the notice received following his retirement.

MaxCyte Inc (LON:MXCT) (LON:MXCL), a global cell-based therapies and life sciences company, has announced that at its annual general meeting held on October 30, 2020, all resolutions were duly passed.

Quadrise Fuels International PLC (LON:QFI) has announced that its annual general meeting (AGM) will be held at 12.00pm on November 27, 2020, at the company’s registered office address at First Floor, Gillingham House, 38-44 Gillingham Street, London, SW1V 1HU. As a result of measures introduced by the UK government to combat the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, shareholders are reminded that the AGM will be held as a closed meeting and shareholders will not be permitted to attend in person. Shareholders are therefore strongly encouraged to vote by proxy. To ensure that shareholders are still given the opportunity to ask questions, following the conclusion of the AGM, the company will give a live online presentation via the Investor Meet Company (IMC) platform on November 27, 2020, at 12.30pm GMT. Investors can sign up to Investor Meet Company for free and add Quadrise Fuels International PLC via https://www.investormeetcompany.com/quadrise-fuels-international-plc/register-investor.

6.50am: Trump watch starts

The FTSE 100 index is expected to extend the previous session’s gains on Tuesday as the world watches to see if Donald Trump will be ejected from the White House.

Traders are calling London’s blue-chip benchmark 50 points higher on the IG spread-betting platform, adding to the index’s 77.7 gain on the first day of the week when it finished at 5,654.97.

Asian markets were all strongly in the green on Tuesday, led by the Hang Seng, up 2.4%, while Australian stocks also rallied as the central bank there cut interest rates to 0.1%.

Overnight, Wall Street threw off its nerves and marched higher, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average jumping 423 points or 1.6% to just above 26,925. The S&P rose 1.2% and the Nasdaq Composite was the most subdued, up 0.4% as many of the tech titans were in the red.

Markets around the world were given a boost by global manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data, with a day’s break before the next round of PMIs which focuses on the global services sector.

“Not much can be said about this election that hasn’t already been said already,” said Jasper Lawler, market analyst at London Capital Group. “From a markets perspective, Biden is baked into the cake but an elevated VIX index (fear gauge) tells you nobody’s ready to write off Trump completely.

“If The Donald does pull off another 2016, markets are not positioned for it and volatility will rise even higher. The most likely reason for elevated vol is a contested result – also not really priced outside of the VIX.”

Analyst Jeffrey Halley at Oanda added: “Results will start flowing in through the morning tomorrow in Asia, which should make for a friskier than usual session. Today, markets will turn themselves inside out and enter a state of analysis paralysis trying to forecast what asset class will do what under what scenario.”

Around the markets:

  • Pound up 0.1% at US$1.2929
  • Gold down 0.2% to US$1,892.70
  • Oil – Brent crude down 0.5% to US$38.79
  • Bitcoin down 2.3% at $13,445.72

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were higher on Tuesday after the Reserve Bank of Australia slashed its official cash rate to a new historic low of 0.1%.

Aussie shares surged with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 1.93% higher.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shares rose more than 2% while Chinese stocks were also higher, with the Shanghai composite gaining 1.04%.

South Korea’s Kospi added 1.71% following a 1.46% gain on Monday. Japanese markets were closed today for a holiday.

READ OUR ASX REPORT HERE

Proactive Australia news:

Havilah Resources Ltd (ASX:HAV) (FRA:FWL) hosts a large copper and gold bounty at the large Kalkaroo Project in South Australia and is confident it can further enhance value by economically recovering rare earths as a by-product.

Australian Strategic Materials (ASX:ASM) has completed the acquisition of a 95% stake of its Korean-based joint venture partner Ziron Technology Corporation.

Chase Mining Corporation Ltd (ASX:CML) has made a strategic investment of $600,000 to become a 40% shareholder in private Queensland-focused advanced exploration company Red Fox Resources Pty Limited.

Alto Metals Ltd (ASX:AME) has started a 5,000-metre reverse circulation (RC) drilling program focusing on the Lord’s Corridor as part of an overall 30,000-metre program at Sandstone Gold Project in Western Australia, the largest single drill program the company has undertaken.

Cardiex Ltd (ASX:CDX) achieved two commercial milestones in the September quarter on signing partnership agreements with Andon Health Co Ltd (SHE:002432) one of China’s largest manufacturers of home-use medical electronic devices, and Mobvoi, one of China’s most innovative AI, wearable and tech companies and a global leader in smartwatches.

Moho Resources Ltd (ASX:MOH) has expanded the diamond drilling program at East Sampson Dam Gold Prospect within the Silver Swan North Project in Western Australia’s Goldfields, after initial encouraging observations by its technical team.

Carnavale Resources Ltd (ASX:CAV) (FRA:YBB) has set the stage for strong upcoming newsflow from recent acquisitions as a new strategy focused on gold adds a new dimension to the company’s existing nickel strategy.

Northern Minerals Ltd (ASX:NTU) is focused on increasing the mineral resource and the life of mine potential at the Browns Range Project in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia with around 8,000 metres of reverse circulation (RC) drilling planned to be drilled before Christmas.

Predictive Discovery Ltd (ASX:PDI) continued its drill program on its highly prospective Bankan Gold Project, in Guinea during the September quarter and plans to begin stage two drilling in the near term.

Pressure Technologies to slide into the red

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