FTSE 100 reverses course; High street stocks rise as COVID-19 cases fall in UK
- FTSE 100 index down 9 points
- US stocks omixed at midday
- Congress begins debate over Trump impeachment
5pm: Traders end session about where they began
London’s leading index closed roughly 9 points lower, 0.1%, at 6,746. Its counterpart, the FTSE 250 slipped 97 points, 0.5%, to 20,616.
“It has been a quiet trading session as there has been little in the way of exciting news flows,” CMC Markets UK analyst David Madden wrote Wednesday. “In the past few days, the same news stories have been in circulation, vaccines are being rolled out, harsh restrictions are in place and hopes of Joe Biden’s stimulus plans being released. Before the week is out, we should hear details of Biden’s spending scheme, there has been talk the package will be in the trillions of dollars.”
In the US, Wall Street told a similar story. The Dow was down 5 points, less than 0.1%, at midday as traders braced for the impact of what would be President Trump’s second impeachment. The Nasdaq gained 62 points, 0.5%, 13,135, and the S&P 500 picked up 7 points, 0.2%, to 3,808.
“US indices, like their European counterparts, are experiencing low volatility as the sentiment is subdued,” Madden wrote. “It seems that dealers across the pond are also sitting patiently on the fence until there is an announcement from President-elect Biden with regards to spending.”
Intel Corporation (NADAQ:INTC) is one stock on the rise on news that CEO Bob Swan plans to resign on February 15. The chip maker has been feeling pressure from activist investor Third Point, Madden noted, that pushed the company to “evaluate strategic alternatives.” Swan will be succeeded by Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of cloud computing company VMWare Inc (NYSE:VMW).
3.32pm: ECB’s Lagarde calls for crackdown on Bitcoin
The head of the European Central Bank (ECB) Christine Lagarde has called for a global regulatory crackdown on the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, saying any loopholes for the digital coin need to be closed to avoid it being used for money laundering and other illegal practices.
At the Reuters Next conference, Lagarde said Bitcoin was a “highly speculative asset” which had conducted “some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity”, and as a result regulation was needed “at a global level”.
Following its surge in value over 2020, Bitcoin has once again attracted widespread attention both as an investment opportunity and as a potential target for financial regulators, many of whom are attempting to bring the crypto and blockchain industry under greater oversight as it gains more mainstream acceptance from both consumers and financial institutions.
Earlier this week, the UK Financial Conduct Authority warned that investors in Bitcoin and other crypto assets “should be prepared to lose all their money” and that those putting money into the products also risked finding themselves outside consumer protection and financial compensation schemes.
Back on the equity market, the FTSE 100 was still little moved as the final hour of trading began, with the blue-chip index down 3 points at 6,751 at around 3.30pm.
However, one firm on the up was Supermarket Income REIT PLC (LON:SUPR), which was up 0.6% at 107.6p after analysts at Goldman Sachs initiated coverage of the stock with a ‘buy’ rating and a target price of 130p in a note on Wednesday.
3.30pm: Proactive North America headlines:
Alpine 4 Technologies Ltd (OTCQB:ALPP) expects to see 2020 revenue jump by 19% to 24% despite the pandemic
RideShare Rental Inc (OTCMKTS:YAYO) CEO Ramy El-Batrawi increases his stock position by 5 million shares in the company
AgraFlora Organics International Inc (CSE:AGRA) (FRA:PU31) (OTCPINK:AGFAF) expects to enter Canadian edibles market in 1Q 2021
2.44pm: Wall Street ekes out positive open
The main indices on Wall Street kicked off Wednesday’s session just about in the green as the US House of Representatives began their deliberations of fresh impeachment charges against Donald Trump.
In the first minutes of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.02% at 31,090 while the S&P 500 rose 0.09% to 3,804 and the Nasdaq climbed 0.14% to 13,091.
The markets opened shortly after US House members began the debate over Trump’s impeachment, the president currently stands accused of inciting an insurrection after encouraging a group of supporters to riot and storm the Capitol building last week.
If the House votes to formally charge Trump he will become the first president in history to be impeached twice, although his conviction will hinge on a two-third vote of support in the US Senate following a trial, the timetable for which has yet to be decided.
Back in London, the FTSE 100 was mostly back to square one in late-afternoon, down 3 points at 6,750 at around 2.45pm.
1.30pm: Naked Wines CEO says high street should break traditional boundaries
Into mid-afternoon trading, the FTSE 100 still had little to shout about and seemed set to continue its mundane session, down 11 points at 6,743 at around 1.30pm.
Key fallers among the blue chips included Just Eat Takeaway.com, which was down 5.9% at 8,536p, as well as housebuilder Persimmon PLC (LON:PSN), which dropped 3.8% to 2,678p after it reported a 9% fall in revenues for 2020 and investors fretted that a tightening of lockdown restrictions could force the firm to close its building sites.
Meanwhile, the top risers in the index were Next, which jumped 2.9% to 7,892p in mid-afternoon, followed by sales and marketing firm DCC PLC (LON:DCC) which rose 2.5% to 5,708p, and Sainsbury’s which was up 2.3% to 240.6p.
Next’s rise to the top of the table follows hopes that the tide for retailers and the high street may be on the turn following data that UK COVID-19 cases are declining as well as the accelerating rollout of vaccines.
However, Nick Devlin, chief executive of wine seller Naked Wines Plc (LON:WINE) has said that high street stores need to be “willing to step outside the bounds of what has traditionally defined retail” in order to succeed into the future.
In an interview with Retail Insider and K3 BTG on Wednesday, Devlin said while physical store locations “will always have a role to play”, particularly in specialist product categories such as wine, retailers need to “offer more than just an excellent product”.
“The environment, service and experience should be a pleasure”, the CEO said, adding that small, independent businesses were currently the ones “getting innovation” as they are “unburdened by the challenge of managing an existing retail portfolio”.
12.39pm: Wall Street set for subdued open
Wall Street seems set to make a subdued start to Wednesday’s session as traders seemed content to stand back ahead of Donald Trump’s impeachment vote in the House of Representatives.
Spread-better quotes predict the Dow Jones Industrial Average will open down around 11 points, while S&P 500 is expected to drop 4 points and the Nasdaq is tipped to fall 8 points.
If the House of Representatives votes in favour of the impeachment charges against Trump, which consist of just one charge of inciting an insurrection following the riot by his supporters on Capitol Hill last week, he will become the only US president in history to be impeached twice.
However, to be found guilty, which will result in Trump losing many perks including a presidential pension and secret service protection for life as well as being banned from running for public office permanently, the president will need to be convicted by a two-thirds vote in the US Senate following a trial for which the timetable is currently unknown.
However, the impeachment trial is expected to be a lengthy process, and as such Trump is likely to serve his full term ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration next Wednesday, although leaving office does not protect him from consequences as a president can still be convicted by the Senate after leaving the position.
Aside from the political volatility, traders may also be awaiting US inflation data for December to get some more clarity on the US economy.
Market forecasts are predicting that the inflation rate will inch up to around 1.3% from 1.2% in November.
Inflation has been in focus of late as markets prepare for large stimulus spending from the incoming Biden administration to help pull the economy out of its COVID-19-inflicted slump.
In this vein, there may also be interest in the Fed’s latest Beige Book which will provide more info on the state of economic conditions across the US.
Back in London, the FTSE 100 had fallen further into the lunchtime session, down 16 points at 6,737 at around 12.40pm.
11.47am: FTSE 100 little changed into lunchtime
As the morning portion of the session came to an end, the FTSE 100 has moved very little in either direction and was down just 2 points at 6,751 at around 11.45am.
Among those dragging the blue-chips lower was food delivery app Just Eat Takeaway.com (LON:JET), which fell 4.1% to 8,694p as investors took to profit taking following an update that showed accelerating order growth in its fourth quarter, although margins also declined sharply as a result of heavy investment.
Speaking of supermarkets, fellow ‘big four’ grocer WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC (LON:MRW) has said it will begin paying its staff a minimum salary of GBP10 per hour from April, becoming the first UK supermarket to do so.
The company said for most of its workers this will equate to a pay rise of around 9% and will be partially funded by a change in its annual bonus scheme.
10.48am: High street stocks turn higher as UK COVID-19 cases begin to fall
Some of the UK’s high street names are seen to be moving higher in mid-morning trading as some traders seemed to be hoping that Britain’s battle with COVID-19 may be turning a corner amid a recent fall in new cases.
The rises followed the latest data that showed the number of new daily cases of COVID-19 in the UK fell by 15,383 compared to the same time last week, although death and hospitalisation rates are still on the increase.
“With new cases finally starting to decline, there is a feeling that the Christmas surge is behind us. The UK vaccination push has already been impressive, and there is room for further optimism given the AstraZeneca [vaccine] rollout”, said IG’s Joshua Mahony.
Data from yesterday showed that around 2.4mln vaccinations have been given out across the UK so far, with the government planning to give the first dose of the jab to 15mln vulnerable people by mid-February and to all adults by September.
Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 has reversed course into late-morning, shedding 8 points to 6,747 at 10.45am.
9.39am: Oil majors boosted as crude price hits 11-month high
As the morning progressed the FTSE 100 was little moved and was up only around 9 points at 6,763 at around 9.35am.
However, one element of the index helping to support its gains were oil majors Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB) and BP PLC (LON:BP.), which rose 1.1% to 1,506p and 1.6% to 309.9p respectively in early deals as prices of Brent crude hit an 11-month high of around US$56.76 a barrel.
Markets.com’s Neil Wilson attributed the rise in crude prices to markets being “buoyed by the prospect of vaccines, the prospect of economic stimulus in the US and a cyclical bounce back in the global economy” despite near-term pressures on the oil price caused by large inventories as a result of reduced demand during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, on currency markets, the pound was also returning to past highs as it reached a value of around US$1.37 against the dollar, its highest level in three years.
Comments from Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey on Tuesday distancing himself from talk of negative interest rates may provide upward pressure for sterling, while Wilson said the currency is “undervalued and ready to break to the upside once the UK economy gets moving again”.
8.45am: Trump turmoil the focus
The FTSE 100 made a cautious start on Wednesday with the continued political turmoil in the United States expected to shape market sentiment on both sides of the Atlantic.
The UK blue-chip index opened 10 points higher at 6,764.32.
After US vice president Mike Pence refused to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would have allowed Donald Trump’s cabinet to oust the president on a show of hands, the Democrats are now prepared to impeach him.
According to the BBC, a number of senior Republicans, including Liz Cheney, have said they would back the vote, to be held later on Wednesday.
Trump is accused of inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol building at a speech before the riot last week.
On the market, the Footsie’s biggest casualty was Just Eat Takeaway (LON:JET), which fell 3.5% after it succumbed to profit-taking in the wake of its trading update
Remaining online, ASOS (LON:ASC), the fast-fashion group, jumped 3.5% after revealing its sales grew strongly over the crucial Christmas period.
“Even though the party season was pretty much cancelled and its existing customers had fewer reasons to shop for special occasions, ASOS attracted more than one million new shoppers who racked up the clicks as well. It’s active customer base now stands at around 24.5mln,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
“ASOS, originally shorthand for As Seen On Screen, has been perfectly placed to capitalise on the accelerated shift to shopping. Even though fashion demand in the market may have waned overall but it’s harnessed its savvy marketing and social media prowess and invested in persuading more shoppers to turn their bedrooms into fitting rooms.”
Valued at GBP5.3bn, ASOS would be a strong candidate for the FTSE 100 if it were ever to give up the light-touch oversight of the AIM market.
Among the growth stocks, Synairgen (LON:SNG) received a 6% boost after phase III trials of its drug to treat severe coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms got underway.
Proactive news headlines:
Kromek Group PLC (LON:KMK) said it has begun a GBP1.25mln programme funded by Innovate UK to customise its biological threat-detection solution to automatically detect airborne viruses, including coronavirus (COVID-19). The detection technology specialist said the solution is designed to be deployed in high footfall locations such as airports, hospitals, retail outlets and entertainment venues, with the initial focus of the programme being to develop a system to rapidly test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In a separate announcement reporting its results for the six months to October 31, 2020, Kromek said it is expecting “significant revenue growth” in the second half of the year thanks to “increased trading and improved visibility” as commercial activity rebounded. For the first half, the company reported an adjusted (EBITDA) loss of GBP0.9mln compared to a GBP0.6mln loss in the prior year, while revenues moved to GBP4.6mln from GBP5.3mln.
Sunrise Resources PLC (LON:SRES) told investors it has hit the ground running in 2021, as work continues across its portfolio. The company, in a project update, highlighted progress at the CS Pozzolan-Perlite and Sundance Gold projects in Nevada, and Baker’s Gold project in Western Australia. “We anticipate a high level of activity now that our CS Project is permitted for production and as we continue the exploration of our precious metals projects in Nevada and Australia,” said Patrick Cheetham, Sunrise executive chairman in the statement.
Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (NASDAQ:TLSA) (LON:TILS) said it has hired an industry veteran with experience of successfully developing blockbuster monoclonal antibody products as its chief medical officer. At Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: REGN) Dr Neil Graham was “instrumental” in bringing to market Dupixent, a blockbuster monoclonal antibody product for eczema and asthma, taking it from phase I to launch. During his tenure, he also led the product development for Kevzara, an IL-6R antibody for rheumatoid arthritis, which is now also being used to fight coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms.
SkinBioTherapeutics PLC (LON:SBTX), a life science company focused on skin health, announced that AxisBiotix Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company, has commenced enrolment for its food supplement consumer study. Further to research exploring the relationship between the gut and the skin and the scientific evidence pointing to a link between gut dysfunction, stress-induced alterations to the gut microbiome and skin inflammation, the company noted that it has been working with Winclove Probiotics B.V. for the development of a blend of bacterial strains as a food supplement. A proprietary blend of bacterial strains has been specifically designed to balance the gut microbiome to address the overproduction of new skin cells often seen in aggressive skin conditions such as psoriasis.
Synairgen PLC (LON:SNG) has said the first patient has been dosed with its inhaled formulation of interferon beta-1a as part of its global phase III trial in people hospitalised coronavirus (COVID-19). The respiratory drug discovery and development company said dosing with SNG001 had so far only taken place in the UK with work expected to get underway in the US and EU shortly. In all, the randomised placebo-controlled study will be conducted in around 20 countries, enrolling 610 COVID-19 patients who require supplemental oxygen.
Argo Blockchain PLC (LON:ARB) said it has received approval to begin trading on the OTCQB venture market in the US from Wednesday under the ticker ‘ARBKF’. The cryptocurrency mining firm said its listing on the OTCQB will have no impact on its existing shares on the London Stock Exchange and that it will continue to rely on announcements made through the LSE and will have no SEC reporting requirements.
Bango PLC (LON:BGO) has reported record revenues and a big profit uptick as new contracts with blue-chip organisations combined with surging online demand during the coronavirus lockdown. Revenues in the twelve months to end December 2020 rose by 70% to GBP12.2mln, the e-commerce platform owner said in trading update. Underlying profits – adjusted EBITDA – jumped to more than GBP4mln from GBP450,000, while end-user spend, another key metric, rose to GBP1.9bn from GBP1.1bn. Separately, AIM-listed Bango said it had also appointed Liberum as its nomad and broker.
Allergy Therapeutics PLC (LON:AGY) has said it can fund two crucial upcoming clinical trials from its own resources after closing out 2020 with a record cash position. In a trading update ahead of its interim results, the hay fever vaccine specialist noted that sales were robust during the half-year to end December 2020, with revenues rising by 7% to GBP54mln. Cash at the end of December amounted to GBP48.3mln, which Allergy says is sufficient to pay for both the Grass MATA MPL Phase III trial as well as the peanut allergy vaccine candidate Phase I trial.
Induction Healthcare Group PLC (LON:INDC), a leading healthcare technology company that helps digitally transform hospitals, has announced a contract with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (RFL). The group’s Induction Zesty unit, a leading provider of patient portals to NHS Hospitals, has delivered the My RFL Care patient portal as the first phase of an ambitious roadmap for RFL’s digital patient services in the next two years. The My RFL Care portal launched in August 2020 and has had significant traction with over 50,000 patients registering and using the service in the first few months. 250,000 patients are expected to adopt the service in the first year.
Greatland Gold PLC (LON:GGP) has noted an announcement from its joint venture partner Newcrest Mining Ltd saying it has approved A$146mln (GBP82mln) in funding for the construction of the box cut, exploration decline and associated surface infrastructure at the Havieron project in Western Australia following the receipt of regulatory approvals in December. The AIM-listed firm, which owns Havieron through its JV with Newcrest, also said that a US$50mln (GBP36.5mln) loan agreement announced on November 30, 2020, will be used to fund its share of early works and growth drilling activities up to the completion of a pre-feasibility study (PFS) and, thereafter, its joint venture expenditure requirements towards the completion of a feasibility study. The PFS is expected to be complete by late 2021.
Oracle Power PLC (LON:ORCP) has told investors it is strongly encouraged by findings from the interpretation of magnetic and IP (Induced Polarisation) geophysical data for the Northern Zone gold project. The company noted the completion of processing and interpretation of the data for Northern Zone, which is located in the east of Kalgoorlie area of Western Australia. It said the data highlighted that the findings supports a model of the geology as “a sequence of mafic and ultramafic volcanic rocks, with interbedded sediments and felsic volcanics, that have been intruded by granitic and porphyry intrusions.”
United Oil & Gas PLC (LON:UOG) has highlighted a continued strong production performance from its 22%-owned Abu Sennan project in Egypt. The company, in a quarterly production update, told investors that net production from Abu Sennan averaged 2,340 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) over the second half of 2020, versus guidance of 2,300 boepd. In the fourth quarter specifically net production averaged 2,243 boepd, comprising 1,960 barrels of oil and 283 boe of gas.
Alien Metals Ltd (LON:UFO) has said its Canadian partner Capstone Mining (TSX:CS) is to start a 2,500-metre drill program at the Donovan 2 Copper-Gold project in Mexico. Capstone has an agreement whereby it can acquire a 65% interest in Donovan 2 through US$3.9mln of exploration work and take its stake up to 80% if it pays for a pre-feasibility study. An Induced Polarisation (IP) geophysical survey across the majority of the tenement was completed by Capstone in December 2020 with the final reporting and interpretation now underway to identify drill locations. The IP survey was completed for 27.3 line kilometres and the data capture took 24 days.
Keywords Studios PLC (LON:KWS) said it has completed its acquisition of heavy Iron Studios Inc following its initial announcement of the purchase in September. The video game services group said previously that it will acquire the group for US$13.3mln which will consist of US$4mln of cash upfront, US$500,000 on the first anniversary of the deal, and up to US$8.8mln of contingent payments tied to performance targets across the first two years under the Keywords’ banner.
Adamas Finance Asia Limited (LON:ADAM), the AIM-quoted investment company focused on providing shareholders with attractive uncorrelated, risk-adjusted returns from a diversified portfolio of pan-Asian assets, has completed its name change to Jade Road Investments Limited (LON:JADE). The company noted that its portfolio has undergone a transformation over the last few years and is seeking to establish an identity which more fully represents its pan-Asian small and medium-sized enterprise focus. The company noted that the new name reflects the spirit of connecting investors and capital from the West, across the Middle East and into the markets of the Far East.
Advanced Oncotherapy PLC (LON:AVO), the developer of next-generation proton therapy systems for cancer treatment, announced that it has received a warrant exercise notice in respect of 300,000 new ordinary shares of 25p in the company with an exercise price of 25p per share. Proceeds of GBP75,000 have been received by the company in respect of the warrant exercise.
Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) the AIM-listed metals exploration and development company said it has received notices to exercise warrants over 7,995,600 new ordinary shares of 0.1p each in the company at an exercise price of 1.0p per ordinary share. Subscription monies of GBP79,956 have been received by Power Metal in respect of these exercises.
SourceBio International PLC (LON:SBI), an international provider of integrated state-of-the-art laboratory services and products, has announced that it will present at the Shares Investor Evening Webinar, providing an overview of the business and progress being made by the company. Jay LeCoque, SourceBio executive chairman, will present online at the Shares Spotlight webinar on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. The event starts at 6.00pm and LeCoque will start presenting promptly at approximately 7.20pm. No new material information will be disclosed at the event and the presentation will be made available on the company website shortly after the events here: https://sourcebiointernational.com/corporate-presentation-confirmation/
6:50am: Slow start predicted
The FTSE 100 is expected to open slightly higher on Wednesday morning as markets brace for the US House of Representatives to vote on impeaching President Donald Trump for a second time later today on charges of inciting an insurrection during last week’s riot on Capitol Hill.
Spread-better IG expects the blue-chip index to open around 6 points higher after ending Tuesday’s session 44 points lower at 6,754.
With US vice president Mike Pence refusing on Tuesday to invoke the 25th amendment of the US Constitution, which would have allowed the president’s cabinet to remove him from power by a majority vote, the stage is set for Congress to proceed with impeachment charges in the House followed by a trial in the Senate at a later date.
However, the course of events means Trump is likely to run out the clock of his remaining term ahead of the inauguration of his successor Joe Biden next Wednesday.
Wall Street saw a positive session overnight despite the ongoing political instability, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 0.19% at 31,068 while the S&P 500 climbed 0.04% to 3,801 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.28% to 13,072.
The picture in Asia, however, was more mixed this morning with Japan’s Nikkei 225 rising 1.04% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.17%.
On currency markets, the pound was slightly higher against the dollar, up 0.12% at US$1.368, however, US inflation data due later today could provide some catalysts for movement.
Around the markets:
- Sterling: US$1.368, up 0.12%
- Brent crude: US$57.27 a barrel, up 1.2%
- Gold: US$1,860 an ounce, up 0.3%
- Bitcoin: US$33,718, down 6.8%
6.45am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia
Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed on Wednesday as investors continued to watch developments on the coronavirus (COVID-19) front.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 1.04%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dipped 0.10%.
Chinese stocks were lower by the afternoon, with the Shanghai Composite down 0.61% even as South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.58%.
Shares in Australia rose, as the S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.11% higher.
Proactive Australia news:
Comet Resources Limited (ASX:CRL) has enhanced the prospectivity of its Barraba Copper Project in northern New South Wales with results of up to 4.6% copper, 4.0% zinc and 0.7% cobalt.
Mako Gold Ltd (ASX:MKG) has delivered the widest, high-grade gold intercepts to date from Tchaga prospect within the flagship Napie Project in Cote d’Ivoire including 41 metres at 4.51 g/t from 17 metres.
Maximus Resources Ltd’s (ASX:MXR) (FRA:M5F) reverse drilling campaign at its S5 Prospect, 300 metres south of the historic high-grade Wattle Dam Gold Mine, in Western Australia’s premier gold and nickel mining district, has intersected high-grade gold.
Musgrave Minerals Ltd (ASX:MGV) (OTCMKTS:MGVMF) (FRA:6MU) has closed its share purchase plan (SPP) early after it exceeded the targeted amount of $2 million, with subscriptions received to date in excess of $3.2 million, subject to final reconciliation.
Brookside Energy Ltd‘s (ASX:BRK) Orion Project joint venture with Stonehorse Energy Ltd (ASX:SHE) has successfully brought on to production the Thelma 12-1 Well in Murray County, Oklahoma, with an initial production rate of 130 barrels of oil per day (bopd).
Chalice Mining Ltd (ASX:CHN) (OTCQB:CGMLF) was one of the ASX’s most successful companies in 2020 – its shares rose as much as 1,671 per cent across the year, and have ticked even higher less than a fortnight into 2021.
Kin Mining NL (ASX:KIN) (FRA:8KM) enjoyed a positive December quarter, with Phase 3 drilling at the company’s 100%-owned Cardinia Gold Project (CGP) in Western Australia culminating in an interim update to the mineral resource estimate (MRE).