FTSE 100 slumps as “Locktober” becomes a reality

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  • FTSE 100 drops 115 points
  • NASDAQ Composite to continue to defy gravity
  • Dow Jones and S&P to slump as hopes of a stimulus deal fade

12.20pm: US equities to open lower on balance as stimulus hopes fade

The FTSE 100 remains deep in you know what but how are US indices shaping up? Not much better, since you ask.

Of course, the tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite remains a maverick, looking to open 50 points higher at 11,819 but the Dow Jones industrial average is tipped to tumble 252 points to 28,262 and the S&P 500 is slated to slump 34 points to 3,455.

The talks on a fiscal stimulus for the US economy have not been going on anywhere near as long as the Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU but they seem to be making progress at the same sclerotic pace and that has hit sentiment in equity markets.

“After months of talks, the Democrats and Republicans still can’t agree on a critical support package that could make life very hard for businesses and households in the coming months. [US Treasury Secretary] Steve Mnuchin’s admission that a package is unlikely before the election was a blow to the markets, one they’re struggling to pick themselves up from,” said OANDA’s Craig Erlam.

“Of course, no stimulus before the election doesn’t mean none at all, in fact, it could be much larger if, as polls suggest, Democrats enjoy a clean sweep in the election but a lot of damage – some irreversible – could occur in the interim, it’s far from a desirable outcome,” he added.

The third-quarter earnings season is now in full-flow, which may provide some cheer for traders keen to invest in equities.

Morgan Stanley will post its third-quarter numbers today. The bulk of the major US banks published their latest quarterly numbers this week and traders will be looking for how the company performed with respect to trading, asset management investment banking. In the second quarter, Morgan Stanley’s trading division saw a surge in revenue, the investment banking fees were strong too, while the asset management business posted a relatively small rise in revenue,” said David Madden at CMC.

“Walgreens Boots Alliance is due to release its fourth-quarter numbers today. The group’s third-quarter numbers were not well received was 83 cents, and that massively undershot the $1.17 consensus estimate. The group blamed a jump in Covid-related costs for the very disappointing earnings metric. Traders will be looking out for the groups cost-cutting plans,” Madden suggested.

Back in the UK, it’s still a bit of a bloodbath but some of the bleeding has been staunched. The FTSE 100 was down 115 points (1.9%) with industrial software group AVEVA Group PLC (LON:AVV) and Asia-focused bank Standard Charrtered PLC (LON:STAN) joining fast-food delivery specialist Just Eat Takeaway.com NV (LON:JET) in a very select group of Footsie constituents making headway today.

11:55am: IG sees GBP/USD pushing higher

The GBP/USD price remained unmoved by the lack of progress in Brexit negotiations, and while it was unable to recover the 50-day simple moving average (SMA) at $1.3023 it finds itself back there in early trading today.

The pair has continued to hold rising trendline support from the September low, and having surpassed the mid-September high the price may now continue to push on above $1.31. A drop back below $1.29 negates this view.

11.45am: Credit scoring criteria for secured loans to households tightened in the June-August quarter

Lenders reported that the availability of secured credit to households increased slightly in the three months to end-August 2020, according to the Bank of England.

The central bank’s survey of credit conditions revealed that lenders expect the availability of secured credit to remain unchanged over the next three months to end-November.

Credit scoring criteria for secured loans to households tightened in the June-August quarter and were expected to tighten slightly in the current quarter.

Demand for secured lending for house purchase increased in the July-August quarter, but demand for secured lending for remortgaging decreased over the same period. Demand for secured lending for house purchase was expected to remain unchanged in the current quarter but demand for secured lending for remortgaging was expected to increase slightly.

The overall demand for unsecured lending decreased in the July-August quarter but was expected to increase in the current quarter Within the overall figure, demand for credit card lending decreased but demand for other unsecured lending increased slightly in the June-August quarter. Demand for both credit cards and other unsecured lending was expected to increase over the next quarter.

Lenders reported that demand for corporate lending from small businesses increased during the June to August period, whereas demand from medium and large private non-financial corporations decreased over the same period.

Demand for corporate lending was expected to decrease for small and large businesses in the current quarter but was expected to increase slightly for medium-sized businesses.

The FTSE 100 was down 127 points (2.1%) at 5,808.

10.00am: COVID-19 and Brexit have investors in a pincer movement

Just one Footsie constituent – Just Eat Takeaway.com NV (LON:JET) – was in positive territory as fears over the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit executive a pincer attack.

The FTSE 100 was down 130 points (2.2%) at 5,805, with hotels owner Whitbread PLC (LON:WTB) and British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines SA (LON:IAG) still leading the retreat.

The former is down 5.6% at 2,120p and the latter is off 4.5% at 93.82p, as the rapid increase in new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and new lockdown restrictions being brought in throughout Europe set alarm bells ringing again.

“In the UK, the government in Northern Ireland set out its plans for its own mini 4-week lockdown, while the Welsh government was making plans to close the border with England. All the while the UK government is meeting resistance to its plans to implement tighter restrictions in the cities of Manchester and Liverpool,” said CMC’s Michael Hewson.

In Europe last week, 700,000 new cases were reported, which is the largest weekly increase since the pandemic took hold.

Talking of Europe, the European Union summit kicks off today and the focus will be on Brexit.

“The progress in trade talks is still not sufficient to seal a new trade deal, but we do not believe in the UK’s threat to stop negotiating after the EU summit. Yesterday, we also got signals that the UK will not walk away from the table immediately,” Danske Bank said.

Ahead of the summit, there is little to suggest that a deal will, in fact, be reached in the coming days with fishing among other things remaining an outstanding issue. However, we suspect that a deal will be reached in November and that a ‘no deal’ scenario should be of little concern in the very near term.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, the Office for National Statistics has just reported that the number of business closures in the third quarter was actually slightly lower than the average over the last three years.

Is that because the UK is running out of businesses to go bust?

8.45am: Batten down the hatches

The FTSE 100 took a beating at the open on Thursday with the triple-digit loss prompted by fading prospects for a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, coupled with further chaos around lockdown restrictions.

The index of UK blue-chips was off 109 points in the early exchanges at 5,825.64.

Talks are underway for new curbs across England with Manchester and Lancashire on ‘high alert’. And with what increasingly looks like a gigantic game of Covid whack-a-mole ongoing, the prospects of a short, sharp ‘circuit-breaker’ hiatus for the whole country looks increasingly likely.

Indeed, one paper puts the likelihood of a half-term, two-week incarceration at 80%.

Further afield, the prospects for additional US stimulus to jump-start the world’s largest economy look to be slim to zero (and slim just left town).

All in all, it was a fairly gloomy start to the trading day in the Square Mile.

No surprises at the names of the big fallers – they were the leading lights in the travel, hospitality and leisure sectors.

Whitbread (LON:WTB) topped the losers’ list with the Premier Inn owner down 4.4% in the opening exchanges.

Not far behind was British Airways and Iberia parent IAG (LON:IAG), which was off 4.1% as the prospects for an early vaccine were dashed by clinical trial delays. No vaccine means little or no international travel, remember.

The banks largely weathered the rather gloomy earnings season for their American counterparts.

AO World (LON:AO.) punctuated the gloom with its stock soaring 14.3% following a 57% surge in first-half revenues from the online white goods retailer.

It followed in the footsteps of ASOS (LON:ASC) and Just Eat (LON:JET) in revealing just how far normal, every day buying activities have transferred online, hastened by the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited access to stores and restaurants.

Proactive news headlines:

Ariana Resources PLC (LON:AAU) has cheered a maiden JORC-compliant resource for the Magellan project in Cyprus. The company has an earn-in deal for the project, which will see it acquire up to 50% of the asset. Magellan is now estimated to host some 8.5mln tonnes of mineralisation with a copper grade of 0.63% along with the additional potential for gold, silver and zinc. An exploration target has, meanwhile, been formalised between 2.7mln and 8.5mln tonnes at grades between 0.5 and 0.8 grams per tonne, for some 42,000 to 216,000 ounces, plus between 3.3 and 8.2 g/t silver, for 297,000 to 2.21mln ounces.

IQ-AI Limited (LON:IQAI) has launched its latest application on-time and into a multi-billion dollar market. IB Stroke process both MR and CT perfusion image sets of stroke victims. In doing so, the software can be used by clinicians to help determine the usefulness of treating the patient with clot-busting drugs. This approach can potentially save oxygen-starved brain tissue but brings it a host of potential side-effects, the med-tech group said.

discoverIE Group PLC (LON:DSCV) is to resume paying dividends now that the outlook for the designer and supplier of customised electronics is improving. The group, reporting on trading in the six months to the end of September, 2020, said that the business had been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic but noted that orders in both September and October were ahead of sales. The group exited the first half of its financial year with orders up 6% year-on-year on a like-for-like or organic basis. Half-year sales were down 6% year-on-year, or 8% on an organic basis.

Frontier IP Group PLC (LON:FIPP) said its portfolio firm, The Vaccine Group (TVG), has signed a collaboration deal with the Pirbright Institute and ECO Animal Health Group PLC (LON:EAH) to develop a vaccine to combat porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome virus (PRRSV), one of the most economically damaging diseases in the global pig industry. Under the terms of the deal, ECO Animal Health will fund an 18-month development project that will see TVG use its novel vaccine technology as a platform for two prototype PRRSV vaccines. Meanwhile, Pirbright, a world-leading centre of excellence in controlling viral diseases of livestock and viruses that spread from animal to humans, will supply the PRRSV genes and conduct animal trials for the vaccines to test their effectiveness.

Supermarket Income REIT PLC (LON:SUPR) said it has received 100% of its contracted September quarterly rent payments. That means it has now received all of its contracted rent for 2020 to date, the trust said. Supermarket Income invests in sites occupied by major supermarket chains such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Waitrose, all of which have seen sales surge due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Bango PLC (LON:BGO), the data-driven e-commerce specialist, has appointed a regional vice-president to support the expansion of its business in south-east Asia. Man Pham, who joins Bango from carrier billing aggregator Fortumo, will work with Bango customers and partners to expand coverage and increase customer acquisition activities worldwide. Elsewhere, Keisuke Kishida has joined the Tokyo-based team with a brief to maximise the success of global merchants (including Amazon) that use the Bango Platform to grow faster.

Avation PLC (LON:AVAP) has updated investors on the status of its commercial aircraft fleet and some lease transactions as it continues to manage its portfolio and liquidity amid the coronavirus pandemic. In an update, the firm said it has retained the core complement of commercial, legal, financial and technical skillsets and personnel to ensure it has the resources needed for a lessor platform in the post-coronavirus recovery phase, adding that the impact of the pandemic on the air transport sector has been “material” and that it is managing its portfolio and liquidity “as efficiently as possible”. Since the start of the pandemic, Avation said it has completed 12 aircraft transactions including lease extensions, aircraft sales and the origination of new leases. Meanwhile, the firm said two Fokker 100 aircraft were sold off the end of their leases, with the sale completed in September.

Clear Leisure PLC (LON:CLP) has issued an update to investors regarding claims relating to its historical assets and PBV Monitor, in which it owns a 10% interest. The AIM-listed firm said the third court hearing in respect of its EUR10.8mln legal action against the former directors and internal audit committee of Sipiem has now been held in the Venice Court, and that the judge has ruled that an independent expert should be appointed to assess the value of the damages claimed by Sipiem with each party having the right to appoint their own experts. Clear Leisure said its lawyers consider the appointment as a positive development in the court process and that it remains confident of the “strong foundation” of its claim.

Synairgen PLC (LON:SNG) said it has successfully concluded an GBP80mln share placing, providing the financial backing to take its lead drug through final-stage clinical trials in patients with severe coronavirus (COVID-19). The cash will also be invested in scale-up activities to produce 100,000 treatment courses per month next year. And it will be used to generate further data to support SNG001’s clinical development, manufacturing and the input needed during the regulatory process. The company could receive a further GBP7mln from an open offer of stock to investors that did not take part in the placing in which shares were sold at 175p each.

Solo Oil PLC (LON:SOLO), soon to be relaunched as Scirocco Energy, is to issue US$425,000 worth of new equity after the subscriber in June’s lending facility issued a part-settlement notice. It comes after a strong rally in Solo’s share price as joint venture partner Aminex unlocked the Ruvuma joint venture project after the Tanzanian government approved a farm-out transaction with ARA Petroleum. An investment facility via Prolific Basins LLC – a US-based specialist energy-focused investor – was entered into at the end of June. Some US$1mln has been drawn under the facility to date. Today, Solo told investors that the subscriber has issued a settlement notice for US$425,000. Solo has issued some 35.8mln new shares to the subscriber, with a deemed price of 0.92p each (Wednesday’s closing price: 2.38p).

Caledonia Mining Corporation PLC (LON:CMCL) said it has received notification that on October 13, 2020, the interest of Sales Promotion Services S.A., being a significant shareholder in the company has reduced to 663,773 shares representing 5.48% of the total issued share capital. No other details regarding the decrease have been disclosed to the company. The holder notified Caledonia on June 26, 2019, that it held an interest in 848,773 shares which, as at that date, represented 7.89% of the company’s total issued share capital. Caledonia announced on November 13, 2017, that it had been informed that the beneficial owner of Sales Promotion Services S.A. is Heinrich Auwarter.

First Sentinel Plc (LON:FSEN) said it has raised GBP1,500,000 from the issue of bonds at GBP1 each to an institutional investor, the sixth tranche of bonds to be issued. The company announced on June 27, 2019, that it intended to issue up to GBP7,000,000 sterling-denominated 7.5% Secured Bonds due May 31, 2024. It further announced that it expected to issue the bonds in tranches over the course of 2019 and 2020 as and when further funds are raised. The bonds are redeemable each year. The issue of this sixth tranche will bring the total bonds in issue to 2,907,042. First Sentinel also announced that it has redeemed 75,000 AQSE Bonds. The redemption price, comprising the principal amount and accrued interest, has been repaid to investors in full. A total of 427,118 AQSE Bonds have been bought back and are currently held in treasury.

Iconic Labs PLC (LON:ICON), a multidivisional new media and technology business, has announced that, as part of the process of negotiations with European High Growth Opportunities Fund (EHGOF) in respect of the debts owed to EHGOF, the company has formally terminated all contracts and other arrangements between the company and EHGOF, with immediate effect. This is consistent with and follows from the company’s previously announced intention not to issue any further drawdown notices under the EHGOF facility. Notwithstanding the termination, the accrued debt to EHGOF remains, and negotiations in respect of the settlement of this debt continue. The company said it will provide further updates in due course.

APQ Global Limited (LON:APQ) has announced that as at the close of business on September 30, 2020, the AIM-listed investment group’s unaudited book value per ordinary share was 26.31 US cents, equivalent to 20.35p.

Jersey Oil and Gas PLC (LON:JOG) has illustrated and shared its ambitions for its flagship UK North Sea development project, with a new corporate video entitled ‘The Buchan Oil Field – A New Beginning’. “We are very pleased to share our vision for the potential future production of the iconic Buchan oil field, the core part of our development plans for the wider Greater Buchan Area. JOG is planning for a low carbon, sustainable oil development, supporting the required energy transition phase and the UK economy for many years to come,” said Andrew Benitz, Jersey chief executive in a statement. ‘The Buchan Oil Field – A New Beginning Corporate’ video is available to view on the company’s website at https://www.jerseyoilandgas.com/media/videos/

6.50am: Down again for Footsie

The FTSE 100 is set to start Thursday on the back foot as coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions tighten across the UK and Europe.

London’s blue-chip benchmark is called around 36 points lower by CFD and spreadbetting firm IG which is making the price 5,902 to 5,905 with just over an hour to go until the open.

It follows a downbeat close for Wall Street, led lower by health care and pharma stocks as increasingly the view emerges that vaccine development won’t be as easy as some may have hoped.

The Dow Jones Industrials Average fell 165 points or 0.58% to close at 28,514 whilst the S&P 500 dropped 0.66% to 3,488.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq fell further to finish 0.8% lower at 11,768 and the small-cap-focused Russell 2,000 index was down 0.93% closing at 1,621.

Asian stocks also retreated on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was off 124 points or 0.53% at 23,502, whilst Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 1.13%, though the Shanghai Composite was only a sliver lower at 3,339.

In the UK, investor sentiment is slipping as regional restriction changes move a jig-saw lockdown nearer and nearer.

Northern Ireland has executed a 4-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, Wales is preparing to close the border to England. In the North West of England, the government is griping restrictions tighter in Liverpool and Manchester.

The unconformity of approach to the restrictions and a degree of resistance among certain portions of the public create a greater sense of uncertainty in this latest wave of the pandemic, and increasingly that is being played out in the stock market.

“If there was unanimity with respect to the March lockdown, there is anything but in today’s climate, with the air thick with mutiny,” said Michael Hewson, senior analyst at CMC Markets.

He added: “With the prospect of an imminent US stimulus plan diminishing by the day, rising infection rates prompting tighter restrictions across Europe, and little prospect of a vaccine before the middle of next year, is it any wonder that investors are starting to get a little twitchy, with European markets set to open lower this morning.”

Around the markets:

  • The pound: US$1.3023, up 0.08%
  • Gold: US$1,898 per ounce, down 0.11%
  • Silver: US$24.17 per ounce, down 0.28%
  • Brent crude: US$43.35 per barrel, up 2.12%
  • WTI crude: US$41.08 per barrel, up 2.18%
  • Bitcoin: US$11,395, down 0.02%

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mostly lower on Thursday with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dipping 1.08% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 falling 0.51%.

South Korea’s Kospi fell 1% while China’s Shanghai Composite gained 0.19%.

Shares in Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.50% after the Reserve Bank of Australia hinted at the possibility of another interest rate cut to support the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 recession.


Proactive Australia news:

Pure Minerals Ltd (ASX:PM1) has soared 77% after entering a non-binding MOU with LG Chem Ltd for the supply of nickel and cobalt from the TECH Project of its wholly-owned subsidiary Queensland Pacific Metals Pty Ltd (QPM).

CV Check Ltd (ASX:CV1) is trading higher on signing the first international wholesale customer for its best-of-breed screening and verification solution under a strategic white label rollout.

Buru Energy Limited (ASX:BRU) achieved a stronger than expected test oil flow from the Reeves interval of Ungani Far West 1 well in WA’s Canning Basin with initial test flow rates of approximately 270 barrels of oil per day.

Adriatic Metals PLC (ASX:ADT) (LON: ADT1) (OTCMKTS:ADMLF) has delivered positive and robust pre-feasibility study (PFS) results for the Vares high-grade silver project in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

American Rare Earths Ltd‘s (ASX:ARR) wholly-owned US subsidiary Western Rare Earths is set to begin drilling next month at the La Paz Rare Earth Project in Arizona, USA.

Australian Strategic Materials Ltd (ASX:ASM) has produced 8.6 kilograms of high-purity zirconium metal at the commercial pilot plant of subsidiary Ziron Technology Corporation in South Korea.

Anson Resources Ltd (ASX:ASN) has received high-grade uranium and vanadium results from XRF sampling during the initial uranium and vanadium exploration program at its 100%-owned Yellow Cat Project in the Thompson District of Grand County, Utah, USA.

Infinity Lithium Corporation Ltd‘s (ASX:INF) (FRA:3PM) cash balance has been boosted after raising more than $2.41 million in an entitlement offer and shortfall with funds to advance the company’s strategy to help satisfy Europe’s increasing demand for lithium through its integrated San Jose project in Spain.

MGM Wireless Ltd (ASX:MWR) has launched SPACETALK Life – a breakthrough, all-in-one wearable 4G smartphone, watch and GPS device targeted at older people to keep them safe and connected.

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