Politics

FTSE 100 finishes a tad lower as the strong pound hurts benchmark

  • FTSE 100 index closes down – just
  • Gilead inks $21bn cancer deal
  • Wall Street stocks surging

5pm; FTSE closes lower

FTSE 100 index closed slightly in the red on Monday as the strong pound hit dollar earning constituents of the index, while US stocks flew higher.

Britain's blue-chip benchmark finished nearly six points down, or 0.10%, at 6,026. The pound added 0.57% against the US dollar.

FTSE 250, though, went higher on the day, finishing nearly 100 points up, at 17,655. Wall Street stocks raced north.

"US indices have made great strides in early trading, while some of the fizz has come off UK and European markets as their home currencies strengthen," noted Chris Beauchamp, the chief market analyst at online trader IG.

"With a solid rebound in breadth across markets today as well, plus vaccine and M&A headlines to provide positive background music, it was an apparently simple job for buyers to once again take control of US stocks."

US and Canada 11.30am EST/4.30pm

Wall Street benchmarks were going strong in early deals in New York on Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added around 348 points at 28,013. The broader-based S&P 500 added around 55 points at 3,396. The tech-heavy Nasdaq added around 247 points at 11,101. Up in Toronto, the TSX index added over 120 points at 16,343.

4pm: London lagging, Wall Street flying

The Footsie continued to hobble along in the red, having not been gingered up by the high-bucking opening action on Wall Street.

After its initial pop has not regained its fizz in the rest of the session despite the usual impetus given by a burst of M&A action, lately down 12 points or 0.2% at 6,019.66.

“It appears to be becoming much more difficult to separate the optimism around the chatter about progress on a vaccine, with the economic reality that tighter restrictions are likely to curtail the current rebound in economic activity,” said market analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

He noted that the improving pound and falling crude prices were factors, with oil under pressure after OPEC downgraded its outlook for global oil demand for the rest of 2020.

“Concerns about a continued slowdown in oil consumption appears to have prompted this reassessment, against a backdrop of worries about renewed localised lockdowns in the wake of the onset of colder winter weather.”

BP (LON:BP.) and Shell (LON:RDSB) were among the bottom 10 blue chip stocks on the day, along with precious metals miners Fresnillo (LON:FRES) and Polymetal (LON:POLY), which were hit but a fall in the silver price.

US stocks are back on form, with the Dow Jones up 1.2% back above the 28,000 level, while the Nasdaq Composite has crested the 11,000 mark with a 2.2% surge.

3.30pm/10.30am EST: Proactive North America headlines:

Lord Global Corporation (OTCMKTS:LRDG) to retain LRDG ticker after name change to 27 Health

Zynerba Inc (NASDAQ:ZYNE) to meet with FDA in 4Q to discuss CONNECT-FX data related to companys flagship Zygel CBD gel

Humanigen Inc (OTCQB:HGEN) says review of lenzilumab Phase 3 study of COVID-19 by data safety monitoring board gets green light to continue

Royal Road Minerals (CVE:RYR) (OTCMKTS:RRDMF) releases promising new drill results from Luna Roja gold project in Nicaragua

Aurania Resources Ltd (CVE:ARU) (OTCQB:AUIAF) (FRA:20Q) begins drilling at the Tsenken N2 copper-silver target at flagship Ecuador project

Gungnir Resources Inc (CVE:GUG) (OTCPINK:ASWRF) announces C$400,000 investment from resource-focused merchant bank Palisades

NetCents Technology Inc (CSE:NC) (OTCQB:NTTCF) exceeds $5M in transactions in August, emerges as “the payment platform of choice” for cryptocurrency

Matinas BioPharma Holdings Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:MTNB) taps industry veteran Natasha Giordano as board director

Starton Therapeutics Inc says Keith Darragh has joined the company as its chief financial officer with immediate effect

Phunware Inc (NASDAQ:PHUN) wins multiyear contract to deploy its Smart Workplace mobile app portfolio with Norfolk Southern Corporation

2.40pm: Wall Street starts higher amid deal-making, vaccine optimism

The main Wall Street indices kicked off the week on the front foot on Monday, boosted by news of numerous M&A deals and optimism around the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Shortly after the opening bell in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.66% at 27,848 while the S&P 500 climbed 0.99% to 3,374 and the Nasdaq rose 1.32% to 10,996.

Market optimism has been boosted by both the acquisition of ARM Holdings by Nvidia as well as Oracle beating out Microsoft to form a potential partnership with Chinese firm ByteDance, the owner of video sharing app TikTok.

News from Pfizer that the effectiveness of its coronavirus vaccine candidate could be confirmed by October has also likely driven positivity among traders.

In the drug sector, Gilead stock was on the up as it unveiled a US$21bn deal to snaffle cancer drug maker Immunomedics.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 had yet to take any inspiration from the rally in New York, and was down 12 points at 6,019 at around 2.40pm.

12.40pm: FTSE flounders, Wall Street set to jump

Londons blue chips are floundering but their cousins across the Atlantic are poised to leap like salmon once Mondays opening bell rings.

Futures markets are anticipating around a 1% rise for the Dow Jones index and the broader S&P 500.

Fuelled by the big M&A news earlier, the tech-powered Nasdaq Composite is expected to rise even higher, with Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) set to be one of the leaders on the back of its agreed Arm deal.

There will be a weight around the indexs neck from a likely fall for US$1.5trn Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT).

Pre-market trading has Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) stock shooting 10% higher.

But while this latest raft of M&A activity may have excited investors, its not the same as the frenzy as seen in previous months, says market analyst Craig Erlam at Oanda.

“Thats not to say these things aren't important – and the TikTok deal most certainly is given the geopolitical ramifications – but the focus is just elsewhere at the minute.

“There are a number of major central bank meetings this week – including the Fed, BoJ and BoE – and the tech sell-off will likely continue to dominate. Early gains in Nasdaq futures are already being pared which could be problematic ahead of the open.”

The FTSE is down 5 points at 6,027.39.

12pm: Pressure from the pound

The FTSE 100 is continuing to wallow just below the waterline as the pound strengthens on Monday.

Sterling has climbed 0.6% to US$1.2877, and is 0.4% higher versus the euro, which puts pressure on Londons blue chip exporters.

The currencys rise comes as parliament prepares for a potentially fiery debtate around Boris Johnsons proposed Internal Markets bill today, with former PMs David Cameron and Theresa May, along with ex attorney general Geoffrey Cox, among the many senior Tories coming out against the governments plans.

Among the 20 biggest Footsie fallers were exporters Rolls-Royce (LON:RR.), Melrose (LON:MRO) and AB Foods (LON:ABF), plus a cabal of financial sector names, including Intermediate Capital (LON:ICP), M&G (LON:MNG), Aviva (LON:AV.) and Schroders (LON:SDR).

Down 14 points at 6,019 is the London's equity benchmark.

The FTSE 250 has been given a boost by more M&A activity as G4S's (LON:GFS) Canadian suitor goes public with an offer than the UK security company's management have tried to shrug off.

10.45am: London stocks now flat

London stocks were flat by mid-morning as traders fret about Brexit and a brewing political storm in Westminster.

The FTSE 100 is now down nine points or 0.1% at 6,023.52, while the mid-caps also lost their initial momentum and were trading sideways.

Although the pound is keeping up appearances, it's set to be a rocky road for the currency, said Joshua Mahony at IG, “as the government seeks to push through a bill which will break international law and threaten the prospect of negotiations with just over three-months left”.

With many MPs seeking to push back against the vote that is expected later today, the market analyst said “there is a risk that the proposal does little beyond hindering trust with the EU as we come into the final stretch of negotiations”.

As of Monday the UK has also brought in newer re-tightening of coronavirus regulations, limiting the size of social gatherings in a bid to slow down the rise of Covid.

“Despite previous fears of a second wave being centred around the US, we are now seeing a widespread surge in cases globally after easing of restrictions raised social contact in a bid to kick-start business activity,” Mahony said, noting Israel is the first country to enter a second nationwide lockdown.

“The underperformance seen in the FTSE 250 highlights the potential domestic risk as the government attempts to tackle to recent rise in UK cases.”

Shares in JD Wetherspoon (LON:JDW) were down 3% as 66 coronavirus cases were revealed among the pub companys staff.

This highlights the fact that the sector is at risk of early restrictions if the government deems it necessary to take further action to limit the spread of the virus, Mahony added.

9.50am: FTSE runs out of breath

Like a big man whos in bad shape, the Footsie has quickly run out of breath after its initial surge.

The FTSEs gain has diminished to less than eight points or 0.1% to 6,039.60, with precious metals miners and housebuilders among the big fallers.

Fresnillio (LON:FRES) and Polymetal (LON:POLY) were among them, despite the gold price remaining strong.

A rebound in the pound was putting pressure on Londons blue chips, with sterling up 0.4% versus the dollar to 1.2851.

A record one-day rise in coronavirus cases globally, reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) looks like a second wave, but not as we know it, said market analyst Neil Wilson at Markets.com.

“Even if cases are starting to rise in Britain and elsewhere, deaths are not picking up in the same way as before – younger, less vulnerable people are getting the virus this time it seems.”

“France recorded a record number of new infections – some 10k over the weekend. There is not the appetite for blanket shutdowns of the economy again – this is good, but the ongoing fear factor will keep a lid on animal spirits. And governments could be spooked into heavy-handed responses, even if they dont want to kneecap the economy.”

Good news on the COVID-19 vaccine front came from AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) and Oxford University, which said they are resuming the trial of their vaccine candidate after it was paused a week ago.

8.40am: Solid early gains

The FTSE 100 opened firmly in positive territory on Monday with M&A activity providing the lift.

In early trading, the UK blue-chip index was 43 points to the good at 6,075.01.

Three multi-billion-dollar deals supported market confidence, the most important of which was Oracles technical collaboration with TikToks Chinese owner, which effectively averts a Sino-American trade war. The computer giant beat off competition from Microsoft to land access to the US operations of the video streaming group. (Read more on the deal here.)

Japanese investor Softbanks decision to sell ARM Holdings to chipmaker Nvidia for US$40bn provided further positive news in the tech sector, where investors have hit the reset button. However, there will likely be resistance from the UK government who will want assurances around jobs at ARMs Cambridge headquarters, as well as from the rest of the chip industry.

In the drug sector, Gilead flexed its financial muscle as it unveiled plans to acquire cancer drug maker Immunomedics for US$21bn.

Stock in British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG) was off 31% for purely technical reasons as it began trading “ex-rights” following its £2.5bn cash call. In laymans terms, this simply means investors are no longer entitled to purchase more equity in the IAG rights issue.

Shares in Ocado (LON:OCDO) were well bid in the early exchanges and up almost 2% ahead of Tuesdays investor update, the focus of which will be its alliance with Marks & Spencer (LON:MKS).

Shell (LON:RDSA) and BP (LON:BP.) found some support as they both opened around 1.4% higher. The latter was further bolstered by an upgrade to outperform by Credit Suisse.

Among the tiddlers, Horizonte Minerals (LON:HZM) got off to a positive start after Peel Hunt initiated coverage with a buy recommendation and a 14p price target – almost double the current price. The shares advanced 6%.

Proactive news headlines:

Symphony Environmental Technologies PLC (LON:SYM) has reported positive results from a test of its d2p anti-microbial technology masterbatch against a bovine form of coronavirus. The AIM-listed firm said the Institute of Biology at Unicamp University in Sao Paolo State, Brazil, had tested polyolefin films incorporating the d2p technology for reductions in the presence of the virus at one, two and 24 hour periods. The tests showed a 99.9% reduction in the virus on the film at one hour, which then rose to 99.99% at two hours and 99.999% at 24 hours. In a separate announcement reporting its first-half results, Symphony said it had returned to profitability. For the six months ended June 30, 2020, the company reported a pre-tax profit of £18,000 compared to a loss of £86,000 in the previous year, while revenues increased to £4.8mln from £4.1mln.

Silence Therapeutics PLC (LON:SLN) (NASDAQ:SLN) has completed its search for a chief executive by appointing industry veteran Mark Rothera to the role. It means Iain Ross, who stepped in to take day-to-day control of the business last December, will return to his former role as non-executive chairman. Rothera, meanwhile, brings with him 30-years experience in the biopharmaceutical sector, latterly with Orchard Therapeutics where he secured US$600mln of financing and grew the business to a US$1.7bn market capitalisation at its peak. The appointment was announced alongside the gene silencing specialists interim results, which charted a period of significant progress. Key among the landmarks was a deal with AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) to develop as many as 10 small interfering RNA (siRNA) drug targets in the cardiovascular, renal, metabolic and respiratory diseases areas. It resulted in an upfront cash payment of US$60mln and a direct equity investment of US$20mln, which could be followed by potential milestones of US$400mln per target. As a result, Silence ended the six months to June 30 in rude financial health with just over US$64.1mln (£50mln) in the bank.

Seeing Machines Limited (LON:SEE) has said it is planning to launch a fully supported, integrated driver monitoring system (DMS) kit on an automotive development platform (ADP) made by technology corporation Qualcomm Inc (NASDAQ:QCOM). The AIM-listed firm said the DMS will support its full-stack DMS solution on Qualcomms Snapdragon ADP, targeting integration into either infotainment or centralised advanced driver assistant (ADAS) systems. The kit includes an optimised DMS reference camera, an ADP interface board and Seeing Machines software, and is expected to be available before the end of the current calendar year for use by tier one suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Bango PLC (LON:BGO), the mobile payments group, is continuing its push into Asia and has signed partnership agreements with five mobile app specialists in different countries. The new partners will use the Bango Audiences customer acquisition tool to boost their app campaigns or revenues for app developer clients.

IQGeo Group Plc (LON:IQG) has reported sharply reduced losses in its first half as strong order bookings helped boost the firms recurring revenue by triple digits. For the six months ended June 30, 2020, the geospatial software group reported a pre-tax loss of £1.6mln, narrowed from £3.16mln in the previous year, while total revenues rose by over 50% to £3.6mln. Recurring revenues increased over 170% on the period to £1.6mln, while order bookings related to the firm's products increased by over 120% to £5.5mln.

Xpediator PLC (LON:XPD), the freight forwarder and logistics group, said it is fully prepared for Brexit whatever the outcome as it posted an increase in first-half profits. Trading is almost back to pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) levels, the AIM-listed group said, helped by good performances in central Europe and a recovery in the UK following the COVID-19 disruption. Revenues dipped 3% to £99.6mln in the half-year to June 30, 2020, while profits rose by a third top £302,000 as the good performance in freight forwarding offset dips in affinity and warehousing, which were the arms most affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

IronRidge Resources Ltd (LON:IRR) said it has entered into a binding agreement with Australasian Gold Limited for the sale of the non-core May Queen gold project in South East Queensland, Australia. Australasian Gold is an unlisted company established in 2018, operated by an experienced geological team. It holds an additional prospective gold exploration license in the Ashburton region of Western Australia, within 30 kilometres of the Paulsens gold deposit held by Northern Star Resources Limited (ASX:NST). The sale will allow IronRidge to maintain focus across its core African portfolio. IronRidge will receive 4.5mln shares in Australasian Gold, representing 34.6 % of the enlarged share capital. Ironridge will also invest AUD$100,000 at A$0.10 per share to provide additional working capital, taking the total stake to 39.3%.

Union Jack Oil PLC (LON:UJO) told investors, in its interim results statement, that it is confident and optimistic as it remains on-track for first production from the Wressle field, located in North Lincolnshire before the end of this year. The onshore UK oiler ended the six months to June 30, 2020, with £4.6mln of cash, was debt-free and fully funded for its planned drilling, testing and development programmes. "We have seen significant progress at our three key project interests, namely West Newton, Wressle and Biscathorpe,” David Bramhill, Union Jack's executive chairman said in the results statement.

Supermarket Income REIT (LON:SUPR) has made another addition to its growing portfolio of omnichannel sites with the acquisition of a Tesco outlet in Bracknell. The 7.3-acre site comprises a food store and a 400-space surface car park alongside several purpose-built online distribution docks that support Tesco's online grocery business in the area. Supermarket Income REIT is acquiring the store from a client of CBRE Global Investors for £39.5mln, reflecting a net initial yield of 5.7%.

Mosman Oil and Gas Ltd (LON:MSMN) told investors that the Stanley-4 well, in East Texas has been drilled successfully. The group said the well, which was drilled down to a target depth of 5,000 feet, showed several zones of interest during drilling and subsequent logging identified several potential pay zones in the Yegua formation, at depths between 4,600 and 4,900 feet. Stanley-4 will now undergo testing, and the company noted that flow rates will be reported when data is available.

Frontier IP Group PLC (LON:FIPP) said its portfolio company, Fieldwork Robotics has received a continuity grant from Innovate UK to accelerate the development of its agricultural robot technology during the coronavirus pandemic. The IP investment group said the £84,000 grant will be used to support Fieldworks plans to expand its team and develop facilities amid what it said is “growing interest in its technology from potential industry partners”. The grant follows a previous £547,250 award from Innovate UKs Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund in April 2019, as well as £320,000 raised in an initial equity funding round in January this year. Frontier owns a 26.9% stake in Fieldwork.

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