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FTSE 100 trims its losses; Unilever cleans up during lock-down

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  • FTSE 100 index sheds 12 points
  • Unilever defies the trend
  • Oil giants slide despite Brent crude’s strength

9.45am: The Footsie pares its losses

After a shaky start, London’s index of leading shares has almost recovered its equilibrium, helped by sterling’s weakness on foreign exchange markets.

The FTSE 100 was down 12 points (0.2%) at 5,764, largely as a result of the weakness of the heavily-weighted oil leviathans BP PLC (LON:BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB), which are down by 2% and 1.5% respectively, despite the oil price hardening a little this morning.

On the foreign exchange markets, sterling has lost a fifth of a cent against the US dollar at US$1.3127.

“The chances of a stimulus plan being approved in the US ahead of the Presidential election looks increasingly slim and this is putting pressure on equity markets,” said AJ Bell’s Russ Mould.

“The FTSE 100 is now trading around its lowest levels since the spring amid a second wave of coronavirus, and all the economic hardship it could involve, and political uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic,” he added.

Hot on the heels of updates this week from household goods giants Reckitt Benckiser and Proctor & Gamble, we have had a third-quarter trading statement from sector peer Unilever PLC (LON:ULVR).

“Another strong set of revenue figures highlights the maintained shift from out of home to in home spend and also the trend of ‘comfort buying’; in a world where trust is in short supply, consumers are shifting back to brands which are trusted and well known. In many respects the purchasing decisions are therefore the pay-back for sustained brand investment and brand building which in some cases, like Marmite, stretches back over a century to 1902,” said Mark Lynch, a partner at corporate finance advisory firm Oghma Partners.

Unilever shares were up 1% at 4,750p.

8.55am: Another down day

The FTSE 100 continued to drift lower on Thursday morning as it took its cue from weakness on Wall Street and Asia’s main markets.

London’s blue-chip benchmark fell 44 points to 5,732.08 in early trade.

Holding down international sentiment was America’s inability to agree a fresh stimulus package with any new initiative looking increasingly likely to be timed out.

Outside the United States, the International Monetary Fund had the whole Asia region in its sights, downgrading growth prospects across the board.

Closer to home, Brexit talks are resuming in London, with both sides expected to compromise on trade issues if a last gasp deal is to be done. That’s far from a given.

Chuntering over the escalation of restrictions designed to quell the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in some of England’s major cities continues to intensify.

Traders are seemingly braced for a further escalation in the lockdown protocols, which would have a further negative impact of the demonstrably struggling UK economy.

On the market, London-focused property group Shaftesbury (LON:SHB) tumbled 17% after it announced plans to raise almost £300mln in order to solidify its financial base in the face of the protracted coronavirus epidemic.

The tremors were felt higher up the food chain as Land Securities (LON:LAND) and British Land (LON:BLND) fell 3.8% and 3.5%, respectively.

Among the tiddlers, Futura Medical (LON:FUM) spiked 20% after it revealed commercial interest in its erectile dysfunction was growing.

Proactive news headlines:

4D pharma plc (LON:DDDD) is to get a cash injection of US$14.6mln through a merger with Longevity Acquisition Corporation (NASDAQ:LOAC), a special purpose acquisition company. Longevity will receive American depositary shares, to be listed on the NASADAQ exchange, representing 4D ordinary shares, on terms that assume a value of 110p per 4D share. 4D shares closed at 93.2p on Wednesday. Longevity shareholders will end up owning around 13.1% of the merged company’s equity, with 4D shareholders owning the rest.

Futura Medical PLC (LON:FUM) shares shot higher after it said it had made regulatory progress in the US and was garnering significant commercial interest for its erectile dysfunction (ED) gel. In an update, investors were told discussions were taking place with a “growing number” of potential partners interested in helping Futura exploit the commercial potential of MED3000 as an over-the-counter treatment. It said priority has been given to “certain negotiations for one specific region where discussions have advanced with parties for the exclusive marketing rights for MED3000”.

IXICO PLC (LON:IXI), the data analytics company delivering insights in neuroscience, announced that it has secured new contracts in Huntington’s disease clinical trials. The contracts include retrospective analysis of data sets for three Natural History Studies in Huntington’s disease with a new large pharma customer and a multicentre, open-label Phase II study in Huntington’s disease with an existing large pharma customer.

OPG Ventures PLC (LON:OPG), the developer and operator of power generation assets in India, has reported a 9.5% rise in revenue in its final results for the year ended March 31, 2020. The AIM-listed firm posted full-year revenue of £154.0mln, up from £140.6 million in 2019 as total generation (including deemed) rose to 2.72 billion units from 2.71 billion units a year earlier. OPG saw its gross borrowings at the year-end reduced to £56.8mln, compared to £80.4mln as at March 31, 2019.

Alien Metals Ltd (LON:UFO) has agreed on terms of a farm-out deal with Capstone Mining Corp (TSX:CS) for its Donovan 2 copper-gold project in Mexico. Capstone started due diligence last month as part of an exclusivity agreement and has now firmed that up into a full earn-out deal that could give it an 80% stake in the project through funding it to a pre-feasibility study. In the first stage, Capstone will take a 65% stake through a cash payment of US$290,000 to Alien over three years plus US$3.6mln of exploration expenditure.

genedrive PLC (LON:GDR) said it is now generating “very promising data” from its coronavirus (COVID-19) test, targeted for release in the first quarter of next year, having recently completed the assay design. Using the point-of-care technology, results can be generated in 15 minutes for a positive sample, while a negative takes five minutes longer. The kit has been developed to detect SARS-CoV-2 amplified directly from saliva without the need to extract viral RNA.

Gaming Realms PLC (LON:GMR), which develops and licenses mobile devices-focused gaming content, has launched its Slingo Originals content with Paddy Power Betfair. Part of Flutter Entertainment PLC (LON:FLTR), Paddy Power Betfair is featuring Gaming Realms’ Slingo Originals content on its Paddy Power Bingo and Betfair Casino site, with Paddy Power Games and Betfair Bingo to follow shortly. Gaming Realms’ Slingo portfolio will be distributed through the company’s aggregation partner, Relax Gaming.

Zephyr Energy PLC (LON:ZPHR) is counting down to spudding of the US government-funded State 16-2 well in Utah, with the programme slated to start before the end of 2020. The company is working with a project team led by University of Utah’s Energy & Geoscience Institute (EGI), as previously announced, and, the project is sponsored by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Energy Technology Laboratory. It means that the first US$2mln of well spending is funded via a DOE grant, and up to US$1mln of incremental funding will be covered by Zephyr – using funds raised in its recent oversubscribed placing.

Crossword Cybersecurity PLC (LON:CCS) has been accepted onto the UK Government G-Cloud framework version 12 in the ‘cloud software’ and ‘cloud support’ categories. The framework enables public sector organisations to procure Crossword’s Rizikon Assurance and Consulting cyber-risk management tools via the digital marketplace run by Crown Commercial Services.

Pembridge Resources PLC (LON:PERE) said a higher copper price gave a boost to its Minto mine in Canada in the three months to end September 2020. The mine was also helped by access to additional funding under the US$12.5mln prepayment facility with Sumitomo, said Gati Al-Jebouri, Pembridge’s chief executive and chairman. Payments of US$18.4mln were received by Minto from Sumitomo (Q2: US$9.8mln) during the period.

Metal Tiger PLC (LON:MTR) told investors it has extended the deadline for closing its transaction with partner and associate Cobre for the Kalahari Metals venture. Presently, Metal Tiger owns a 62.17% interest in Kalahari Metals Limited (KML) and owns an 18.79% shareholding in Cobre. Cobre is set to acquire 51% of KML and the deadline for the transactions has been moved to December 20, 2020, to allow for the completion of due diligence.

Vast Resources PLC (LON:VAST) has confirmed that the flotation plant at its at Baita Plai mine in Romania is now fully operational and producing concentrate. The AIM-listed company also said that it is on track to surpass its initial copper sales delivery target included in the project production and associated operational cashflow forecasts announced on September 7, 2020, and expects to complete the initial production of copper concentrate by the end of October 2020.

88 Energy Limited (LON:88E) has highlighted its progress in the past quarter, with the recently enlarged Alaska explorer now steering towards two new farm-outs – both, designed to secure new drill catalysts for 2021 and beyond. 88 Energy completed its merger with XCD Energy this summer to acquire the Project Peregrine where, as announced last month, new seismic data analysis boosted prospects. At the same time, the company has retaken control of the ‘Area A’ portion of Project Icewine and recently expanded its stakeholding to 75%.

Tower Resources PLC’s (LON:TRP) chief executive Jeremy Asher presented at the virtual Africa Upstream, LNG and Gas Summit on Thursday. A copy of his presentation will be added to the company’s website – https://www.towerresources.co.uk.

Solo Oil has relaunched under its new name Scirocco Energy PLC  (LON:SCIR) with the shares now trading under the ticker symbol SCIR. The company said it will give a relaunch webcast on November 2, 2020, as its new website goes live.

Walls & Futures REIT PLC (LON:WAFR), the ethical housing investor and developer, has announced that at its annual general meeting held on Wednesday, all resolutions were duly passed.

Scancell Holdings PLC (LON:SCLP), the developer of novel immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and infectious disease, has said its annual general meeting (AGM) will take place on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, at 2.00pm GMT. The company said it continues to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely, including UK Government legislation and guidance, and will continue to do so in the lead up to the AGM. In line with the current UK Government advice, the group’s board has taken the decision that shareholders, advisers and other guests will not be allowed to attend the AGM in person and anyone seeking to attend the AGM will not be permitted entry. In light of these measures, the board strongly encourages shareholders to vote by proxy in accordance with the instructions in the Notice of AGM.

6.50am: Further falls predicted

The FTSE 100 is set to start Thursday on the back foot as the coronavirus pandemic and politics continue to monopolise the attention of traders.

CFD and spreadbetting firm IG calls the London benchmark 20 points lower, making the price 5,750 to 5,753 with just over an hour to go until the open.

It comes after another negative close on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrials Average finished Wednesday some 97 points or 0.35% lower at 28,210. The S&P 500 marked a 0.22% decline to close at 2,435 and the Nasdaq Composite scratched off 0.28% to end the day at 3,435. Meanwhile, the small-cap Russell 2000 index slipped 0.86% to 1,603.

“We saw another day of losses for European and US markets yesterday as investor impatience with the phoney war going on between the Democrats and Republicans continued over the prospect of a stimulus plan before the November 3 US election,” said Michael Hewson, senior analyst at CMC Markets.

“This scepticism looks set to spill over into this morning as Asia stocks also fell sharply, though a sharp IMF downgrade for the region also didn’t help sentiment, and this negative tone looks set to continue this morning with markets in Europe also set to open lower.”

The analyst added: “As far as a US stimulus package is concerned the penny appears to be finally dropping that there is unlikely to be a plan that will be able to get past the Republicans in the US Senate, even if Nancy Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin were able to put something down on paper, in their various short phone calls over the past few days.”

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was down 167 points or 0.7% trading at 23,471 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng moved 0.11% lower at 24,726., and the Shanghai Composite dropped 0.66% to 3,303.

Around the market:

  • The pound: US$1.3135, down 0.11%
  • Gold: US$1,915 per ounce, down 0.5%
  • Silver: US$24.85 per ounce, down 0.88%
  • Brent crude: US$41.50 per barrel, down 3.8%
  • WTI crude: US$39.77 per barrel, down 4.6%
  • Bitcoin: US$12,781, up 4.4%

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Asia-Pacific shares were lower on Thursday as the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday downgraded its growth forecast for the region.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 0.53% while South Korea’s Kospi declined 0.72%.

Mainland Chinese stocks were lower by 0.48% but Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was marginally higher, rising 0.04%.

Shares in Australia declined, with the S&P/ASX 200 off 0.3%.

 READ OUR ASX REPORT HERE

Proactive Australia news:

Piedmont Lithium Ltd (ASX:PLL) (NASDAQ:PLL) has completed an underwritten US public offering of 2 million of its American Depositary Shares (ADS) each representing 100 of its ordinary shares at an issue price of US$25 per ADS for gross proceeds of US$50 million (A$70.6 million).

Australian Vanadium Ltd (ASX:AVL) has signed an MOU with UK-based GSA Environmental Ltd (GSAe) for commercial and technical collaboration with the aim of value-adding to AVL’s namesake project through additional vanadium sources and economies of scale.

Comet Resources Limited (ASX:CRL) has finalised an exploration access agreement (EAA) for a large portion of privately held land within Exploration Licence 8492, which hosts the highly prospective Barraba Copper Project in New South Wales.

Euro Manganese Inc (ASX:EMN) (CVE:EMN) has received strong support for an oversubscribed private placement to raise C$11.4 million (A$12 million) which will further progress development of the flagship Chvaletice Manganese Project in the Czech Republic.

BlackEarth Minerals NL (ASX:BEM) has identified 13 nickel-copper-PGE targets after completing the first phase of exploration on the Donnelly River Project, 240 kilometres south of Perth, Western Australia.

Sipa Resources Ltd (ASX:SRI) has started a 1,500-metre reverse circulation (RC) drilling program to test base metal targets at the Wolfe Basin Project in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

CVCheck Ltd’s (ASX:CV1) has signed another international wholesale customer in UK-headquartered Vero Screening Ltd for its best-of-breed screening and verification solution.

Carnavale Resources Limited (ASX:CAV) is moving swiftly forward with a program of modern and structured exploration at the expanded Kookynie high-grade gold project in the Leonora region of WA’s Eastern Goldfields.

archTIS Ltd (ASX:AR9) achieved a strong September quarter securing $5 million in new revenue contracts as the technology company focused on protecting sensitive information executes a $15 million sales pipeline.

Pan Asia Metals Limited (ASX:PAM) has been formally awarded Special Prospecting Licence TSPL 2/2563 for the Khao Soon Tungsten Project in Thailand and is now able to resume its work program on the area.

FTSE 100 to start Thursday on back foot as pandemic politics hog attentions

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