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FTSE 100 just keeps its head above water; US markets still positive, if less so

FTSE 100 index rises 4 points
US housing starts disappoint
US indices give back some early gains


FTSE 100 index rises 4 points US housing starts disappoint US indices give back some early gains 5p..

  • FTSE 100 index rises 4 points
  • US housing starts disappoint
  • US indices give back some early gains

5pm: FTSE ends just above the flatline

The FTSE 100 ended Tuesday up 4.5 points, less than 1%, at 5,889.2. The FTSE 250, for its part, gained 63 points, 0.35%, to 17,929.2.

The FTSE 100 is on track to post a modest gain as the close of trading draws near," CMC Markets UK analyst David Madden wrote Tuesday. "Overall, there hasn’t been too much excitement in the markets today. Restrictions in some countries, because of the health crisis, are tighter and with the way things are going in terms of the number of new coronavirus cases, there are fears that further restrictions could be in the offing. The standoff between the UK and the EU hasn’t really changed, in that, discussions haven’t collapsed, but there hasn’t been any major progress either."

In the US, the Dow retreated from what was a 250-point gain in the opening hours of trading, but remained solidly in the green at noon ET. The index was up 205 points, 0.7%, to 28,401.2.

The Nasdaq gained 69 points, 0.6%, to 11,548.2, and the S&P 500 climbed 26 points, 0.8%, to 3,453.5.

"[The market situation in Europe] is not too dissimilar to what is going on in the US with respect to the planned Covid-19 relief package," Madden wrote. "Differences remain between what Nancy Pelosi, of the Democrats, wants and what Steven Mnuchin – the Treasury Secretary – desires."

3.35pm: The Footsie breaks into a trot

With US markets cementing early gains, the Footsie has broken into what might pass for a trot.

London’s index of heavyweight shares was up 24 points (0.4%) at 5,909.

In the US, the housing starts number for September was underwhelming, with a 1.9% increase to an annualised 1.42mln from August’s revised 1.39mln coming in well below the 3.5% rise economists had pencilled in.

The number of building permits rose 5.2% to 1.55mln from 1.48mln the month before, which beat the consensus estimate of 1.52mln.

“The details are better than the headlines, especially for starts,”2 declared Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“A 16.3% plunge in the wildly volatile multi-family component depressed total starts, but the single-family component rose for a fifth straight month, climbing 8.5% to the highest level since June 2007. Single-family permits, meanwhile, rose 7.8%, also the fifth straight increase, to their highest level since March 2007. Homebuilders are responding to the surge in new home sales since late spring, which points to a further increase in permits and starts over the next couple of months. The recent flattening in mortgage applications, however, suggests that both sales and construction activity likely will peak around the end of the year,” Shepherdson said.

3.30pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Benchmark Metals Inc (CVE:BNCH) (OTCQX:BNCHF) says AGB zone drill results add to the 'significant' resource building potential at Lawyers project

Todos Medical Ltd (OTCQB:TOMDF) receives notice of allowance from the European Patent Office covering the use of its TBIA platform to detect benign colon cancer in peripheral blood

HealthLynked Corp (OTCQB:HLYK) completes acquisition of MedOfficeDirect LLC; adds discounted medical supplies for patient members

Viscount Mining Corp (CVE:VML) (OTCQB:VLMGF) increases footprint at its Cherry Creek exploration project in Nevada

Revive Therapeutics Ltd (CSE:RVV) (OTCMKTS:RVVTF) signs supply agreement with Havn Life Sciences to source psychedelic compounds for use in future studies

NexTech's InfernoAR Solutions Corp (OTCQB:NEXCF) (CSE:NTAR) virtual events platform chosen for Florida International Trade Expo in March

Canntab Therapeutics Limited (CSE:PILL) (OTCQB:CTABF) closes $1M purchase of cannabis-processing equipment and leasehold improvements from CMAX Technologies

Mawson Gold Ltd (TSE:MAW) (OTCPINK:MWSNF) kicks off drilling at prospective Mount Isa block and set to increase footprint in Queensland

1933 Industries Inc (CSE:TGIF) (OTCQX:TGIFF) to manufacture and distribute Orchid Venture products in Nevada cannabis market

Medallion Resources Ltd (CVE:MDL) (OTCQB:MLLOF) shares now trading on OTCQB after it receives exchange approval

2.45pm: Wall Street shares start higher

US indices started on the front foot on Tuesday as traders mulled new homes data, digested a slew of corporate earnings, and hoped a stimulus package could be signed-off by the end of the day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average zipped up over 113 points at 28,308. The S&P 500 index advanced nearly 17 points at the open to 3,443.

The tech heavy Nasdaq index zoomed up over 60 points at 11,539.

Nancy Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin have indicated that differences in negotiations on a potential stimulus deal were "narrowing," as the self-imposed deadline is now the end of today.

According to latest data, construction starts on new homes came in at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.42 million in September, which was 1.9% higher than from the previous month’s downwardly-revised figure.

Economists had expected housing starts to occur at a pace of 1.45 million. Compared with last year, housing starts were up 11%.

In corporate news, among the biggest Dow gainers, Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) added 1.58% to US$144.24 in New York early deals as the consumer products tian earned US$1.63 per share in its latest quarter, beating consensus of $1.42 a share. The firm's revenue also beat forecasts.

12.20pm: Hope springs eternal but time is running out for a pre-election US stimulus package

The clock continues to count down to tonight’s deadline for a fiscal stimulus package to be agreed before the Presidential election, and hope springs eternal.

That might explain why indices are set to reverse course after yesterday’s setbacks and claw back some losses.

Spread betting quotes suggest the Dow Jones industrial average will storm 222 points higher to 28,417 while the S&P 500 is tipped to jump 30 points to 3,457.

The NASDAQ Composite is seen rising 275 points to 11,754.

Household goods giant Proctor & Gamble got pre-market proceedings off to a good start with its fiscal first-quarter earnings per share, which at US$1.63 were both higher than last year's US$1.36 and the consensus estimate of US$1.42.

Tobacco products pedlar Philip Morris also beat consensus forecasts (of US$1.36) with its third-quarter earnings per share of US$1.42.

So much for old school companies producing 19th and 20th-century products … traders may find today’s update from video streaming titan Netflix more exciting.

“The aggregate market capitalisation of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google’s parent Alphabet has grown by 63% or US$2.2 trillion over the past 12 months and the latest round of quarterly results, starting with Netflix today, will be the so-called FAANG quintet’s latest chance to show why investors love them so much,” said Russ Mould, AJ Bell’s investment director.

“It could be argued that forecast upgrades are required if the five stocks are to maintain their stunning run. That US$2.2 trillion increase in market cap over the past 12 months dwarfs the combined $8 billion increase in net profit the quintet is expected to generate in 2020,” Mould observed.

A big focus for the market will be the number of subscribers Netflix managed to add in the third quarter, according to Neil Wilson at

“Lockdowns around the world delivered a huge boost in the first half of 2020, with paid net subscriber additions soaring to 26mln from 12mln during the same period a year before. The company has forecast 2.5mln paid net adds for Q3 versus 6.8mln in the prior-year quarter as the surge in H1 likely pulled forward some demand from the second half of the year; however, this could be a very conservative estimate and Netflix could beat this number handsomely with growth outside the US seen improving off the back of some very successful local-language releases. Netflix is getting good at ‘tamping down expectations’ so I expect guidance to be conservative and I think the market understands this,” Wilson said.

@netflix is preparing for its Q3 report after market close today. Investors will be looking for just how much Netflix has benefited over the past three months when the company will report its earnings Q3 FY 2020.

Follow and trade #netflix: #stockmarket

— AAATrade (@AAATrade) October 20, 2020

On the economic front, today will bring the latest housing starts figures for September.

“With the sales of new homes having surged to a fourteen-year high and sentiment among home builders similarly making notable gains over recent months, today’s housing starts figures are expected to have posted another solid increase, with single-family starts possibly moving above the cyclical high reached last December,” said Daiwa Capital Markets.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 remains fairly lackadaisical although the index’s gain has extended to 18 points (0.3%) at 5,903.

11.50am: After Rolls-Royce, Cineworld comes back from the brink

Share prices of leading stocks might as well have been preserved in aspic for most of the morning.

The FTSE 100 remains modestly higher, up 14 points (0.2%) at 5,898 but it is faring less well than its little brother, the FTSE 250, was is up 73 points (0.4%) at 17,939.

The mid-cap index’s surge is being led by Cineworld Group PLC (LON:CINE), which is 9.0% higher at 28.6p, and Britvic PLC (LON:BVIC), which is 6.4% heavier at 798.5p.

The former has been lifted by news that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement on Saturday that cinemas in the state but outside of New York City will be allowed to reopen from October 23. The stock added just under a penny yesterday and has risen another 2.45p today.

NEW: Starting October 23, movie theaters outside of NYC can reopen at 25% capacity with up to 50 people per screen.

There will be mandatory social distancing and other precautions.

— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) October 17, 2020

Soft drinks maker Britvic, meanwhile, has cheered the market with news that has signed a new and exclusive 20-year franchise bottling agreement with fizzy drinks giant PepsiCo.

The Vesuvius Plc (LON:VSVS) share price erupted, rising 5.4% to 422.6p after the molten metal flow engineering and technology company announced a resumption of dividend payments.

10.45am: The Footsie edges into positive territory

The London stock market remains subdued but the Footsie has at least ventured into positive territory, if not by much.

London’s benchmark of blue-chip shares was up 11 points (0.2%) at 5,895, helped by enthusiasm for aerospace-related stocks.

British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG) was the top riser, up 7.1% at 107.05p after Heathrow finally introduced a facility whereby travellers could get a coronavirus (COVID-19) test – at a cost – to wave at officials when they get to their destination.

Aeroplane engines maker and maintainer Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.) continued its renaissance, rising 4.2% to 229.2p. Investors have been piling back into the shares since the company announced its much-anticipated funding plans earlier this month.

Sector peer Melrose Industries PLC (LON:MRS), which owns aerospace and automotive engineer GKN, was 4.1% higher at 134.9p.

Oil stocks were out of favour as traders fret over the prospect of more lockdowns hitting demand.

Housebuilder Bellway PLC (LON:BWY) edged 0.3% higher after what Irish stockbroker Goodbody called “a solid update”.

“Demand continues to be robust in the UK housing market,” Goodbody notes.

Bellway Homes says "the stamp duty holiday and provision of Help To Buy, have contributed to this reassuringly strong performance"

But the group also warned of the "risk of a further widespread 'lockdown"' as well as the threat of a possible no-deal Brexit at the end of the year

— Rob Young (@robyounguk) October 20, 2020

“Reservations are up by over 30% in the first 9 weeks of the financial year as build rates have returned back to 85-90% of normal levels. Further, it is a positive step that management is confident enough to re-instate some sort of capital returns. On the outlook, it is expected that around 9,000 completions will be delivered in the 2021 fiscal year, assuming no widespread national lockdown,” Goodbody noted.

9.10am: IAG boosted by introduction of COVID tests at Heathrow airport

UK equities have got off to a mixed start but at least blue-chips are not having to deal with a strong sterling exchange rate today.

The FTSE 100 was more or less unchanged at 5,885, with traders waiting for numerous scenarios – lockdown, US fiscal stimulus package, US presidential debate, Brexit negotiations – to play out.

Sterling, which had a bumper day yesterday on hopes that Brexit negotiators might surprise us and pull an agreement out of the fire, is little changed today.

Reckitt Benckiser PLC (LON:RB.) proved it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good by upping its full-year revenue guidance on the back of a surge in demand for its cleaning products since the pandemic.

The shares were up 2.1% at 7,354p, making the second-best performers on the Footsie.

The top place was occupied by International Consolidated Airlines SA (LON:IAG) – yes, you read that right – after Heathrow introduced one-hour coronavirus tests to enable passengers to fly in and out of the UK without the need to quarantine.

That’s obviously a big deal for IAG, whose British Airways airline has a lot of landing slots at Heathrow. IAG shares were up 2.4% at 103.25p.

#r4today £80 for a quickie covid test?!?! WTF? They are €15 in France! Which Tory donor is making a packet at Heathrow?

— Helen121 ???????? (@Helen121) October 20, 2020

8.35am: Fall back for Footsie

The FTSE 100 made a lacklustre start to proceedings on Tuesday, dragged lower by big falls on Wall Street which was hit by continued wrangling over an economic stimulus package, which is unlikely now to be signed off before the US election next week.

The blue-chip index fell 15 points to 5,869.98 at the open.

Closer to home, the UK and Europe appear to be in deadlock over a Brexit trade deal, although some of the morning headlines have begun to suggest there may be movement behind the scenes.

Manchester, meanwhile, has been given until noon to accept the latest coronavirus lockdown ultimatum.

Just what might happen if the city’s mayor, Andy Burnham, opts to ignore the call for wider restrictions remains to be seen. Troops patrolling the Arndale? Burnham under house arrest, or the former Labour minister forming his own splinter government for the north from an unnamed address in Moss Side?

All of this is said in jest; however, the markets, disliking uncertainty, will likely head sharply lower if the current farce descends into crisis, analysts said.

The early riser was Next (LON:NXT) which benefited from a Goldman Sachs upgrade to ‘neutral’ ahead of trading news due next week. The shares were up 2%.

DIY retailer Kingfisher (LON:KGF) advanced 1.8% early on, while International Airlines Group PLC (LON:IAG) continued on the comeback trail with a 2% rise.

Proactive news headlines:

Feedback PLC (LON:FDBK) is to team up with Axial Medical Printing to add three-dimensional (3D) imaging to Feedback’s flagship Bleepa medical imaging communications platform. Axial3D uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to automatically create 3D reconstructions of individual organs or pathologies. These images will be available to view in the Bleepa platform and can subsequently be turned into 3D printed models in a variety of materials.

Symphony Environmental Technologies PLC (LON:SYM) has announced the completion of a €6mln financing by its associate Eranova for its green algae project in France. The proceeds will pay for the start of construction in Port St Louis, near Marseille, slated to begin in late November and complete by the end of April. Eranova’s plant will follow-on from a successful pilot and will produce a bio-sourced resin which don’t use food resource in their creation. The resins are approved for use with food contact and therefore are suitable for use as recyclable packaging.

Solo Oil PLC (LON:SOLO), soon to be renamed Scirocco Energy, has updated on its 12% owned associate Helium One which continues to advance projects in Tanzania. Helium One has so far received renewal offers for 12 of 16 prospective licences requested of the Tanzanian authorities, and, it is awaiting decisions for the remaining four. Solo noted that Helium One has a runway to explore and de-risk its prospect inventory through a drilling programme. Helium One has some 4,512 square kilometres of licences which, according to an October 2019 estimate, host 138bn cubic feet of un-risked helium resources (best estimate) – with the range pitched at 30bn to 521bn cubic feet.

Open Orphan PLC (LON:ORPH) said its hVIVO subsidiary has won a UK government contract worth up to £10mln to develop a coronavirus (COVID-19) human challenge study model to help speed up the development of a working vaccine. The model development involves the manufacture of the challenge virus and what’s called a first-in-human characterisation study for this virus. The work will be conducted at London’s Royal Free Hospital by hVIVO with help from researchers at Imperial College.

ANGLE PLC said the American regulator is now moving to a “substantive review” of the company’s liquid biopsy after an initial hurdle was quickly negotiated. The US Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) administrative review is designed to ensure the research group has submitted all the necessary “elements and information” and paves the way for the detailed assessment of ANGLE’s Parsortix system. The company is seeking Class II De Novo FDA clearance for the cancer detection system and is hoping to receive sign-off for its use in metastatic breast cancer.

Ariana Resources PLC (LON:AAU), the Turkish gold producer, has launched a not-for-profit initiative which will supply company-branded and sustainably sourced clothing in support of existing community projects. The clothing will be available at "Following the surprisingly strong demand from shareholders for Ariana-branded attire, the Company recognised the opportunities that this creates for developing a not-for-profit initiative without detracting from our core operational priorities. Ariana has long been committed to the integrity of its projects and the well-being of its employees, stakeholders and the local communities in which we operate,” Ariana managing director Dr Kerim Sener said in a statement.

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