- FTSE 100 falls 24 points
- Sterling up by half a cent against the US dollar
- US indices to open on the front foot
12.25pm: Coronavirus aid bill hopes boost US sentiment
Hopes that a coronavirus aid bill, backed by both major political parties, will be passed into law swiftly has lifted sentiment in New York.
The Dow Jones 30-share average is expected to open 168 points higher at 30,030 while the broader-based S&P 500 is tipped to advance 22 points to open at around 3,669.
The Nasdaq Composite is predicted to rise 72 points to open at 12,512.
Sentiment has been boosted by the roll-out of vaccines to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the US and by the Electoral College members casting their votes as expected – i.e. for the people who won the recent election, although the rising number of coronavirus cases remains a concern.
Today, the members of the Electoral College cast their votes for president and vice president.
And once again, the rule of law, our Constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed.
Our democracy–pushed, tested, and threatened–proved to be resilient, true, and strong. pic.twitter.com/Ka1Aj3hV3m
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 15, 2020
Today’s key economic news in the US will centre on the factory sector, reports Daiwa Capital Markets.
“First up is the IP [industrial production] report for November, which Daiwa America chief economist Mike Moran expects will point to only modest growth in output of about 0.2%M/M [month-on-month]. A little later, the New York Fed will release its manufacturing survey for December, which last month pointed to slowest expansion since August. Export and import price readings for November round out the economic diary,” Daiwa said.
In London, where the rising number of COVIF-19 cases is also a concern, the FTSE 100 has slipped into negative territory, down 24 points (0.4%) at 6,508, as sterling awakes from its slumbers on foreign exchange markets.
The pound was up by just over half a cent at US$1.3386 against the dollar, which must mean the current thinking is that a Brexit deal is not yet out of the question.
11.30am: Leading shares are mixed
Leading equities remain mixed as traders await further developments on Brexit negotiations and the coronavirus outbreak.
The FTSE 100 was up 6 points (0.1%) at 6,538.
“Stock markets are higher as continued optimism for UK-EU trade talks as well as hopes on the vaccine front have boosted sentiment. The picture still remains unclear with respect to the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU but seeing as negotiations are still ongoing, that is good enough in traders eyes’ – the door is open for a deal,” said CMC’s David Madden.
“Tougher restrictions will be endured by France, Germany and the Netherlands. London and parts of south-east England will face stricter restrictions too but traders are looking beyond the near-term pain for the respective retail and hospitality sectors, and they are taking the view that wide-scale vaccinations should be on the agenda in 2021,” he added.
If the FTSE 100 is a bit subdued, there has been a bit more excitement in the mid-cap FTSE 250 where Airtel Africa PLC (LON:AAF) plunged by 18% to 75.6p after an institutional seller offloaded 60mln shares in the provider of telecommunications and mobile money service sat 80p a pop.
That put the 4.7% loss (at 523.5p) of London’s West End property owner Shaftesbury PLC (LON:SHB) in the shade.
“Even though November’s GBP294 million fund raising buttresses the balance sheet and the real estate investment trust’s portfolio of assets is nigh-on impossible to replicate, the combination of the pandemic (as London moves into Tier 3), the UK’s uncertain economic outlook and ongoing questions over Brexit mean Shaftesbury’ shares trade at a 28% discount to their net asset value (NAV) of 743p,” said Russ Mould, AJ Bell’s investment director in his analysis of Shaftesbury’s.full-year results.
Going the other way on the FTSE 250 was Chemring Group PLC (LON:CHG), which was 11% firmer at 300.5p on the back of its full-tear results, which were ahead of management’s expectations.
9.45am: Driving with the brakes on
The FTSE 100 seems to have had the speed limiter on so far this week, advancing modestly this morning despite some scary looking unemployment data.
London’s index of leading shares was up 14 points (0.2%) at 6,546, helped by sterling easing to US$1.3315 against the dollar from US$1.3331 overnight, plus demand for the oil majors, despite oil prices coming off the boil today.
The unemployment data may have been scary but the numbers were not as bad as feared, according to Howard Archer, the chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club.
“This suggests the extensions of the furlough scheme (firstly to the end of November and then to the end of March) started to have some limiting impact on job losses. The labour market was also likely helped by the economy’s bounce back in the third quarter when GDP rebounded 15.5% quarter-on-quarter after the 19.8% quarter-on-quarter second-quarter contraction,” Archer said.
“Nevertheless, the fact that the data were weaker overall suggests that the original October end-date for the furlough scheme may have already prompted some companies to make staffing decisions before the March extension was announced,” Archer speculated.
“The EY ITEM Club predicts that the unemployment rate could rise to 7.0% during the first half of 2021, although the peak is both lower and later than had been expected before the furlough scheme was extended to the end of March. There is still the chance that there could be appreciable job losses when the furlough scheme ends in March, particularly if the economy is still being affected by some COVID-19-related restrictions.
“Should there be no trade deal between the UK and the EU, the EY ITEM Club suspects that the unemployment rate could rise markedly higher than the 7.0% peak rate currently forecast. Under a ‘no deal’ scenario, the unemployment rate could reach 8.5% as the economy is affected and business caution is magnified,” Archer added.
ING expects the UK unemployment to rise to 6% by year-end, “despite unprecedented wage support which probably meant over four million people were furloughed during the November lockdowns”.
What stands out from the latest unemployment data, according to ING’s James Smith, is that the number of people being made redundant peaked in September and tapered off noticeably through October.
“This probably reflects one of two things. Firstly, it could indicate that firms generally put their cost-saving plans into motion well ahead of the planned furlough end-date. It may also reflect the announcement of the job support scheme in late-September, which offered wage subsidies for firms that brought back staff part-time (albeit the scheme was subsequently mothballed).
“Either way, all of this came before the UK reverted to various forms of lockdown. Importantly, the last-minute extension of so-called ‘full-furlough’ (80% wage subsidies for workers off work completely) will again have limited the spillover into unemployment,” Smith said.
8.50am: Slow start to the session
The FTSE 100 appeared to shrug off the latest dire UK job numbers to open pretty flat on Tuesday.
The index of UK blue-chips opened 2 points lower at 6,529.46.
Redundancies hit a record 370,000 in the third quarter as the unemployment rate rose to 4.9%.
“This close to Christmas is a horrible time for hundreds of thousands of people to find themselves out of work,” said Sarah Coles, of the funds supermarket Hargreaves Lansdown.
“The sheer scale of job losses meant it was inevitable that the government would have to do something, but it left it to the 11th hour to announce an extension to the furlough scheme – which will have been too late for many thousands of people.”
Concerns over Brexit, a new coronavirus (COVID-19) strain and the consignment of London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire to tough ‘tier-three’ restrictions further added to the gloomy mood in the Square Mile.
On the market, JD Sports’ (LON:JD.) US$325mln acquisition of a US retailer, Shoe Palace, was met more enthusiastically than its aborted tilt for Debenhams with the stock up 4.3% in early deals.
Coronavirus bounce-back stock Rolls Royce (LON:RR.) continued to succumb to profit-taking after its rise from below 40p to 135p at the start of the month. Sentiment around the stock, down 2.4%, won’t have been helped by Panmure Gordon’s downgrade to ‘sell’.
Finally, JP Morgan revisited the builders, upgrading Redrow (LON:RDW) to ‘overweight’, while cutting Berkeley to ‘neutral’. The former was unchanged, while the latter was off 1.6%.
Proactive news headlines:
Quadrise Fuels International PLC (LON:QFI) has launched a new sustainable fuel product called bioMSAR. It is a synthetic alternative to heavy fuel oil (HFO) with significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, the company said. In the new product the company’s MSAR technology is used to combine renewable glycerol with water and refinery residues to produce an oil-in-water emulsified synthetic fuel. The company noted that, compared to HFO, the new product can produce emissions with 20%-30% less carbon dioxide, whilst nitrous oxide and particulate levels will also be lower.
SourceBio International PLC (LON:SBI), a laboratory services provider, has said it is expanding its presence in the coronavirus (COVID-19) testing market. The group has announced a strategic commercial partnership with Oxford Nanopore Technologies, a next-generation DNA/RNA sequencing technology company, to offer a commercially available COVID-19 testing solution to corporate customers at scale. The test will also be offered to consumers. Oxford Nanopore will provide its LamPORE testing kits and SourceBio will provide the lab facilities.
BATM Advanced Communications Ltd (LON:BVC) said it has invested additional funds into Ador Diagnostics to expedite the development of a new rolling circle amplification (RCA) rapid testing technology to diagnose bacterial, viral or fungal infections in under 30 minutes using DNA or RNA sampling. The networking solutions and medical laboratory systems group said it has contributed US$3mln to Ador as part of a US$10mln investment alongside its partners, following which it will have a 36.7% stake in the firm.
Sensyne Health PLC (LON:SENS) has announced the US launch of a product that remotely monitors for diabetes in pregnancy. The group said its partner Cognizant will oversee the roll-out of GDm-Health, which will qualify for reimbursement under remote patient monitoring codes introduced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Diabetes in pregnancy is a common condition that can increase the risk of hypertension and caesarean section in mothers as well as pre-term birth, birth trauma and admission to neonatal intensive care for new-born babies. Over 20% of pregnancies in the States are affected by diabetes every year.
Crossword Cybersecurity PLC (LON:CCS) said it has won a grant from Innovate UK to investigate the issues around effective manufacturing supply chain risk management and possible solutions. The AIM-listed firm said it will use the GBP157,612 grant specifically to identify reasons why only 6% of companies have achieved “full supply chain visibility”. Crossword added that it will also investigate the reasons why organisations are reluctant to share details of their supply chains with their customers, alongside its academic partner and two well-known British manufacturing businesses, and propose solutions for these issues based around its Rizikon Assurance platform.
Oncimmune Holdings PLC (LON:ONC) has revealed that its ImmunoINSIGHTS team played an important role in a study that “significantly expanded” the biomarkers commonly measured in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. The results, published in the peer-reviewed PLOS ONE scientific journal, also helped to develop a detailed picture of the immune response to the disease and its treatment. Researchers from Oncimmune, drug giant Roche and University Medical Center Utrecht analysed auto-antibodies in patients with newly diagnosed RA who were treated with either Tocilizumab or Methotrexate.
Instem PLC (LON:INS) revealed that it has been awarded new business worth around GBP2.2mln by one of its key clients, incorporating additional software licencing, annual support and funded product development revenue streams. The firm, a leading provider of IT solutions to the global life sciences market, said this award “further strengthens our long-standing relationship, the value we bring to one another and the resulting benefits to the wider life sciences research and development market.” The company noted that approximately 35% of the total order value will be recognised in 2020, with the remainder being recognised in 2021. Furthermore, annual recurring revenue generated by the client is expected to increase by approximately GBP0.5mln, providing future revenue visibility, already a significant strength of the company’s business model.
Keywords Studios PLC (LON:KWS) has acquired High Voltage, a privately-owned provider of game development services to the video games industry. Keywords is paying up to US$50mln for High Voltage (HVS), a game developer that is expected to generate underlying earnings of around US$9.0mln in 2021. The initial consideration for the acquisition will be US$23.75mln in cash and the equivalent of US$9.75mln in new ordinary Keywords shares. The deferred consideration of up to US$16.5mln will be payable in a mixture of cash and new shares if certain performance targets are hit.
IronRidge Resources Ltd (LON:IRR) has revealed the latest drill results from its Zaranou gold project where it continues to pursue an ‘early ounces’ strategy, targeting oxide gold mineralisation. The latest batch of results from the Phase 3 drill programme has confirmed the continuity of mineralisation over a 1,700-metre strike along the Ehuasso Main target at Zaranou. The deposit remains open at depth. Results have included high-grade areas and broad low-grade intersections.
Pan African Resources PLC (LON:PAF) is to build a 10 Megawatt (Mw) solar power plant at its Evander Mines operation in South Africa. The gold miner said the project would cost R140mln (GBP7mln) and be the first of its kind in South African mining. Construction will commence in the first quarter of 2021, with first power expected in the third calendar quarter of 2021. In a trading update released at the same time, Pan African noted that it expects to produce 97,000 ounces of gold in the six months to December 31, 2020, and is on track to meet its full-year target of 190,000 ounces. The gold miner also announced that chief operating officer Andre van den Bergh is to retire on January 1, 2021, after 46 years with the group.
Sareum Holdings PLC (LON:SAR) has highlighted “good progress” on the development of its treatment candidates despite what it said was a “challenging period” for many people and firms during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In an update statement to be delivered at the company’s annual general meeting on Tuesday, Sareum’s non-executive chairman Stephen Parker said the drug developer’s key focus remains on advancing the development of its two TYK2/JAK1 programmes, namely SDC-1801, targeting autoimmune diseases, and SDC-1802, targeting cancer.
San Leon Energy PLC (LON:SLE) told investors that it has extended the deadline for the Oza field deal into the new year. The group said the process of completing the transaction has been frustrated by the continuing international restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A deal was struck in September for San Leon to invest an initial US$7.5mln via a loan to Decklar Petroleum, a subsidiary of Asian Mineral Resources (CVE:ASN), to fund a fast-track redevelopment of the Oza oil field. In return, San Leon receives a 15% interest in the underlying field.
Live Company Group PLC (LON:LVCG) said it has signed a new contract with the John Ball Zoo in Michigan, USA for a BRICKLIVE Supersized tour that will take place from the end of May until September 2021. The deal marks the second agreement between the AIM-listed media group and John Ball, with the firm having previously provided a BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise tour to the zoo in May this year.
Catenae Innovation PLC (LON:CTEA) said its 50/50 joint venture with BHA-Medical, now renamed Synovate, has received its first orders. One order is from the sport of badminton’s governing body and the other is for use at “Lapland UK”, a Christmas destination event near Ascot in Surrey. Neither order will generate significant revenues but the orders do provide a commercial endorsement for Synovate’s offering, Catenae said.
Greatland Gold PLC (LON:GGP) has appointed Shaun Day as its new chief executive to replace Gervaise Heddle, who is leaving to follow other interests. Day will take over and join the board February 8, 2021, with Heddle to remain a part of the executive team until March 12, 2021, to ensure a smooth transition. An accountant with twenty years of experience in mining and infrastructure Day is currently chief financial officer of AIM and ASX listed Salt Lake Potash.
Block Energy PLC (LON:BLOE), the development and production company focused on Georgia, has announced the appointment of Charles (Chuck) Valceschini as an independent non-executive director of the company with immediate effect. It noted that Valceschini has worked in the oil and gas sector for nearly 40 years. As CEO and General Director of TechNefteGaz Consulting LLC, he currently specialises in the provision of technical and commercial advice to a wide range of upstream oil and gas companies. He was previously engaged in senior technical and leadership roles by a range of international upstream companies, including BP and TNK-BP. During 2000 and 2001, he was CEO of American Energy Group Ltd. Philip Dimmock, Block Energy’s chairman, commented: “I am delighted to welcome Chuck, an experienced company director, to the Board of Block Energy plc. In the shorter term, we look forward to Chuck bringing his vast expertise in the exploitation of onshore naturally fractured reservoirs, particularly in the Former Soviet Union, to bear on the Company’s expanded portfolio of assets in Georgia. In the longer term, we expect that his experience in the strategic development of oil and gas companies will add great value to the future of Block Energy.”
Sativa Wellness Ltd (AQSE:SWEL) (CSE: SWEL) said it has been notified by AQSE that it qualifies for the new Apex segment of the AQSE Growth Market. Henry Lees-Buckley, CEO of the Sativa Wellness said “the status of the Apex segment is clearly designed for more established companies that have experienced boards and corporate governance standards. He added: “We welcome this segmentation from the Aquis Stock Exchange, and believe that the Apex segment is better placed to support our growth ambitions”.
APQ Global Limited (LON:APQ) has announced that as at the close of business on November 30, 2020, the group’s unaudited book value per ordinary share was 37.48 US cents, equivalent to 28.08p.
6.50am: More woes for investors
The FTSE 100 is set to extend its losses into a third day as news of a new strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19) emerging in the UK offsets any fresh optimism about a possible Brexit deal.
London’s blue-chip index was being called 24 points lower ahead of Tuesday’s open, having finished down almost 15 points or 0.2% at 6,531.83 the day before, although the mid-cap FTSE 250 finished 0.7% higher.
It was a similarly mixed picture overnight on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrials Average closed down nearly 185 points, or 0.6% at 29,861.55 and the S&P 500 lost 0.4%, but the tech-driven Nasdaq Composite rose 0.5%.
As well as confirming that London and much of south-east England will be put under tougher coronavirus restrictions from Wednesday, British health minister Matt Hancock said on Monday that more than 1,000 cases of a new virus strain have been found in around England.
Hancock indicated the new strain was spreading fast but insisted that doctors were confident vaccines would still work on this mutant strain.
Market analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets said: “The revelation of this new strain has added to the uncertainty in markets in the lead up to Christmas.”
On the plus side, he said there was likely to be improved market sentiment over a renewed sense of optimism that the UK and EU might be able to bridge the gap on a Brexit deal.
Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, suggested that there had been “movement” on the principles of a, so-called, level playing field in the agreement and negotiators were now working on the “details”.
Around the markets:
- Pound up 0.1% at US$1.3342
- Brent Crude Oil down 0.7% to US$49.94
- Gold up 0.78% at US$1,839.49
6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia
Asia-Pacific shares were lower on Tuesday as concerns over a surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in multiple countries offset optimism over the vaccine rollout in the US.
China’s industrial production grew 7% year-on-year in November while retail sales increased 5% compared to a year ago.
But Chinese stocks were lower with the Shanghai composite declining 0.03% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index falling 0.57%.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.17% and South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.21%.
Shares in Australia were also weaker, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 0.43% lower after China formalised its ban on Australian coal imports.
Proactive Australia news:
Horizon Minerals Ltd (ASX:HRZ) has generated $3.6 million in net cash flow after completing its third toll milling campaign from trial mining at Boorara Gold Project, 10 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder in the WA Goldfields.
Yandal Resources Ltd’s (ASX:YRL) recent aircore drilling at the Gordons Gold Project has defined multiple new zones of significant gold mineralisation, extending the strike length of the Gordon’s Dam prospect to 1.5 kilometres.
Meteoric Resources NL (ASX:MEI) (FRA:RNF) has received firm commitments to raise $4 million before costs in a placement to accelerate its extensive gold drilling programs in Western Australia and Brazil.
Tempest Minerals Ltd (ASX:TEM) (FRA:LIF) has completed tranche-2 of a placement that raised a total of $1.155 million to accelerate the company’s gold and base-metal exploration programs in Western Australia.
MGC Pharmaceuticals Ltd‘s (ASX:MXC) (OTCMKTS:MGCLF) (FRA:H5O) Phase II double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial for anti-inflammatory treatment ArtemiC, based on Swiss PharmaCan AG MyCell Enhanced(TM) delivery system technology, on those diagnosed with COVID-19, has met all the Phase II primary and secondary endpoints and demonstrated to improve the clinical recovery of the patients.
Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Limited (ASX:ROO) has started installing more than 1,000 heat exchange probe units at the My Green Fields cannabis farm in Northern Israel.
Sheffield Resources Ltd‘s (ASX:SFX) proposed joint venture partner YGH Australia Investment Pty Ltd (Yansteel) has received a favourable Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) outcome for its planned $130 million investment to acquire 50% of the Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project in Western Australia.