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  • FTSE 100 closes up four points
  • US stocks in the green
  • US jobless claims fall less than expected

4.55pm: FTSE 100 closes ahead, just

FTSE 100 managed to achieve a positive finish on Thursday despite Brexit and coronavirus (Covid-19) concerns.

Britain’s blue-chip benchmark finished the day up around four points at 6,528. The midcap FTSE 250 added around 21 to close at 21,017.

On Wall Street, stocks were seeing green. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added around nine at 31,447. The S&P 500 gained over seven at 3,917 and the Nasdaq added almost 76 points at 14,048.

“US markets are outperforming their UK counterparts despite a somewhat underwhelming decline in jobless claims with the economic recovery progressing slowly,” noted Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online trading group IG.

“For the most part this week has been personified by a greater degree of hesitancy, with early February optimism fading somewhat,” said Joshua Mahony, the senior market analyst at trading group IG.

“Unfortunately the post-Brexit outlook appears to be weakening somewhat for the UK, with almost 50% of exporting firms experiencing issues selling to the EU, while Amsterdam has overtaken London as the primary share-trading hub in Europe,” he added.

4pm: FTSE 100 drifts but Bitcoin bounces

The opening rise on Wall Street has done little to enthuse the UK market, with the FTSE 100 drifting somewhat aimlessly around the unchanged level. It has vacillated between positive and negative for much of the day and is currently up 9.5 points or 0.15% at 6533.86.

The usual host of big name companies released results on a Thursday, with positive reactions to Coca-Cola HBC (LON.CCH), AstraZeneca PLC (LON.AZN), RELX PLC(LON.REL) and Royal Mail PLC (LON.RMG).

Supermarket J Sainsbury PLC (LON.SBRY) has slipped 3.2p or 1.37% to 229.7p in the wake of a move to match discounter Aldi‘s prices on hundreds of products. But analyst Clive Black at Shore Capital remains positve on the company: “Sainsbury will be hoping to stem any customer outflow with the UK in recession whilst also perhaps allowing its management to focus to more on where it has commercial strengths in assortment and product specification, which could be relevant in a strong second half 2021 for the UK economy. Hence, following the move, we reiterate our buy stance on still very lowly rated Sainsbury shares and reiterate our overweight sector stance.”

The FTSE 250 is down 0.13% or 26.21 points at 20,970.23 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has added 0.17% to 31,492.78.

Elsewhere Bitcoin is up 5.69% to $47,484.42 after Mastercard said it would support some cryptocurrencies later this year and Bank of New York Mellon also announced it would start financing them.

Neil Wilson of Markets.com said: ” It’s a big deal since BNY is the first big national custodial bank to offer custody services for crypto assets. You have to assume this is not for your average checking account but for big institutional-level financing. It comes hot off the heels of Tesla’s $1.5bn Bitcoin investment of course. Yet more ‘mainstreaming’ and corporate support… $50k looks on.”

3pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Esports Entertainment Group Inc (NASDAQ:GMBL) signs multi-year partnership with Baltimore Ravens to be the NFL franchise’s esports tournament provider

Valens Company (TSE:VLNS) (OTCQX:VLNCF) (FRA:7LV) set to launch its nuance branded CBD oil in the Medical Cannabis by Shoppers marketplace

Cabral Gold Inc (CVE:CBR) (OTCPINK:CBGZF)(FRA:C3J) drilling identifies another potential target near Machichie discovery in Brazil

American Manganese Inc (CVE:AMY) (OTCPINK:AMYZF) (FRA:2AM) awarded Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label for RecycLiCo process

Lexaria Bioscience Corp (NASDAQ:LEXX) (CSE:LXX) expands DehydraTECH CBD hypertension program with two new human trials; updates for others

Codebase Ventures Inc (CSE:CODE) (FRA:C5B) (OTCQB:BKLLF) notes confirmation of Bitcoin mining rig order

HighGold Mining Inc (CVE:HIGH) (OTCQX:HGGOF) discovers new high-grade silver-gold-zinc vein field at Johnson Tract project, Alaska

Mawson Gold Limited (TSE:MAW) (OTCPINK:MWSNF) (FRA:MXR) reports encouraging drill assays from historic Gladys mine area at Sunday Creek

HempFusion Wellness Inc (TSE:CBD.U) (OTCMKTS:CBDHF) (FRA:8OO) launches new double dose CBD products for sleep and stress

Endeavour Mining Corp (TSE:EDV) (OTCMKTS:EDVMF) (FRA:E5Y1) closes C$2.4 billion acquisition of Teranga Gold Corp; to focus on organic growth

2.48pm: Wall Street opens higher

The main indices of Wall Street started on the front foot on Thursday morning as jobless claims in the US continued to decline, although less than predicted.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.19% at 31,498 while the S&P 500 climbed 0.3% to 3,921 and the Nasdaq rose 0.42% to 14,031.

Meanwhile, one of the early winners in New York was payments firm Mastercard Inc (NYSE:MA), which was up 3.2% at US$344.82 after the company said it would allow people to send and receive payments in cryptocurrency later this year.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 was little moved into late afternoon, down 2 points at 6,522 at 2.45pm.

1.40pm: FTSE fades after US jobless report

Leading shares have given up the struggle and dipped into negative territory. The FTSE 100 is down 1.44 points or 0.02% at 6522.92, not helped by a slightly worse than expected US jobs figure.

Jobless claims fell last week to 793,000 but this was more than the figure of 760,000 analysts had forecast. The previous week, which originally came in at 779,000, was revised up to 812,000.

12.45pm: Wall Street to edge higher at open

After a mixed performance on Wednesday, Wall Street is expected to open in positive territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is forecast to rise around 52 points or 0.2% while the S&P 500 is expected to add around 0.3%.

Before then the weekly US jobless claims are due and could have an influence on the general direction of travel. The numbers have been showing signs of improvement from the January peaks of 926,000. They fell to 779,000 last week and are forecast to dip again to 760,000.

US markets could also take some comfort from Wednesday’s comments by Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, who eased fears the central bank might be keen to tighten policy prematurely. Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said:”Powell was keen to stress that there was no rush to change policy, and that ‘substantial further progress’ would need to be made on the Fed’s dual mandate. At present, the employment element of that mandate is much more important, and with inflation still low the Fed has continued to signal that its foot remains firmly on the accelerator. Nonetheless, investors are still jittery, worrying that the recent highs for some indices will not hold, so we can expect more volatility around current levels even as the overall push higher continues.”

After the market closes come first quarter results from the Walt Disney Company and analysts will be keen to see the impact of the pandemic on its business, as well as the updates on subscriber numbers for Disney+. The company is forecast to report a loss per share of between $0.3c and $0.4c with revenues expected to drop by around 24% after the forced closure of theme parks and resorts.

Michael Hewson at CMC Markets UK said: “Disney+ subscriptions are likely to be the main focus as it takes on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV+. Undercutting on price may seem like a no-brainer, and while we’ve seen a big uptake on the subscriptions front with over 86.8m in the first year when the company reported in December it still has some way to go to compete with Netflix in terms of content depth. The service is also operating at a loss, which means it’s had to bite the bullet and will be increasing prices, with a basic UK subscription rising to GBP7.99 a month in March…

“Disney also has the added drag in terms of losses at its film studios, theme parks and resorts, as a result of the pandemic.”

Back in the UK and the FTSE 100 is now barely in positive territory, up just 2.95 points or 0.05% at 6527.31.

12.15pm: FTSE 100 holds on to gains – just

Leading shares are in a lacklustre mood as the early excitement of a raft of big company results wears off.

The FTSE 100 is up 9.82 points or 0.15% at 6534.18, with property companies proving another negative influence on top of Royal Dutch Shell and the banks. With the continuing uncertainty over how many people will actually go back to work in offices once the pandemic comes under control, the sector has drifted lower. Land Securities Group PLC (LON.LAND) is down 1.84% or 11.5p at 612.5p while British Land Company PLC (LON.BLND) has fallen 1.52% or 7.1p to 461p.

10.40am: UK banks under pressure after Commerzbank results

The FTSE 100 has lost some of its earlier gains, with banks and Royal Dutch Shell proving a drag on the market.

In the wake of lower than expected revenues and further restructuring at Commerzbank – Germany’s second largest listed lender – the UK banking sector is also out of favour. NatWest Group PLC (LON.NWG) is down 2.57% or 4.5p at 170.7p, the biggest faller in the FTSE 100, while BarclaysPLC (LON.BARC) has fallen 1.87% or 2.76p to 144.92p.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “Financials are a laggard today, with…Commerzbank reporting a record Q4 loss of EUR2.7bn, as new chief executive officer Manfred Knof embarks on yet another turnaround strategy for the beleaguered bank.

“The dividend has also been scrapped while the bank has said it will close half of its retail branches, and close 30% of its overseas operations in a move that has all the hallmarks of a hatchet job in order to cut EUR1.4bn of annual costs, and reduce headcount by 10,000 over the next two years.”

Also losing ground is Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON.RDSB), whose A shares have fallen.03% or 27.6p to 1335.6p after the company told investors its oil business was past its peak.

So the FTSE 100 is up just 7.71 points or 0.12% at 6532.07.

9.40am: Upbeat results boost leading shares

Helped by some positive reaction to results from the likes of AstaZeneca, RELX and Coca-Cola HBC (LON.CCH), the FTSE 100 has added to its early gains.

The leading index is up 29.26 points or 0.45% at 6553.62 with bottling group Coca-Cola heading the risers, up 5.27% or 119p at 2379p after it said trading had improved in the second half of the year. In a buy note UBS analysts pointed out that the results had beaten forecasts, the outlook was encouraging and the valuation low.

Just Eat Takeaway.com NV (LON.JET) has delivered a 1.55% or 118p rise to 7738p on a read-across from Uber Technologies, which reported a 128% surge in bookings from its UberEats platform. So we appear not to have got bored with takeaways during lockdown just yet.

But Roll-Royce Holdings PLC (LON.RR) is under the cosh again, down 1.16p or 1.25% to 91.64p. Starting coverage with a hold rating and 97p price target, Christophe Menard at Deutsche Bank said: “Rolls Royce shares (will) continue to be weighed down by the underperformance of wide body aircraft segment during air traffic recovery and its delay in returning back to 2019 level of operations. The lower cash generation in the next few years shall only partly be offset by cost mitigation actions and some potential disposal of noncore businesses. Rolls Royce ability to improve its engine capabilities during this lean time will determine the long-term positioning of the company.”

8.55am: Leading shares make subdued start

The FTSE 100 made a positive but subdued start with UK traders largely impervious to the potential economic upside of America’s mooted stimulus programme and the vaccines roll-out.

AstraZeneca (LON:AZN), which has been at the forefront of the British inoculation push, saw some marginal upside in its numbers from its Covid efforts.

However, the 1.6% rise in the share price seemed scant reward for its participation.

“For a company that has been at the forefront of leading the fight against Covid-19 the performance in the AstraZeneca share price has been very underwhelming, with the shares at ten-month lows,” said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets.

“A lot of this may have to do with the fact that AstraZeneca, along with Oxford University is producing the vaccine at cost, along with tweaks to any possible variant, in a move that hasn’t been replicated to the same extent by its peers in the industry.”

A self-described ‘resilient’ performance propelled bottler Coca-Cola HBC (LON:CCH) 4.8% higher and to the top of the Footsie leader board.

Sticking with the positives, Royal Mail (LON:RMG) was in the unaccustomed position of delivering good shareholder news in the form of a better than expected trading update.

The stock jumped 7.5% after it said its strong showing had been underpinned by surging parcel volumes thanks to the boom in online shopping.

Proactive news headlines

S&U PLC (LON:SUS) said its trading remains “robust and profitable” despite the current lockdown, and that it is planning for a “significant rebound to pre-[coronavirus] motor finance transaction levels as lockdown restrictions ease this year” as well a “substantial increase” in business for its Aspen property bridging arm.

Gaming Realms PLC (LON:GMR) has updated on its 2020 trading performance following what it said was a “record month” in December thanks to its content licensing business.

Location Sciences Group PLC (LON:LSAI) said it expects to deliver much reduced full-year losses as it looks forward to launching a new product on the Bloomberg Enterprise Access point.

Tharisa PLC (LON:THS) said in a statement ahead of its annual general meeting (AGM) that demand for the commodities it produces remains robust. Reviewing the year since the last AGM, executive chairman Loucas Pouroulis said the group has put in a strong operational performance, despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

SigmaRoc PLC (LON:SRC) has launched a pioneering new type of concrete block that does not contain cement. The ultra-low carbon concrete building block is unique in the UK market, the company said.

Alpha Growth PLC (LON:ALGW, OTCQB: ALPGF) said it is acquiring an unnamed Bermuda-based insurance company supported by an oversubscribed GBP3.75mln share placing.

Kodal Minerals PLC (LON:KOD) has unearthed high grade gold in a surface sampling programme at the Dabakala concession, Cote d’Ivoire.

Landore Resources Limited (LON:LND) said drilling on the BAM gold deposit at its Junior Lake Property in Ontario continues to reveal visible gold in several intersections.

Jersey Oil and Gas PLC (LON:JOG) told investors the company’s September 2020 North Sea licence award has been formalised. It confirms the award of Merged Licence P2498 from last year’s 32nd Offshore Licensing Round.

Eden Research PLC (LON:EDEN) described its performance in 2020 as resilient as it weathered the impact of the global pandemic.

Albion Capital Group‘s VC arm has also led a GBP14mln funding round for data management specialist Solidatus, it said, which included investment from banking giants HSBC and Citigroup. AlbionVC’s Jay Wilson will join the Solidatus board of directors as part of the investment.

Albion Development VCT also announced that it has reached its GBP10mln limit, with a GBP3mln over-allotment facility fully subscribed and the offer now closed to further applications. Offers for two Albion VCTs in the top-up round still remain open.

Quadrise Fuels International PLC (LON:QFI) said it has raised GBP500,000 from the sale of convertible securities to existing investor Bergen, providing funding to the middle of 2021 and allowing it to accelerate testing and development activities.

Salt Lake Potash Limited (LON:SO4 ASX:SO4 PINK:WHELF) has completed its A$52mln fundraising, placing 130mln new ordinary shares as first announced in December. The second tranche of 5.025mln shares placed with directors has been completed following shareholder approval at the general meeting on January 22, including 3mln subscribed for by the chairman Ian Middlemas and 500,000 by chief executive Tony Swiericzuk. The company also issued 500,000 Ordinary Shares to an employee in lieu of 500,000 performance rights that had vested, but expired on December 31, 2021.

DiscoverIE Group PLC (LON:DSCV) said the EUR14.5mln (GBP12.8mln) acquisition of Limitor GmbH has been completed. The deal, which was announced in early December, was subject to regulatory approvals that have now been received. A contingent payment of up to EUR3.5mln (GBP3.1mln) may be payable subject to the business achieving certain profit growth targets over the next three years.

Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX) announced that it will report its 2020 annual results on Tuesday March 9. The company will host a virtual analyst presentation at noon on the day, followed by a Q&A session accessible via conference call or webcast at https://arixbioscience.com/investor-relations/events-presentations.

Tissue Regenix Group PLC (LON:TRX) said it has written to all registered shareholders regarding its intention to adopt electronic communication methods for shareholder documents. The company said it is seeking to adopt electronic communication in order to improve its environmental sustainability efforts and ensure timely and cost-effective communications with all shareholders.

6.50 am: FTSE 100 set for a steady start

FTSE 100 set to for a steady start to Thursday as global markets largely remain in a holding pattern.

CFD and spreadbetting firm IG Markets sees London’s blue-chip benchmark around 5 points in positive territory, making a price of 6,519 to 6,522.

Stimulus and vaccine progress are the trading catalysts that are awaited by many. Since his election, markets have anticipated President Joe Biden will sign off a US$1.9 trillion stimulus package, and this is presently expected in the coming weeks.

The roll-out of vaccines to wider populations beyond front-line workers and elderly will be a milestone towards economies getting back to some augmented version of normal. To this end, Thursday’s market news may bring some insight.

AstraZeneca, one of the drugs firms behind one of the vaccines, has financial results due today and whilst the company is about much more than that vaccine, its clear that it will dominate the headlines.

Indeed, yesterday, the World Health Organisation announced that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is suitable for all patients over 18 years of age, following a melee of conflicting news flow in recent weeks.

US equity markets, meanwhile, remain fixated on the handful of tech stocks that run the digital world which yesterday saw a rare glitch in share price action.

“It wasn’t a big decline but it was enough to remind traders there can be a bump in the road from time to time,” said David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones closed at 31,437 up just 61 points or 0.2%.

The S&P 500 edged just slightly lower to end Wednesday at 3,909 whilst the Nasdaq was marked 35 points or 0.25% lower at 13,972.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei moved positively – up 57 points or 0.19% to trade at 29,562 – whilst Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 134 points or 0.45% to 30,173, before its early close for the national holidays.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange starts its Chinese New Year holiday and was closed.

Around the markets

The pound: US$1.3848, up 0.1%

Gold: US$1,837 per ounce, down 0.24%

Silver: US$26.91 per ounce, down 0.44%

Brent crude: US$61.10 per barrel, up 0.01%

WTI crude: US$58.33 per barrel, down 0.05%

Bitcoin: US$44,524, up 4.41%

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were muted on Thursday as major markets in the region were closed for holidays.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 0.45% while markets in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were closed for holidays.

Shares in Australia declined, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 0.10% lower.


Proactive Australia news:

Proactive will host a Gold Webinar next Tuesday, February 16, showcasing three ASX-listed companies – Yandal Resources (ASX:YRL), Alto Metals (ASX:AME) and Horizon Metals (ASX:HRZ).

Australian Strategic Materials Ltd‘s (ASX:ASM) high-purity neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) powder from its Ziron Tech pilot plant in Korea has been used by the Korean Institute of Rare Metals (KIRAM) to produce rare earth permanent magnets.

Core Lithium Ltd‘s (ASX:CXO) (OTCMKTS:CXOXF) latest drill results from the Grants Deposit are expected to strengthen the current resource at the company’s wholly-owned Finniss Lithium Project in the Northern Territory.

Element 25 Ltd (ASX:E25) has received confirmation from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) that a groundwater abstraction allocation of 1 gigalitre per year has been approved for the Butcherbird Manganese Project.

Predictive Discovery Ltd (ASX:PDI) has received assay results from three additional diamond drill holes at the Bankan Gold Project in Guinea, West Africa, demonstrating that mineralisation extends at least 160 metres north along strike with widths of 50 to 100 metres on three drill sections.

FYI Resources Ltd‘s (ASX:FYI) (FRA:SDL) high purity alumina (HPA) pilot plant trial conducted in collaboration with Alcoa of Australia Ltd has delivered results described as “outstanding”, consistently achieving purity levels higher than 99.998% aluminium oxide.

VIP Gloves Ltd (ASX:VIP) has recorded skyrocketing revenue and profit in the half-year to December 2020, all thanks to strong demand for its nitrile gloves.

Miramar Resources Ltd‘s (ASX:M2R) assay results from its 1-metre re-splits have returned high-grade gold of up to 2 metres at 7.7 g/t, including 1-metre at 13.58 g/t, at the newly-defined Marylebone target at its 80%-owned Gidji joint venture project north of Kalgoorlie.

Infinity Lithium Corp Ltd’s (ASX:INF) (FRA:3PM) wholly-owned Extremadura Mining SL is participating in the Spanish battery consortium Battchain, which is seeking EUR1.2 billion in coronavirus funding.

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