FTSE 100 down in the dumps but SSE rises after selling stakes in waste-to-energy interests

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  • FTSE sheds 20 points
  • UK employment rate reaches 4.5%
  • SSE wanted after it sells stakes in waste-to-energy joint ventures

10.00am: Tesco and Morrisons get some love after strong sales performance in September

Disappointing UK jobs numbers and caution over progress on Brexit talks are deterring the bulls in London this morning.

The FTSE 100 was down 20 points (0.3%) at 5,981.

Utility SSE PLC (LON:SSE), up 3.7% at 1,374.5p, went against the trend after it agreed to sell its 50% share in energy-from-waste ventures Multifuel Energy and Multifuel Energy 2 for GBP995mln.

Retailers were getting a bit of support after the release of the latest grocery market share figures from Kantar for the four weeks to October 4.

The survey showed take-home grocery sales growth accelerated to 10.6%as shoppers geared up for new lockdown restrictions.

Shoppers spent an extra GBP261mln on alcohol as a 10.00pm curfew came into effect for pubs and bars and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme ended.

Online sales in the past month grew by 76% year on year, making it a strong month for Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO), Kantas said – although the delivery technology group’s shares were down 0.8% at 2,424p this morning.

Ocado has increased sales by 41.9% in the latest 12 weeks, buoyed by its new partnership with Marks & Spencer PLC (LON:MKS) – down 1.9% this morning at 95.68p

“Shoppers are moving a greater proportion of their eating and drinking back into the home,” observed Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at market research firm Kantar.

Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO), up 1.1% at 221.5p, maintained its market share at 26.9% while Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC (LON:MRW), up 1.5% at 175p, saw its share nudge up to 10.1% from 9.9% on the back of 11.5% growth in sales.

9:30am: IG charts bearish view for FTSE 100

IG analyst and chartist Joshua Mahony reckons that bearishness is in play for the FTSE 100.

“The FTSE 100 has rallied into the 76.4% Fibonacci resistance level over the course of October thus far, with the index turning lower from that key resistance level,” Mahony said.

“The wider downtrend still remains intact unless we see a break through the 6127 peak established in mid-September.

“As such, a bearish outlook is in play here, with a rise through Fibonacci resistance needed as the first signal that we could start challenging this multi-month downtrend.”

8.55am: Jobs disappointment weighs

The FTSE 100 opened lower on Tuesday after the UK unemployment rate hit 4.5% in the three months to the end of August – its highest level in over three years.

London’s blue-chip benchmark opened 24 points lower at 5,977.03.

The jobless figure was up 0.4 percentage points quarter-on-quarter and was higher than the market consensus of 4.3%.

As Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, pointed out, the economic signals of late have been mixed. “There was some evidence of a recent improvement in consumer spending, an important constituent of the economy, although it has been suggested that some of this may have been as a result of customers stockpiling ahead of Christmas in the face of further lockdown measures,” he explained.

Over in the US, the tech sector rediscovered its mojo on Monday, while the mainstream American stocks were also in demand.

Here at home traders were continuing to digest the latest ‘omnishambles’ that constitutes the government’s guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown protocols.

It also emerged that scientific advisers called for a short lockdown in England to halt the spread of the virus, perhaps providing an early warning of further strictures.

On the market, Rolls Royce’s (LON:RR.) gravity-defying run came to an end as it was marked down 6.6%, while the management upheaval and further vaccine delays grounded airline giant IAG (LON:IAG), which was down 5.4%.

Worries over the outlook for international travel (no vaccine, no return to normal) also hit TUI (LON:TUI), easyJet (LON:EZJ) and Carnival (LON:CCL).

On the FTSE 250, the fallers were dominated by constituents of the pubs, leisure and hospitality sectors.

Cineworld (LON:CINE) led the charge lower as it lost 10% and All Bar One owner Mitchells & Butlers was off 4%.

Finally, Tesco (LON:TSCO) and Morrison’s (LON:MRW) made modest gains in the wake of the Kantar grocery sector monthly figures.

7.30am: Unemployment figures a mixed bag

Britain’s unemployment rate rose to 4.5% in the June-August period, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, versus expectations of 4.3%.

The rate was 0.6 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.4 percentage points more than in the previous quarter.

Early estimates for September 2020 suggest that there is little change in the number of payroll employees in the UK – up 20,000 compared with August 2020. Since March 2020, the number of payroll employees has fallen by 673,000; however, the larger falls were seen at the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the ONS said.

UK unemployment

Job vacancies also show signs of a recovery, with a record quarterly increase in the recent period. After a record low of 343,000 vacancies in April to June 2020, there has been an estimated record quarterly increase of 144,000 to 488,000 vacancies in July to September 2020; vacancies remain below the pre-coronavirus pandemic levels and are 332,000 (40.5%) less than a year ago.

Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) among employees for the three months June to August was unchanged from a year ago, while regular pay (excluding bonuses) growth was positive at 0.8%.

Jack Kennedy, an economist at the global job site Indeed, said the pandemic’s human cost “is slowly being laid bare”.

“The number of people claiming benefits has surged to 2.7 million and two-thirds of a million fewer people are working now compared to March and yet for all that, this is far from a labour market in freefall. New jobs are being created, and in the three months to the end of September, the total number of vacancies jumped at a record-breaking pace,” he noted.

“Indeed’s data shows that the sector burning brightest is construction. A mini-boom in building has seen the number of construction jobs listed on the site jump by 267% between May and the start of October,” he added.

Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said the damage from COVID-19 is now becoming much clearer following revisions to the data after the ONS realised its data collection methodology, which changed as a result of lockdown restrictions, was overly favouring homeowners rather than renters.

“Following re-weighting, the ONS estimates that the three-month rolling measure of employment in August was 1.5% below its March peak, greatly exceeding the mere 0.5% shortfall in July under the old methodology. That resolves some of the discrepancy with the new PAYE data, which show that the number of payroll employees was 2.4% below its January peak in September, despite edging up by 0.1% from August’s level. The remaining discrepancy appears to reflect some households still believing that they have a job waiting for them, but who have not received pay recently,” Tombs said.

“Looking ahead, it remains likely that job losses will accumulate in October, ahead of the wind-down of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the end of the month. The ONS’s Business Impact of Covid-19 found that 9.4% of employees still were on the furlough scheme in the two weeks to September 20. The successor scheme, the Job Support Scheme, will do little to hold back the tide of redundancies, as it requires firms to make up one-third of the shortfall in pay of any former full-time workers that they employ on a part-time basis, so that the employee also receives a wage contribution from the government,” Tombs observed.

“Firms that are currently struggling, therefore, are better off employing only a few staff members full-time, instead of attempting to preserve headcounts by employing many workers part-time. Meanwhile, staff that are fired will struggle to find work, given that the official measure of job vacancies still was down 39% year-over-year in September, unchanged from August,” he noted.

The FTSE 100, which had been expected to open around 20 points higher, is now expected to start little changed.

Proactive news headlines:

Oncimmune Holdings PLC (LON:ONC) said it has signed a commercial agreement with the world-renowned Cedars-Sinai healthcare group to provide antibody profiling for coronavirus (COVID-19) samples. Specifically, Oncimmune will analyse serum samples from staff exposed to or infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It will then identify biomarkers of the disease and compare these to a control set of healthy patient samples.

BlueRock Diamonds PLC (LON:BRD) has confirmed a significant increase in production at the Kareevlei diamond mine, in the Kimberley region of South Africa. A production report for the third quarter reveals a 34% increase with a new company record of 123,727 tonnes sorted, up from 92,483 tonnes in the comparative period on 2019. Kareevlei yielded some 5,577 carats in the three-month period, up 40% from 3,973 in the same quarter last year. The grade was reported at 4.51 carats per hundred tonne.

Ncondezi Energy Limited (LON:NCCL) has said it is appointing Scott Fletcher, the group’s largest shareholder, to its board. Fletcher has built his position in the company by primarily buying in the market and in recent fundraisings, and is uniquely placed to represent investors’ interests at board level.

Capital Limited (LON:CAPD) has reported higher revenue in its third-quarter amid an uptick in the utilisation of its fleet of mining rigs. In an update for the three months to September 30, 2020, the Africa-focused mining services company reported revenues of US$35.3mln, up 20.1% year-on-year, while the company’s fleet utilisation rate increased by 17.3% to 61% as a result of increased exploration drilling activities.

Immotion Group PLC (LON:IMMO) said it has reached an agreement with the Mandalay Bay resort and casino in Las Vegas to extend the contract for its Undersea Explorer virtual reality (VR) theatre from a term of 18 months from opening to 30 months. The VR entertainment specialist said the new deal will mean the contract for the 36-seat VR theatre and immersive experience centre will run until February 2023, having started operations on August 1, 2020.

MaxCyte Inc (LON:MXCT) has announced three senior appointments that it said “bolstered the leadership team”. Key among them was the promotion of Brad Calvin to the role of chief commercial officer after a successful stint as the cell therapy specialist’s vice president of commercial operations. MaxCyte announced two further appointments – Sarah Haecker Meeks, who has joined as vice president, business development, while Steve Nardi has been appointed vice president of the firm’s manufacturing and engineering operations.

Cornish Lithium Ltd has gone live to the public on the crowdfunding site Crowdcube, with the aim of raising GBP1.5mln to progress its work in Cornwall. The company opened up the opportunity to pre-registered investors yesterday at 9am and within 30 minutes of this opportunity being offered the amount raised had broken through the target of GBP1.5 million and the total continued to rise throughout the day, hitting GBP3 million within three hours. The company is now deciding how much additional funding to accept and when to close the funding round. Cornish Lithium believes that additional funding can further accelerate its work programme in Cornwall, thus creating additional value for shareholders.

Shanta Gold (LON:SHG) has revealed the results of a scoping study for its West Kenya gold project in Kenya. The study envisages an operation that will produce 949,000 ounces over the life of the mine at an all-in sustaining cost of US$850 per ounce, inclusive of pre-production costs. Cash costs were set at US$582 per ounce. The cost to construct the mine was pegged at US$161mln.

NQ Minerals PLC (AQSE:NQMI) (OTCQB:NQMLF) (OTCQB:NQMIY) has filed quarterly production and financial results for its wholly-company, Hellyer Gold Mines Pty Ltd for the quarter ending September 30, 2020. The company owns the Hellyer mine in Australia. Lead concentrate production, at 11,865 tonnes of concentrate, was up 35% from the previous quarter and up 78% compared to the same quarter last year. Zinc concentrate production was up 8% from the previous quarter, at 4,585 tonnes of concentrate, and up 38% compared to the same quarter last year. Unaudited net revenue from Hellyer for the quarter was A$19.1mln and gross profit realised for the quarter was A$10.7mln.

Feedback PLC (LON:FDBK) said the switch to focusing on its flagship Bleepa product has gone a lot more swiftly and smoothly than expected. Reporting results for the financial year to the end of May 2020, the medical imaging specialist said the period was characterised by a move away from older products, such as the TexRAD product, and towards the emerging mobile medical market which has significant potential for growth. The company’s focus is now on Bleepa, an application for clinical staff to securely send and view medical images in real-time on their phones and mobile devices. The shift away from TexRAD did mean full-year revenue slipped to GBP450,000 from GBP563,000 the year before, however, while the group’s loss before tax widened to GBP1.41mln from GBP1.13mln the previous year.

Sareum Holdings PLC (LON:SAR), the small molecule therapeutics specialist, has said it expects to hear this month whether it will receive grant funding for preliminary studies of a coronavirus (COVID-19) anti-inflammatory. An application has been submitted to the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to fund preliminary laboratory studies into whether TYK2/JAK1 inhibitors can alleviate the “cytokine storm” and other potentially fatal respiratory symptoms of COVID-19. If the grant application is successful, initial studies will begin shortly thereafter said Sareum in its statement of results for the year to end June.

Sareum also announced that, further to today’s final results, Dr Tim Mitchell will deliver a live online presentation to investors via the Investor Meet Company (IMC) platform at 10.00am on Friday, October 16, 2020. Existing and potential investors wishing to participate in the presentation should register with IMC at: www.investormeetcompany.com/sareum-holdings-plc/register-investor. Investors who have already registered with IMC and requested to meet the company will be invited automatically. A copy of the presentation will be made available on the company’s website following the presentation.

FastForward Innovations Ltd (LON:FFWD) said it has raised additional funds in a share placing to “move swiftly into a number of new positions” to continue its investment strategy. The investment group said it has raised around GBP2mln through the placing of 23.5mln new shares at a price of 8.5p each, a 12.8% discount to its closing price last Friday, the last business day prior to the completion of the placing, and a 4% discount to its most recently published net asset value (NAV) of 8.82p. The company has also issued one warrant for every two placing shares that will allow the holder to subscribe for one further share for 12.75p.

Europa Oil & Gas Holdings PLC (LON:EOG) chief executive Simon Oddie has said he is confident that positive momentum can be carried behind its various projects. In its final results statement, for the year ended July 31, 2020, Europa noted that UK onshore production is due to double and it has refocused its Irish offshore exploration portfolio on lower risk gas targets. Meanwhile, the company also entered Morocco during the year with the receipt of an 11,228 square kilometre licence.

Solo Oil PLC (LON:SOLO) chief executive Tom Reynolds has declared the company delighted with the news that partner Aminex PLC (LON:AEX) has received approval from the Tanzanian government for its farm-out transaction for the Ruvuma project. It allows ARA Petroleum to take a 50% interest in the project and become operator of the project. Solo, which retains 25% of Ruvuma, said the transaction’s approval marks a key development in the company’s ongoing sales process for its assets in Tanzania.

Quixant PLC (LON:QXT), a leading provider of specialised computing platforms and monitors for gaming and slot machine applications, has said it was informed on October 12, 2020, that Jon Jayal, its chief executive officer purchased 4,191 ordinary shares of 0.1p each in the company at a price of 119.00p per each and 4,156 ordinary shares at a price of 120.0p each. Following the purchases, the group noted, Jayal is beneficially interested in 383,547 Quixant ordinary shares, representing approximately 0.58% of the company’s issued share capital.

Cadogan Petroleum PLC (LON:CAD) has announced that its CEO, Fady Khallouf, on October 9, 2020, purchased 100,000 ordinary shares of GBP0.03 each in the capital of the company, on the London Stock Exchange at a price of GBP0.026 each. Following this purchase, it noted that Khallouf holds in total 8,242,031 shares representing 3.37 % of the company.

Alien Metals Limited (LON:UFO), a minerals exploration and development company, said that, following the receipt of an warrant exercise notice, it has issued 1,875,000 ordinary shares of no par value in the capital of the company at an issue price of 0.15p per share.

SDX Energy PLC (LON:SDX), the MENA-focused oil and gas company, has announced that it will be hosting a retail investor conference call at 3.00pm (BST) on Thursday October 22, 2020. The call will provide an update on operations and guidance while also providing a question and answer session for investors. Should investors wish to participate in the event, they should email: [email protected]

Eden Research PLC (LON:EDEN) has announced that its registered office address has changed with immediate effect to 67C Innovation Drive, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England, OX14 4RQ. Going forward, all formal notices and general correspondence should be sent to the new address. The change follows Eden’s recently reported move to its new laboratory and office facilities in Milton Park, one of Europe’s leading science and technology communities.

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) the AIM-listed metals exploration and development company has announced the launch of a website gallery providing images and videos of the Molopo Farms Complex project in south-west Botswana. The gallery, which currently hosts images of the preparation of the site for drilling commencement, may be viewed through the following link: https://www.powermetalresources.com/gallery/7/molopo-farms-complex-botswana. Further images and videos will be added to the gallery as the drill programme progresses.

6.50am: Footsie to rally

The FTSE 100 is expected to enjoy a rebound at Tuesday’s open tracking gains by US stocks, though UK unemployment numbers could sour the mood.

London’s blue-chip benchmark was called 20 points higher to 6,023 by traders at spread-betting platform IG, a day after the index fell 15 points or 0.25%.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Industrials Average Jones added over 250 points, or 0.9% to 28,837.52, with the S&P 500 jumping 1.6% and the Nasdaq Composite surging 2.6%.

The US stock indices are not far off their all-time highs hit early last month.

“Yesterday’s move higher in US markets appears to be predicated on the belief that whoever wins in next month’s Presidential election, there will be a sizable fiscal stimulus package coming down the pipe, with the only unknown being around the size of any deal,” said Michael Hewson at CMC Markets

“While this seems an eminently sensible point of view, after all whoever takes over will have enormous challenges to deal with, the reality is that a Biden presidency will in all likelihood see a lot of new regulation and red tape, which could well hit the Big Tech sector disproportionately, something that investors appear content to ignore for the time being.”

For investors focused on the UK, at 7am the latest snapshot of the UK labour market will land.

It’s likely to be “a sobering read”, said Hewson, with unemployment numbers showing show more of the fallout effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ILO unemployment rate is expected to rise to 4.1% from 3.9% and the Office for National Statistics has also said that a change of methodology in the latest numbers could well see the headline number jump quite sharply, with a number above the 4.3% consensus a real possibility.

Around the markets:

  • Pound: down 0.1% to US$1.3051
  • Gold: down 0.4% to US$1,916.54
  • Oil: Brent crude down 0.4% to US$41.88

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Asia-Pacific markets were mixed on Tuesday even as China’s exports hit a record in September by rising 9.9% compared to a year ago.

However, the Shanghai composite had shed about 0.23% by noon as the growth in exports fell short of analyst expectations of a 10% year-on-year growth as per a Reuters poll.

Hong Kong’s stock market were closed today as a tropical storm prompted authorities to shutter businesses and close schools.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 added 0.11% while South Korea’s Kospi declined 0.33%.

Australia led gains among the region’s major markets, with the S&P/ASX 200 rising about 1.2% to hit a new seven-month intra-day high.


Proactive Australia news:

Anson Resources Ltd (ASX:ASN) has been as much as 25% higher after identifying three major targets at The Bull Project in Western Australia, which adjoins the high-grade Julimar nickel-copper-PGE discovery made by Chalice Gold Mines (ASX:CHN).

Twenty Seven Co Ltd (ASX:TSC) has finished drilling of 33 holes for 2,043 metres testing four main areas for gold at the Rover Project in WA’s Goldfields.

Predictive Discovery Ltd (ASX:PDI) has hit up to 92 metres at 1.9 g/t gold in diamond drilling at the flagship Bankan Project in Guinea, demonstrating a large gold mineralised body which may contribute to a planned mineral resource estimate in mid-2021.

Comet Resources Limited (ASX:CRL) has revealed a maiden 88,600-ounce JORC-compliant mineral resource estimate for Santa Teresa High-Grade Gold Project in Baja California, Mexico.

Auroch Minerals Ltd (ASX:AOU) has detected a strong off-hole conductor coincident with the base of the modelled channel after completing down-hole electromagnetic (DHEM) surveys on reverse circulation (RC) drill holes at Valdez prospect, which is part of the Leinster Nickel Project in Western Australia.

American Rare Earths Ltd (ASX:ARR) is focused on transforming from explorer to developer with its world-class La Paz Rare Earth Project in Arizona, USA, as the sector continues to evolve and domestic supply is prioritised in the US.

Marvel Gold Ltd (ASX:MVL) is confident of the potential of its advanced exploration projects in West Africa, with the recent release of the JORC mineral resource estimate for Tabakorole Gold Project and a 3,800 metre systematic drilling program underway at Lakanfla Gold Project.

King River Resources Ltd (ASX:KRR) continues to enhance a pre-feasibility study (PFS) assessing the production of high-purity alumina (HPA) from Speewah Specialty Metals Project in the Eastern Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Tempest Minerals Ltd (ASX:TEM) expects to begin drilling this week at its 100%-owned Warriedar West Gold Project in Western Australia targeting intrusion-related gold system (IRGS) mineralisation.

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