Politics

FTSE 100 closes in the red as coronavirus crisis continues to dampen sentiment

  • FTSE 100 index closes down 74 points
  • US indices muted
  • FirstGroup advances after topping up its coffers

5.20pm: FTSE 100 closes in the red

FTSE 100 closed Friday in the red as US benchmarks were muted, while the pandemic crisis continues to dampen sentiment.

The UK index of leading shares closed down over 74 points at 5,752. Over the week, the benchmark was lower, off 0.58%.

The FTSE 250 shed 106 points to close at 15,687.

"Hopes for a potential Covid-19 treatment were running high this time last week as Gilead Sciences' antiviral drug Remdesivir was reported to have helped patients with fever and respiratory problems, noted David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets.

"Those hopes were dashed when a medical trial in China said the drug was unsuccessful," he added.

Sentiment was also a little weak on Wall Street. but the US indices are in better shape than their European equivalents, he noted.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is flat at 23,514. The S&P 500 is up around four points.

2.50pm: US markets continue to defy gravity

US indices declined to take their lead from European markets and opened higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average was 93 points (0.4%) higher at 23,608 and the S&P 500 was 11 points firmer (0.4%) at 2,809.

Whatever US investors are injecting into their bloodstream – Cillit Bang, Domestos or Ajax cleaning fluid, perhaps – London traders are eschewing as the FTSE 100 index remains tethered to the 5,800 level, down 27 points (0.5%).

In contrast, the mid-cap FTSE 250 is marginally higher – up 2 points at 15,796, led by luxury car maker Aston Martin Global Holding PLC (LON:AML), which is up 14% at 61.5p following yesterdays strategy update.

Elsewhere among mid-caps, bus and trains operator FirstGroup PLC (LON:FGP) was 5.7% better at 62.55p after a business and liquidity update.

READ FirstGroup strengthens cash buffer to £800mln with government loans

Dwelling in the deepest recesses of the FTSE 250 cellar were cinemas owner Cineworld PLC (LON:CINE), down 8.1% at 53.68p, and pubs and brewing group Marstons PLC (LON:MARS), down 7.9% at 30.02p.

Both have been hit by suggestions that the UK lockdown could run until the end of the year in one form or other with leisure venues among the last to be given the all-clear to reopen for business.

If its okay to gather at Westminster Bridge to clap, Im gonna ask @cineworld to open up so I can go clap at the cinema on Thursdays at 8pm. Must be okay right?

— Lewis Benjamin Peck (@LBPeck) April 24, 2020

1.45pm: US indices expected to open higher

US markets are expected to open higher, with sentiment seemingly unaffected by the apparent failure of a prospective coronavirus treatment.

Spread betting quotes suggest the Dow Jones industrial average will advance 142 points to 23,657 at the outset while the S&P 500 is expected to open at around 2,817, up 19 points.

Thats despite orders for US durable goods tumbling in March by 14.4% after rising 1.1% in February. Economists had pencilled in a figure of -12% for the change.

US Durable Goods Orders Mar P: -14.4% (exp -12.0%; R prev 1.5%)
– Durables Ex Transportation Mar P: -0.2% (exp -6.5%; R prev -0.7%)

— LiveSquawk (@LiveSquawk) April 24, 2020

In London, the FTSE 100 continued its slow recovery back towards last nights close. The index was down 19 points (0.3%) at 5,807.

12.30pm: Slow recovery continues

The Footsie was whittling away losses on a day when European Union leaders agreed on a massive recovery package for a coronavirus-blighted economy.

The FTSE 100 was down 25 points (0.4%) at 5,802, back above 5,800 having fallen as low as 5,729 at one point today.

“Stock are paring gains on Friday, with the mood soured by reports that Gilead's remdesivir flopped in its first randomised clinical trial,” reported Craig Erlam at OANDA.

“This time last week, investors were full of hope after some very promising results were reported, prompting a 12% jump in Gilead's share price. What a difference a week makes. These gains have been all-but wiped out,” he added.

“Gilead has since stressed that the results are inconclusive and the study was terminated early due to low enrollment but the damage has been done. This is a market – and global population for the matter – that's craving good news and this just feels like another big setback,” he added.

Earlier today, the tone was set by some worrying retail sales figures. Sales volumes fell 5.1% in March, which was the largest single-month decline since records began.

“If were seeing this kind of collapse in sales in March – when only eight days were spent in lockdown – April is doing to be really messy. March is unlikely to hold the record for monthly sales falls for long,” predicted (with some certainty) Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“This is enormously difficult for retail businesses. Many are likely to have taken advantage of government schemes, loans and grants, but many more will still face impossible rent bills and incredibly difficult questions about whether they can keep going. It begs the question of just how many will still be on their feet when we eventually emerge from this crisis,” she added.

Currently trending on Twitter;

Domestos
Dettol
Injecting
Cillit Bang
Barry Scott
Harpic
Toilet Duck
Disinfectant

I admit to laughing out loud at Barry Scott ????

— Røbbø ???????????????? (@Ravenser) April 24, 2020

Meanwhile, Cillit Bang maker Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC (LON:RB.) is the second best performer on the Footsie with a 1.8% rise at 6,518p. Furthermore, Cillit Bang is trending on Twitter after President Trump reportedly advocated irradiating people's bodies with ultra-violet light or injecting them with bleach or alcohol to combat the coronavirus.

11.15am: Losses pared as sterling ebbs

Eary losses have been pared with the appeal of Footsie stocks burnished by sterlings weakening against the US dollar.

Sterling was down by around a sixth of a cent against the greenback.

The FTSE 100 was down 46 points (0.8%) at 5,780, with around a quarter of the indexs constituents in positive territory.

Among those defying the trend are housebuilders such as Barratt Developments PLC (LON:BDEV), up 1.3% at 522.6p, and Taylor Wimpey PLC (LON:TW.), up 0.9% at 149.1p, after the latter said yesterday it would start reopening some building sites.

Vistry Group PLC (LON:VTY), the company formerly known as Bovis, also said yesterday it would recommence work on many of its sites.

Faring worse than the trend, however, was fashion firm Burberry Group PLC (LON:BRBU), which was down 3.0% at 1,300p after it said it would not rely on government support for jobs in the UK where more than a third of its employees are based.

UPDATE: British fashion house @Burberry has now donated more than 100,000 pieces of PPE to frontline healthcare workers. Gowns for the NHS are made at its trench coat factory in Castleford and masks have been sourced from its supply chain https://t.co/FRChXqOW10 #UKmfg #GBmfg????????

— Jefferson (@Jefferson_MFG) April 24, 2020

9.50am: Blue-chips stabilise after weak start

Aerospace stocks are prominent among the losers this morning as traders come to terms with the prospect of the lockdown lasting longer than hoped.

The FTSE 100 was down 89 points (1.5%) at 5,737, with Melrose Industries PLC (LON:MRO), owner of automotive and aerospace engineer GKN, leading the retreat with a 7.2% fall to 85.1p.

Also weighing on the index were the heavily-weighted oil giants, Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSB), down 4% at 1,344.2p, and BP PLC (LON:BP.), down 3.5% at 306.65p, as the oil price recovery stalls.

Drugs giant AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) was lower but outperforming the Footsie after it announced further positive results from the Phase III PROfound trial of Lynparza (olaparib) in men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.

The shares were down 0.6% at 8,135p.

AstraZeneca's Lynparza shows further promise in prostate cancer study https://t.co/6yjOIQMZae pic.twitter.com/oiMKqGNzWo

— BSMG and FLFO (@FlfoLinda) April 24, 2020

Academic publisher Pearson PLC (LON:PSON) fell 2.7% to 439.3p after its trading statement proved to be a mixed bag.

The company said it would pay its final dividend for last year, as a rise in online learning in the first quarter during the coronavirus pandemic has been offset by the closure of its test centres.

8.40am: Friday jitters

The FTSE 100 index fell back in early trade on Friday following a record drop in UK sales and after hopes for a coronavirus treatment were dashed.

The index of UK blue-chips opened 86 points lower at 5,740.75.

UK retail sales dropped by a record 5.1% in March – though analysts expect worse to come in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.

“Shops were already suffering before the coronavirus as a result of changing consumer behaviour. Increasing numbers of people are turning away from the high street and shopping online, which offers greater convenience and ease,” said Dr Kerstin Braun of Stenn Group, a trade finance provider.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only escalated the decline of the high street and is likely to speed up these inevitable shifts, with high street footfall seeing its steepest decreases ever,” he added.

The retail sector was largely unfazed, however, with share prices of the industrys big hitters little changed in early exchanges.

Bombed out Marks & Spencer (LON:MKS) actually found some support from bargain hunters and nudged 2.3% higher.

The FTSE 100 opened sharply lower after the hopes a drug giant had found a coronavirus treatment were dashed. Gilead Sciences remdesivir was reported to have been successful in a small-scale trial; however, according to leaked papers, it failed in a larger Chinese deployment.

Topping the fallers were the aero-engineers Meggitt (LON:MGGT) and Melrose (LON:MRO), which were off 4.8% and 4.6% respectively amid liquidity fears.

Not far behind were struggling airlines IAG (LON:IAG) and easyJet (LON:EZJ), down 4% and 3.6%, respectively, as hopes to an early end to the coronavirus lockdown receded. The farce around potentially having to leave the middle seat vacant when planes return to the air also added to the mix.

Proactive news headlines:

Scancell Holdings PLC (LON:SCLP) said it has begun a research programme to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. The project, to be led by the companys chief scientific officer Lindy Durrant, will aim to utilise the companys clinical expertise in cancer to produce a cost-effective and scalable vaccine to induce both durable T-cell responses and virus neutralising antibodies against coronavirus. Initial research is now underway, with the company anticipating a phase 1 clinical trial in the first quarter of 2021.

SDX Energy PLC (LON:SDX) has confirmed successful well testing results at the recently drilled SD-12X (Sobhi) well, at the South Disouq project in Egypt. Sobhi flowed at a maximum rate of 25mln cubic feet of gas per day (on a 54/64" choke), in an initial one hour test, followed by stable rate of 15mln cubic feet per day over three hours (on a 28/64" choke) and 10mln over four hours (on 16/64"). The company said that following a review of data it anticipates the well will produce at an optimum stabilised rate of 10-12mln cubic feet per day.

Tekcapital PLC (LON:TEK) said its portfolio firm, Lucyd is to launch its range of Bluetooth-enabled glasses on the website of US superstore chain Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT). The investment firm said the expansion offered a “new opportunity” to reach Walmarts customer base, which is estimated to make up about 6% of the entire US eCommerce sector. In a statement, Tekcapital said Lucyd is “aggressively expanding” its online direct-to-consumer presence, adding that the firm has also listed its flagship Loud 2020 glasses range on both the eBay marketplace and the Mercari selling app.

Genedrive PLC (LON:GDR) and Inspiration Healthcare Group PLC (LON:IHC) are collaborating to distribute Genedrives antibiotic-induced hearing loss (AIHL) test in the UK & Ireland. The companies also expect to expand the scope of the contract over time to engage Inspiration Healthcare's network of more than 50 neonatal-focused sub-distributors around the world. The Genedrive MT-RNR1 AIHL test is the world's first point-of-care genetic test designed for use in a neonatal intensive care setting. The test screens newborns for a genetic mutation called mt-RNR1 that can cause lifelong and irreversible deafness to a child upon administration of certain antibiotics.

i3 Energy PLC (LON:I3E) has told investors that it is in talks with its loan note holders to get consent to waive a condition which would require new funding to be in place by the end of this month. In a statement, the company noted that a November 2019 extension demanded that i3E Energy, by April 30, entered a reserves-based lending facility or alternative financing to take the Liberator field. However, the group said: “As the company will not be in a position to enter into such a facility by April 30, the company is in discussions with all noteholders to waive this condition and expects to provide an update to the market prior to April 30.”

Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (NASDAQ:TLSA) (LON:TILS) has carried out a little corporate housekeeping by issuing shares to retire a chunk of debt. It has wiped out £1.595mln of convertible loan notes, including accrued interest. At the same time, warrants were exercised bringing in just under £600,000 to the business. In the same announcement investors, were told AIM-listed Tizianas plans to redomicile to Bermuda, cancel its American Depositary Receipt (ADR) programme and have its Bermuda common shares listed on NASDAQ have been delayed. It cited the coronavirus lockdown and “other factors” for the hold-up.

Landore Resources Ltd (LON:LND) said it has raised gross proceeds of £260,000 in an equity issue to support the funding of exploration activities and working capital. Some 38.5mln subscription securities – comprising one share and one share warrant – are being sold to new investors and existing shareholders at a price of 0.675p each. The 1p warrants are exercisable at any time over a 24 month period.

Pembridge Resources PLC (LON:PERE) has had to revise the share subscription announced on April 20 to ensure it is compliant with prospectus regulation rules and said certain directors have also agreed to surrender their options to maximise the amount of capital that can be raised in the placing. The group had been looking to issue 19,183,179 new ordinary shares to raise £633,000 under the original subscription but that exceeds the maximum amount permitted of 20% of its current issued share capital. It now intends to issue 11,175,499 new ordinary shares resulting in a revised subscription of £368,000 at the same price of 3.3p.

Galantas Gold Corporation (LON:GAL) (CVE:GAL), the gold producer and explorer with a 100% interest in Northern Ireland's Omagh gold mine, has said that it intends to rely on the Canadian Securities Administrators blanket relief as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak for its filings for the year ended December 31, 2019, which it now anticipates on or Read More – Source