FTSE 100 stays steady as Boris Johnson’s new lockdown rules provide few surprises

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  • FTSE 100 index rises 22 points
  • US indices to open higher
  • Boris Johnson says new regulations may remain in force for six months

2.40pm US stocks head higher at open

US stocks started on the front foot on Tuesday with tech firms, recently under pressure, leading the way.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average started up over 29 points at 27,176. The broader S&P 500 added over 15 points at 3,296. The Nasdaq index gained over 78 points at 10,857.

On Monday, US benchmark indices headed south due to fears on renewed lockdowns in Europe due to COVID-19 along with the stalemate in Congress over another coronavirus-response bill.

Commentators reckon US markets will see much uncertainty and volatility right up now until the Presidential election on November 3.

Eyes are on Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell today as he makes the first of three appearances before the House of Representatives this week to respond to questions about emergency measures the central bank has taken to help the US economy amid the crisis.

1.30pm: One regulation to rule them all and in the darkness bind them

After back to the office and back to school, it appears to be back to March for the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has introduced a number of new rules, many of which will look familiar, either because they have been heavily trailed, been introduced before or in some cases are exactly the same as previous rules except the phrase “thou shalt” has been replaced by “thou shalt not”.

Johnson said the restrictions are likely to remain in force for six months (or reversed next week if the previous form is any guide to future behaviour).

The main restriction outlined by the mercurial premier are: office workers to work from home if they can; all pubs, bar and restaurants must operate a table service (except for takeaways) and close by 10pm; face coverings must be worn by retail staff, users of taxis and cabs, all staff and customers in indoor hospitality venues except when eating or drinking; COVID-secure guidelines will become legal obligations in all retail, leisure, tourism and “other” sectors; from Monday, no more than 15 people may attend weddings or wedding receptions; the “rule of six” has been extended to all adult indoor team sports.

The proposed regulations will be subject to a full debate in parliament next week.

Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Opposition, said the Labour Party supported the new measures but criticised the government for not having a fully effective test and trace system up and running.

None of the measures particularly frightened investors; shares in the hospitality sector have already taken their lumps after it became apparent further restrictions were on the way, while the Footsie has been supported by support for some decidedly old economy stocks, such as the fags makers and oil companies.

In the former sector, British American Tobacco PLC (LON:BATS) is up 3.4% at 2,713p while Imperial Brands PLC (LON:IMB) is 3.3% firmer at 1,385.5p.

Of the two big Footsie oil giants, BP PLC (LON:BP.), up 2.4% at 241.65p, is modestly outstripping Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB), which is up 2.0% at 984.6p.

The FTSE 100 was up 23 points (0.4%) at 5,827.

12.15pm: US indices to open on the front foot

European indices have rallied today and US indices look set to do the same.

Spread betting quotes point to the S&P 500 opening 12 points higher at 3,293 and the tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite starting 299 points heavier at 11,078, ahead of the eagerly anticipated “battery day” presentation by electric cars maker Tesla, after the market closes today.

The Dow Jones is a bit less gung-ho, with the index expected to rise 27 points to 27,175.

Later today, Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, will appear alongside US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin before a House committee to discuss unspent credit facilities.

Powell has already released a statement ahead of his appearance before the House Financial Services Committee saying the US economy would “recover fully from this difficult period”, adding the caveat that more fiscal stimulus would hurry things along some.

“Economic activity has picked up from its depressed second-quarter level, when much of the economy was shut down to stem the spread of the virus. Many economic indicators show marked improvement,” Powell said.

“Both employment and overall economic activity, however, remain well below their pre-pandemic levels, and the path ahead continues to be highly uncertain,” the Fed’s head honcho said.

Nike will be in focus today as the company will post its first quarter numbers after the close of trading tonight, according to CMC’s David Madden.

“Only last week the stock set an all-time high so the dealers have high hopes for the results. Traders will be keeping an eye on costs and in turn margins as the fourth quarter update in June showed that delivery expenses hit the bottom line. E-commerce sales surged by 75% in the three month period, but margins cooled from 45.5% to 37.3%. Initially, there was a negative reaction to the numbers, but by mid-August the stock’s wider bullish move resumed,” he added.

Back on the home front, the FTSE 100 was up 15 points (0.3%) at 5,820.

11.45am: UK manufacturing output volumes fall at a slower pace in September

The UK CBI Industrial Trends Survey for September showed signs that the manufacturing recovery is stuttering.

The survey of 277 manufacturers found that output volumes declined in 10 of 17 sub-sectors – compared with 16 sectors reporting a fall last month – with the headline drop in output driven by the motor vehicles & transport equipment sub-sector.

Furthermore, for the first time since April, there was no improvement in overall order books, with both total and export order books remaining far weaker than their long-run averages, the CBI said.

The total orders balance declined to -48 in September from -44 in August, which was below the consensus forecast of -40.

“While it’s good to see that output volumes once again fell at a slower pace this month compared to August, it is disappointing to see the modest improvements in order books stall, with demand at a still weak level.

“As manufacturing firms continue to battle against headwinds from a resurgence of the virus, weak global demand and uncertainty over our trading relationships, the Government must step up its support,” claimed Anna Leach, the CBI’s deputy chief economist.

“As the Job Retention Scheme comes to an end, a successor must be found, while a deal with the EU will help underpin businesses’ resilience,” she added.

Manufacturers expect output prices to be broadly flat in the next three months (-1% in September’s survey versus -5% in August).

CBI Industrial Trends

Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist, said he doubted that the recovery in the manufacturing sector had fone into reverse this month, despite what the CBI’s figures might suggest.

“The balance is not seasonally adjusted and it has fallen by an average of four points in the previous ten September’s. Note too that the total orders balance often is slow to recover after recessions because manufacturers are asked to report whether orders are above or below ‘normal levels’, not simply whether they are higher or lower than in the previous month,” Tombs explained.

“Nonetheless, the recovery in the manufacturing sector appears to be losing momentum; strong growth in output over the summer likely was partly due to firms shifting work backlogs that had amassed during the lockdown. While demand for consumer goods is strong, it is very weak for capital goods, as corporates are holding back from large investments in response to both Covid-19 and Brexit.

“Admittedly, production likely will be boosted towards the end of this year, as firms in the EU stockpile UK goods to safeguard against a no-deal Brexit, which would result in tariffs imposed on many UK products. Nonetheless, this merely will represent a shift in the timing of demand, not a net increase. A sustained recovery in output to pre-COVID levels still is not in sight,” Tombs declared.

The FTSE 100 was up 21 points (0.4%) at 5,826.

10.40am: Sterling’s weakness lends a bit of support to blue-chips

The Footsie’s gains remain meagre but after yesterday’s scary cage-rattling many investors will happily accept a bit of stabilisation.

The FTSE 100 is up 15 points (0.3%) at 5,820, helped a tad by sterling’s continued weakness against the greenback. The pound is down by around a fifth of a cent against US$1.2793.

One stock not participating in the rally is hotels and restaurants group Whitbread PLC (LON :WTB), which announced in its half-year trading statement that it is to cut 6,000 jobs.

The shares were down 3.3% at 2,040p.

“The Premier Inn owner has had one of the toughest first halves out there and with expectations that demand will remain subdued for a while, the group’s announced plans for up to 6,000 staff or 18% of the workforce to go. This is, unfortunately, a reflection that coronavirus may have changed Whitbread’s world for good, without full hotels the group isn’t profitable, so a lower and more flexible cost base is essential,” explained Emilie Stevens, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“There was brighter news that the group’s August sales were down just 39% on last year, boosted by staycations and the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme. In fact the UK’s desire to holiday at home meant Whitbread’s hotels in seaside and tourist destinations were 80% full. Unfortunately, this boost is likely to be short-lived and focus now turns to business travel.

“We know city demand remains subdued and with more and more businesses announcing permanent work from home plans, we wonder if the return of business travellers is more ‘if’ than ‘when’. The group’s full first-half results in October should shed light on just how much change Whitbread sees and how permanent,” she added.

Sector peer Wetherspoon (JD) PLC (LON:JDW) has warned it could pitch onto the dole 450 of its workers at its pubs located in UK airports.

“The decision is mainly a result of a downturn in trade in these pubs, linked with the large reduction in passenger numbers using the airports,” said Spoons’ chief executive officer, John Hutson.

“We should emphasise that no firm decisions have been made at this stage,” he added,

The shares were up 0.5% at 777.5p.

9:50am: IG analyst says FTSE 100 looks likely to go lower

CFD trading group IG, in a note, described the FTSE 100 as continuing in a “multi-month downtrend”.

“The rebound seen in early September took us back into the 61.8-76.4% Fibonacci retracement zone, yet we have seen that rise capitulate in style,” IG analyst and chartist Joshua Mahony said.

“With price having dropped back towards the 5,764 support level, there is a good chance the moderate gains seen since yesterday’s lows will be fleeting.

“As such, another leg lower looks likely from here, with price heading back towards the lower boundary of the descending standard deviation channel.”

IG, elsewhere, noted that the attempted rally in the dollar petered out, and, GBP/USD has fallen back towards Monday’s lows.

“For cable this area around $1.277 would mark a key level, as a move below here opens the way to move downside, towards $1.263 and down to $1.259,” analyst Chris Beauchamp added.

8.45am: Dead-cat bounce

The FTSE 100 opened in positive territory on Tuesday morning, recovering a tad after Monday’s carnage, however, sentiment could turn on a sixpence, analysts warned.

London’s blue-chip stocks opened 38 points higher at 5,841.68 after the bloodiest day in three months on Monday – one in which the blue-chip index tanked more than 200 points on lockdown concerns.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is widely expected to announce another coronavirus crackdown today, including a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, in a bid to stem the rising tide of COVID-19 infections. Advice will also be given to work from home where possible, reports suggest.

There was little respite for the travel stocks, with British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG) off 4.2% alongside easyJet (LON:EZJ), down by the same quantum, and cruise firm Carnival (LON:CCL), off 3.3%.

However, a notable riser was B&Q owner Kingfisher (LON:KGF), up 6.4% after a strong recovery in profits prompted by a boom in DIY.

“The pandemic seems to have prompted the turnaround that was eluding management at the start of the year as it struggled with weak sales in France, particularly its Castorama business,” said Susannah Streeter, analyst at the investment group Hargreaves Lansdown.

“But wielding a paintbrush seems to have become a national pastime during the pandemic, not just here in the UK but in the group’s other markets too, particularly Poland and Romania although sales slipped in Russia and Iberia.”

Proactive news headlines:

Open Orphan PLC (LON:ORPH) has announced that its Venn Life Sciences subsidiary has secured an important new contract to support a major European pharmaceutical company. The specialist CRO pharmaceutical services company, which is the world leader in the testing of vaccines and antivirals using human challenge clinical trials, said the Paris team of Venn will be assisting a prospective, multicentre, longitudinal, non-interventional oncology study which is expected to enrol over 750 subjects whereby Venn will handle all data management, statistics and medical writing for the study. The group said the contract reinforces Venn’s position as one of the leading providers of data-management, statistics and medical writing services to many of Europe’s leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies, a service the Company has a strong track record or providing.

Bango PLC (LON:BGO) said it has partnered with EPIC ON, the premium OTT platform by IN10 Media Network, to expand access to EPIC ON’s vast array of subscription-based entertainment content into new regions. The AIM-listed data-driven commerce platform noted that EPIC ON is a multiform content platform enabling users to Watch, Play, Listen, Read and engage with innovative ways on a single app. Users can access its content on a monthly paid subscription basis. Under the agreement, EPIC ON will work with Bango to expand its global presence, growing its paying user base and opening up access to its wealth of content and services by offering customers alternative payment methods.

Litigation Capital Management Limited (LON:LIT), the disputes funding specialist, said its assets under management rose sharply over the past year while there was a significant increase in firms seeking a legal solution. Coronavirus is likely to accelerate this trend, it added, with the likelihood of a substantial rise in insolvency-related litigation in all the jurisdictions where it operates. In the year to end June 2020, Litigation Capital Management said it received 522 applications for funding, which was a 25% increase on the previous year, though only 3.5% of these received an investment. The Australia-based company funds both portfolios and single cases and said there had been eight resolutions in the two corporate portfolios over the past year.

Ergomed PLC (LON:ERGO) saw its adjusted underlying earnings (EBITDA) surge by 40% year-on-year in the first half of 2020 and the company said it expects to see the momentum continue in the second half of the year, driven by demand for its pharmacovigilance (PV) and contract research organisation (CRO) services. The group reported adjusted EBITDA of GBP9.1mln, up from GBP6.5mln in the same period of 2019, and profit before tax grew to GBP6.0mln from GBP4.1mln the previous year. Total first-half revenue rose by 14.8% to GBP40.4mln from GBP35.2mln in the corresponding period of 2019, with service fee revenue up 25.9% – or 18.0% on a like-for-like basis, excluding Prime Vigilance USA, which was acquired in January 2020 – to GBP36.9mln.

Rock Resources Australasia Ltd, a joint venture between Red Rock Resources PLC (LON:RRR) and Power Metal Resources (LON:POW), has released the results of an NI 43-101 technical report on the BMV gold project. BMV comprises eight exploration licences out of the twelve for which the joint venture has applied, all of which are subject to pending licence applications. The report highlights several areas where the exploration potential is “excellent.”

Parity Group PLC (LON:PTY) has said activity is picking up again after coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disruption affected the first half of the year. Revenue in the six months to end June 2020, fell by a third to GBP29.9mln while underlying profits were GBP61,000 against GBP203,000. Since June, things have improved, Parity said, helped by new contracts including two slots in the Scottish government’s online purchasing system and a consultancy slot on a cyber services training contract in Northern Ireland in partnership with CyberGym.

Coinsilium Group Limited (AQSE:COIN) has updated shareholders on efforts to revive the token economics of the Indorse (IND) digital currency asset, through the use of a new decentralised finance (DeFi) based model, with the company now looking forward to key catalysts next month. The Aquis-exchange listed investor holds a 10% interest in Indorse and owns 5.79mln IND tokens, representing around 15.37% of its circulation. Eddy Travia, Coinsilium chief executive, said the firm is working closely with the Indorse team in the development of a comprehensive strategy to update the token model to what is being referred to as ‘IND 2.0’. A new ‘Light Paper’ is due to be published in mid-October, to layout in more detail the proposed developments and updates which will feature in Indorse 2.0.

ADES International Holding PLC (LON:ADES) has confirmed revenue growth of 13.4% to US$249.3mln for the first six months of 2020. The group said this demonstrated its resilience to the exceptional challenges posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and oil price volatility. Half-year underlying earnings (EBITDA) improved by 3.6% to US$93.3mln, though a normalised version of the figure – to exclude one-offs charges – shows an 11% gain to US$99.9mln. The group’s margin was trimmed to 37.4% from 40.9% in the same period a year earlier. The company reported a net profit of US$15.5mln, versus US$3.2mln.

Alien Metals Ltd (LON:UFO) has begun follow-up detailed geological mapping and sampling at the Hamersley iron ore projects in Australia. The programme is designed to validate recently announced exploration targets across both projects and will consist of four-to-five kilometres of grid-based sampling across priority prospects, and detailed mapping over exposed iron ore formations.

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) has released assays results from due diligence sampling at the Silver Peak project in British Columbia, Canada. The project includes the Eureka-Victoria silver mine, the first Crown-granted mineral property in British Columbia. Ten channel sample and one grab sample assay results were received from ALS Canada laboratories and two showed bonanza silver grades. Significant copper and lead grades were also returned. Among the highlights were 0.50 metres grading 10,718 grams per tonne silver, 2.14 % copper and 2.99 lead, and 0.50 metres grading 14,937 grams silver, 3.05% copper and 11.95% lead.

Alliance Pharma PLC (LON:APH) has held its dividend and said it is seeing signs of better trading after disruption from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affected its first half. “We are now starting to see further signs of recovery and expect trading to continue to recover as we move through the remainder of the year,” said Peter Butterfield, chief executive of the healthcare products group in its interim results statement. Revenues in the six months to end June 2020, dropped 7% to GBP61.7mln with prescription medicines particularly affected as routine treatments were delayed by COVID-19. The company’s flagship consumer healthcare brands were helped by a strong performance from scar prevention treatment Kelo-cote, where revenues were up 8%.

Rosslyn Data Technologies PLC (LON:RDT) has confirmed revenue growth in the first half of 2020 and highlighted higher levels of client engagement since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The company said that although sales opportunities were temporarily delayed during lockdown, in recent weeks it had begun to see increased activity from prospective clients. Revenue and the pipeline remain strong, it added. The group pointed to a focus among larger companies on supply chain resilience, supply chain risk, cost reduction – all of which can be enhanced by the use of ‘Big Data’.

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) said it has entered into a non-exclusive license agreement for its SlimBiome Medical proprietary weight management product with HiLife Vitamins & Herbs Co Inc. in the US. The life sciences business, which is developing compounds to tackle obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and skincare, noted that HiLife is a privately owned business which was founded in 1971 to supply its local community with healthy supplements. With the evolution of e-commerce, HiLife rapidly extended its customer base becoming one of the first online health supplement retailers in the USA, and nearly fifty years on, HiLife lists over 5000+ products online having built an established and loyal customer base across the USA, it added. Optibiotix said the signing of the agreement with HiLife is subject to the placing of a trial order and a six month period after which both parties will discuss the terms of the agreement to explore online exclusivity for the USA.

Oriole Resources PLC (LON:ORR) has delivered a profit of GBP170,000 during the six months to end June 2020. The company was able to reduce administrative expenses to GBP420,000, particularly by reducing its outlay on consultancy fees in Turkey, where it has legacy operations. The company had GBP500,000 cash as at the end of August. During the period, the company secured the Senala licence in Senegal for up to a further 10 years and continued to enjoy the participation of IAMGOLD Corporation as its partner.

Shanta Gold Ltd (LON:SHG) is to expand processing capacity at the New Luika gold mine in Tanzania, with the integration of a new pilot plant started, and commissioning scheduled for January 2021. The group said milled throughput nameplate capacity will increase by 14%. The cost has been pegged at US$1.2mln, and will easily be funded by existing cashflow from production, it added. Following commissioning, the annual nameplate processing capacity at New Luika is expected to increase to a baseline of 708,000 tonnes per year, up from current nameplate capacity of 620,000 tonnes, with the projected annual processing rate increased to a baseline of 783,000 tonnes, up from 695,000 tonnes.

FastForward Innovations Ltd (LON:FWD), the AIM quoted company focusing on making investments in fast growing and industry leading businesses, has announced the appointment of a new broker, Shard Capital Partners, with immediate effect. Optiva Securities will cease to act as the company’s broker, it added.

6.50am: Losing streak expected to come to an end

The FTSE 100 is expected to end four days of losses ahead of an announcement from prime minister Boris Johnson about new measures to try and curb the spread of a second wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.

London’s blue-chip index is tipped by spread-betting firm CMC Markets to rise 30 points on Tuesday, having lost almost 203 points the day before.

Overnight, Wall Street’s main stock indices continued the bloodletting in what had been a brutal day for markets in Europe, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average tumbling close to 510 points or 1.8%, the S&P 500 down 1.2% and the Nasdaq Composite dipping 0.1%.

Stocks with the greatest exposure to prolonged coronavirus restrictions and tougher quarantine rules on foreign travel were among the hardest hit across Europe, while in the US there was also concern about whether a deal could be reached in Congress about a new round of coronavirus aid.

Back in the UK overnight, Downing Street lifted the COVID-19 alert system to its second-highest level after a grim briefing from Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, about a potentially tough autumn and winter period for the country.

The prime minister is today expected to impose new curfews on pubs and restaurants and encourage working from home again.

“Given the data-light week, a series of positive headlines could quickly reverse the bearish technical picture evident in equity markets,” said market analyst Jeffrey Halley at Oanda.

“However, the tone of the week thus far suggests that investors are looking for rallies to sell, not buy into, with the balance of probabilities implying deeper downward corrections to come.”

Around the markets:

  • Pound down 0.1% to US$1.2804
  • Gold down 0.2% to US$1,909.68
  • Oil Brent crude down 0.2% to US$41.34

6.45 am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

South Korea’s Kospi led losses among major Asian markets on Tuesday as it fell 2.35%.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong dropped 0.63% while China’s Shanghai Composite was down 0.54%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was sliding for a fourth consecutive session, down 0.67% following hefty declines on Wall Street overnight.


Proactive Australia news:

Fe Limited (ASX:FEL) (FRA:B4T) will fast-track work programs at its two new advanced iron ore projects after reaching an agreement to accelerate final payment of the Evanston Iron Ore royalty sale proceeds.

Auroch Minerals Ltd (ASX:AOU) has begun reverse circulation drilling at the recently acquired Firefly and Sinclair North prospects within the Leinster Nickel Project in Western Australia.

Kazia Therapeutics Ltd (ASX:KZA) (NASDAQ:KZIA) is collaborating with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in the US to investigate the use of Kazia’s investigational new drug paxalisib (formerly GDC-0084) in primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL).

SUDA Pharmaceuticals Ltd (ASX:SUD) (FRA:E4N) has welcomed study results that support the company’s hypothesis that an anagrelide oral spray formulation may offer a safer alternative to the current commercial capsule to treat metastatic disease in patients with certain solid tumour cancers.

Tietto Minerals Ltd (ASX:TIE) directors have demonstrated their confidence in the company’s gold strategy by participating in a placement following shareholder approval on September 10.

Element 25 Ltd (ASX:E25) (FRA:QFP) sees 2020 as a transformational year despite the difficult circumstances, with progress made and more work planned for the Butcherbird Manganese Project in Western Australia.

Macarthur Minerals Ltd (ASX:MIO) (CVE:MMS) (OTCQB:MMSDF) has received several new enquiries regarding future joint venture and partnership opportunities following an announcement last week that it is retaining 100% of its tenements in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Eclipse Metals Ltd (ASX:EPM) has mobilised equipment to the Amamoor manganese deposits near Gympie in southeast Queensland for stage-2 diamond drilling.

Alto Metals Ltd (ASX:AME) has raised $5.5 million in a strongly supported placement to accelerate an aggressive exploration program testing potential repeat lodes at the flagship Sandstone Gold Project in Western Australia.

Lake Resources NL (ASX:LKE) has received further validation of its strategy to produce ‘clean’ lithium from Kachi Lithium Brine Project in Argentina by securing more funds to accelerate a definitive feasibility study (DFS) as well as for general exploration and working capital.

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