FTSE 100 gets its collapse in early as lock-down fears grow

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  • FTSE 100 index drops 80 points
  • Shoe Zone slides as it warns of more shop closures
  • BRC reports a 1.2% month-on-month decline in retail prices in October

10.15am: UK shop prices fall in October

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), prices in UK shops fell by 1.2% in October after falling 3.2% in September.

Prices for non-food items eased 2.7% month-on-month.

“As the retail industry began to see sales bounce back, non-food prices saw the shallowest decline since the start of the pandemic; however, given the wider economic context, with stricter restrictions and a possible rise in unemployment, we are likely to see continuing discounts in non-food for months to come,” said Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC.

“Meanwhile, food inflation remained low as supermarkets fiercely competed with one another to offer the best quality goods at the lowest prices,” she added.

The FTSE 100 was down 80 points (1.4%) at 5,649.

9.50am: Markets prepare for World Woe II

Instead of gradually drifting lower throughout the day as it did on Monday and Tuesday, the Footsie has got its big fall in early today.

London’s benchmark of blue-chip shares was down 96 points (1.7%) at 5,633 as the second wave of lock-downs looms.

“Investors are waking up to the risks associated with a second wave in the coronavirus pandemic,” said AJ Bell’s investment director, Russ Mould.

“News that France is considering a full-scale national lockdown amid surging cases is unsurprisingly spooking the markets with Germany among other European countries also looking at tighter measures and with the number of infections and hospitalisations mounting in the UK, pressure will likely mount on the Government to follow suit.

“Companies which just about scraped through in the spring may not survive another period without any business despite the generous state support which has been announced,” Mould said.

Talking of companies scraping by, the shares of retailer Shoe Zone PLC (LON:SHOE) got a kicking after its full-year trading update.

The shares lost around a sixth of their value at 38p after the company warned that more shop closures were likely should business rates be reintroduced.

Clay bricks manufacturer Ibstock PLC (LON:IBST) was another company hit by lockdown restrictions earlier this year but it said in its trading update that demand for its products in the third quarter had returned to about 90% of pre-COVID levels, which did not stop the shares sliding 10% to 160.2p.

“During the peak of the lockdown, the group took steps to trim costs and mothball older, less efficient factories. That could prove crucial in the months ahead, as a gloomy economic outlook doesn’t usually bode well for construction activity. We also think debt reduction is likely to remain a priority for the group in the near future – which might hold back investment in new capacity and dividend payments to shareholders; however, in such a cyclical industry solid foundations are key,” said Nicolas Hyett, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

8.40am: World woes continue

The FTSE 100 index was part of a Europe-wide stock sell-off in early trading on Wednesday prompted by a global upsurge in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.

The index of UK blue-chips fell 84 points to 5,645.32.

The sharply lower open followed another shaky day for Wall Street, which appears to be suffering a bout of pre-election nerves.

Asia’s main markets, meanwhile, largely recovered from their early dose of the collywobbles.

Here at home, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly under pressure to sign-off on a new nationwide lockdown to at least partially mitigate the impact of a deadly winter COVID-19 second wave.

In France Emmanuel Macron could place his citizens under effective house arrest in the next 24 hours.

British Land (LON:BLND) and Land Securities (LON:LAND), owners of some of the UK’s prime office real estate, were each down 6% as the economic realities of a return to home working began to gnaw at sentiment.

Rolls Royce (LON:RR.) shares collapsed two-thirds in value as the shares issued as part of its deeply discounted £2bn rights issue began trading on the LSE.

Next (LON:NXT) was one of only four early risers as it bucked the market trend to nudge ahead less than a percentage point after the retailer lifted its earnings guidance after posting better than expected third-quarter sales.

“Christmas has not quite come early for Next, but the signs are promising ahead of the important retail season,” Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

“The highlights of the update are unquestionably the revisions to net debt and, in particular, the projected profit estimate.”

Proactive news headlines:

Chariot Oil & Gas Limited (LON:CHAR) revealed it has received approaches from two parties interested in debt-financing the development of the Anchois gas discovery, offshore Morocco. The Africa Finance Corporation, a pan-African financial institution, has thrown its hat into the ring, saying it would be interested in financing the development of the Anchois discovery and future discoveries within the Lixus offshore licence. Chariot said it had also received a non-binding expression of interest for the provision of reserves-based lending for the development of the Anchois discovery from an unnamed multinational investment bank.

Sensyne Health PLC (LON:SENS) said it has extended its relationship with Microsoft to become a strategic partner of the US software giant with the pair working together on the former’s clinical AI and health cloud technologies. Practically, the enhanced tie-up is set to deliver the latest ‘cloud-first’ healthcare systems and cutting-edge predictive machine learning algorithms. With Microsoft’s help, Sensyne said it aims to create “highly configurable” healthcare technologies that are globally deployable and able to meet local, clinical and regulatory needs.

Itaconix PLC (LON:ITX) said the first half of the year saw the company’s proprietary sustainable chemistries increasingly used by major brands in everyday products. The sustainable speciality polymers specialist saw revenues in the six months to the end of June 2020, shoot up 80% to US$1.1mln from US$604,000 in the first half of 2019. The acceleration in revenues is the result of the continued broadening of the customer base and advancement in customer projects in the company’s major application areas, Itaconix said.

Franchise Brands PLC (LON:FRAN) has said it is confident of meeting current market expectations for its current year as the group highlighted a “steady recovery in trading” in its third-quarter from a second-quarter impacted by lockdown measures. In a trading update for the three months to September 30, 2020, the owner of the multi-brand business said its B2B division, which includes its Metro Rod, Metro Plumb, Willow Pumps and Kemac portfolio of drainage, plumbing and pump brands, said sales grew by an average of 8% per month from June onwards as the UK economy emerged from lockdown, and by September system sales were 9% higher than a year ago.  As a result, the division’s sales in the third quarter were down only 6% year-on-year, compared to a 30% decline for the division at the height of lockdown in April and May.

Red Rock Resources PLC (LON:RR.) has noted the announcements by Jupiter Mines Ltd (ASX:JMS), in which it has an investment, of its half-year results and dividend, plus the planned demerger, in specie distribution, and IPO of its iron ore assets. In a statement,  Red Rock chairman Andrew Bell commented: “Red Rock welcomes the planned demerger of Jupiter’s iron ore assets, and to receiving its share of the in specie distribution of NewCo shares. As the holder of a royalty over Jupiter’s Mt Ida iron ore asset, Red Rock would be a major beneficiary of any success by NewCo in the development of this Resource. After the recent appreciation of the Company’s holding in Power Metal Resources PLC, the Company’s listed holdings, which include the holding in Jupiter, have a current value of approximately £2.75mln.” 

Savannah Resources PLC (LON:SAV), which is developing Europe’s first lithium mine, said it has been encouraged by the increased focus being placed on the environment by governments. The company’s chairman, Matthew King, drew attention to an increasing number of governments prioritising “green” investment as a key part of economic recovery packages. “We believe Savannah, through its ownership of Mina do Barroso … is ideally placed to play an important role in these initiatives as the foundation for a new European industry,” King said in the company’s results statement covering the first half of 2020.

Oncimmune Holdings PLC (LON:ONC) said its EarlyCDT lung blood test will be part of a large-scale study in the US to assess its potential use in screening people with low-to-moderate risk lung nodules. Marketed in the States as Nodify CDT, the Oncimmune technology is being used alongside Nodify XL2 in the clinical assessment being carried out by partner Biodesix. The ALTITUDE trial will enrol a total of 2,000 with the first batch of 500 expected to be recruited in the first phase.

NextEnergy Solar Fund Limited (LON:NESF),  the solar power investment company, said electricity generation in the six months to end September 2020 had significantly exceeded expectations. Power from NESF’s solar portfolio was 11.1% above budget (2019: 5.0%) while irradiation exceeded expectations by 10.8% (2019: 4.8%). The fund also reaffirmed its full-year dividend target of 7.05p for the financial year ending March 31, 2021 (2019: 6.87p). 

Zoetic International PLC (LON:ZOE) said it has received a significant order under one of its existing contracts to roll out stock of its Chill range of tobacco substitute cannabidiol (CBD) products in a number of convenience stores across the US. In a trading update ahead of its annual general meeting later today, the CBD firm said the order was the latest demonstration of the attraction of its Chill brand and “marks the “crossing the Rubicon” to full commercialisation” following what it said was “excellent consumer feedback” during the beta phase.

Impax Asset Management Group PLC (LON:IPX) announced that its subsidiary, Impax Asset Management Limited (IAM) and BNP Paribas Asset Management Holding (BNPP) have agreed to update the arrangements under which BNPP and its affiliated companies provide marketing, introduction and other distribution services for IAM. The new arrangements are described in a distribution agreement, which will have a minimum term of four years, and which supersedes a previous Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the parties that has been in place since 2007, with subsequent modifications.  Impax Asset Management said there have been no material changes in the fees set out in the distribution agreement compared with those set out in the MoU.

Chaarat Gold PLC (LON:CGH) said it is changing focus to hit its production target this year due to the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is 150 kilometres from its Kapan gold mine in Armenia. Artem Volynets, Chaarat’s chief executive, said that In preparation for any possible operational disruptions during this current quarter it is targeting higher-grade ore at Kapan to offset potential lower capacity through the plant and to ensure that full-year guidance is met. In a statement, Volynets added: “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and events in our countries of operation have presented unprecedented challenges for Chaarat during this quarter.“

ANGLE PLC (LON:AG) (OTCQX:ANPCY) revealed after the close on Tuesday that it had successfully raised gross proceeds of £19.6mln via a conditional placing of shares to propel the company firmly into the commercial phase of its development. The group said 42,608,695 shares were placed at a price of 46p each with new and existing investors. ANGLE shares closed trade on Tuesday at 48.50p. In a statement announcing the placing results, ANGLE founder and chief executive, Andrew Newland, commented: “We are grateful for the strong support of existing and new shareholders. As well as strengthening the Company’s balance sheet, the proceeds from the Placing will allow us to progress commercialisation of our Parsortix system, whilst it is under substantive review with FDA.

i3 Energy PLC (LON:I3E), an independent oil and gas company with assets and operations in the UK and Canada, noted that Toscana Energy Income Corporation (TSX:TEI) announced on Tuesday that it has obtained a final order from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta approving the acquisition of Toscana by i3 Energy, as previously announced on June 23, 2020. In addition, Toscana held its annual and special meeting of Toscana shareholders in Calgary, Alberta on Tuesday at which the arrangement was approved by the shareholders. Closing of the arrangement is conditional on the approval by i3’s shareholders which is being sought at the i3 general meeting to be held at 10.00am on October 29, 2020.

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) the AIM-listed metals exploration and development company said it has received a notice to exercise warrants over 2,878,800 new ordinary shares of 0.1 pence each in the company at an exercise price of 1.0p each and subscription monies of £28,788 have been received by Power Metal in respect of these exercises.

Bezant Resources PLC (LON:BZT), the copper-gold exploration and development company, announced that under an exercise of warrants at a price of 0.16p per share in terms of the fundraising announced on June 19, 2020, it is issuing a total of 93,750,000 fully paid ordinary shares of 0.002p each in the company.

Remote Monitored Systems PLC (LON:RMS) said it has received notification to exercise a further 22,000,000 warrants at an exercise price of 0.5p each. The consideration received by the company will be £110,000.

Pan African Resources plc (LON:PAF) (JSE:PAN) has said its 2020 annual general meeting (AGM) will be held electronically on Thursday, November 26, 2020, at 11.00am UK time.

Litigation Capital Management Limited (LON:LIT), an alternative asset manager specialising in dispute financing solutions internationally, announced that it’s annual general meeting (AGM) for the year ended June 30, 2020, will be held in Sydney on November 19, 2020, at 9.00am AEDT (10.00pm GMT on November 18, 2020). Shareholders are able to access the virtual AGM using the following link: https://agmlive.link/LCA20. The company invites shareholders to submit questions in advance of the AGM by emailing them to [email protected] . Questions should be submitted by 10:00 am GMT on November 12, 2020.

Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (NASDAQ:TLSA) (LON:TILS), a biotechnology company focused on innovative therapeutics for oncology, inflammation and infectious diseases, confirmed on Tuesday the timetable for the demerger of its Accustem Sciences Limited business for holders of the company’s American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), with completion of the demerger expected on October 30, 2020, and the record date for holders of ADRs set as November 6, 2020. In a separate statement on Wednesday, Tiziana also revealed that it has allotted and issued 344,063 ordinary shares of 3p each credited as fully paid at prices between 66p and 80p per share in respect of the exercise of 344,063 warrants, yielding £234,300 in cash for the company.

6.50am: Worries mount up

The FTSE 100 is expected to open in negative territory on Wednesday as declines across global markets and worries over rising cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in multiple countries dent investor sentiment again in London.

Spread better IG expects the UK blue-chip index to open around 25 points lower after ending Tuesday’s session down 63 points at 5,729.

The expected weak start for the Footsie follows a mixed session on Wall Street on Tuesday as jitters over the pandemic and the end of any hopes for fresh US government stimulus before next week’s election weakened confidence.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.8% at 27,463 on Tuesday, while the S&P 500 fell 0.3% to 3,390. The one positive performer was the Nasdaq Composite, which managed to end the session up 0.6% at 11,431.

Markets in Asia were also mixed on Wednesday morning following Wall Street’s performance, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 down 0.29% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.18%.

On currency markets, the pound was up 0.13% at US$1.306 against the dollar, with ongoing UK-EU Brexit negotiations likely to continue to be a key catalyst for movement as both sides attempt to thrash out a trade deal by mid-November.

Around the markets:

  • Sterling: US$1.306, up 0.13%
  • Brent crude: US$40.57 a barrel, down 1.5%
  • Gold: US$1,909.78 an ounce, up 0.15%
  • Bitcoin: US$13,759, up 5.17%

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed on Wednesday as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the US and Europe.

Chinese shares were higher by the afternoon, with the Shanghai composite up 0.66% as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index remained flat.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 shed 0.29% while South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.62%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 (INDEXASX:XJO) recovered from early losses by rising 0.11% as the country’s headline consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.6% in the September quarter compared to the previous quarter. The gain in the September quarter followed a record fall of 1.9% in the June 2020 quarter.

READ OUR ASX REPORT HERE

Proactive Australia news:

Alta Zinc Ltd (ASX:AZI) says the latest fieldwork at Punta Corna polymetallic project in Northern Italy “has the potential to be extensive” as it is open in all directions, including vertically.

Alkane Resources Ltd (ASX:ALK) has received high-grade gold results from infill drilling at Roswell deposit within the wider Tomingley Gold Project in Central West NSW, which will form part of a resource update expected next month.

Andromeda Metals Ltd (ASX:ADN) and Minotaur Exploration Ltd’s (ASX:MEP) Natural Nanotech Pty Ltd (NNT) research and commercialisation JV has made a technological breakthrough by producing halloysite-based nanocarbon (fullerene) materials from Great White Project halloysite-kaolin.

GTI Resources Ltd (ASX:GTI) has completed the acquisition of two mineral leases from Anfield Energy Inc in Utah, USA, that are highly prospective for uranium and vanadium with fieldwork underway to determine prioritised targets for drilling within the expanded project area.

K2fly Limited (ASX:K2F) has executed a share sale agreement to acquire Sateva Pty Ltd and Sateva Development Pty Ltd to strengthen its technical assurance suite of software solutions that address global tier-1 and tier-2 mining companies.

Tietto Minerals Ltd (ASX:TIE) has received Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development approval for the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for its 3.02-million-ounce Abujar Gold Project.

Lithium Australia NL (ASX:LIT) (OTCMKTS:LMMFF) (FRA:3MW) has received Notice of Allowance from the US Patent and Trademark Office for its SiLeach® patent application US 16/076,643, which was filed in August 2018.

Twenty Seven Co Ltd (ASX:TSC) has completed the acquisition of 100% of the shares of Oz Gold Group Pty Ltd following the Binding Term Sheet (BTS) announced on September 11, 2020.

ioneer Ltd (ASX:INR) (OTCMKTS:GSCCF) (FRA:4G1) has signed a partnership with Caterpillar Inc (NYSE:CAT) (FRA:CAT1) as its exclusive heavy equipment partner for the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Nevada.

Kin Mining NL‘s (ASX:KIN) (FRA:8KM) strong results from aircore drilling have extended the strike length of the Collymore gold trend to more than 1.2 kilometres, further enhancing the potential for growth at the Cardinia Gold Project near Leonora in Western Australia.

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