Politics

FTSE 100 adds another few points; US to open higher over widespread optimism

  • FTSE 100 adds 94 points
  • US to open higher
  • Markets ignore US-China tensions

1.20pm: US to open higher over easier restrictions optimism

The Footsie added 94 points to 6,161 after lunch, while US indices were also expected to open higher riding the same wave of optimism over easier restrictions.

“The soft reopening so far appears to be going well and is leading to further easing measures, including the prospect of travel again before the summer is over which is coming as a huge relief to those in the industry that have been ravaged by the crisis,” commented Craig Erlam, analyst at OANDA Europe.

“As yet, the strained relationship between the US and China hasn't hampered markets too much but that could quickly change.”

Back home, several chains have announced plans to resume trading before the 1 June reopening date set by the government earlier this week.

Halfords Group PLC (LON:HFD) is to fully reopen 53 of its 446 stores by Friday after trialling social distancing measures.

The car parts and bike seller has been operating 335 shops in a “dark store” model during lockdown, meaning customers were placing orders to staff on the doorstep without being allowed to enter.

Fast food restaurant Nandos has also resumed service, with 94 venues operational as of Wednesday.

The chain will not allow customers to eat in and will offer a reduced menu to support staff.

The good news we've all been waiting for. https://t.co/qi15T4uWeh

— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) May 27, 2020

11.45am: M&G higher after declaring dividend

FTSE 100 held on its gains before lunch, adding 87 points to 6,155.

M&G PLC (LON:MNG) was one of the top risers with a 9% jump to 138.6p after confirming it would pay its dividend at a cost of £410mln.

The distribution includes an ordinary dividend of 11.92p per share and a special demerger dividend of 3.85p.

The life and pensions group, previously known as Prudential UK, saw assets under management (AUM) decline slightly to £323bn though it announced plans to buy digital wealth management platform Ascentric, adding another £14bn to its AUM.

insurers have been told by the financial regulator to rein back payments during the pandemic, but M&G said it could afford the payout and it was the 'right thing' to do for shareholders.

Fellow blue-chip Auto Trader Group plc (LON:AUTO) rose 3% to 550.2p after announcing it will offer 25% discounts in June after reopening activities in England.

The online car retailer welcomed the governments decision to allow car showrooms to reopen on 1 June, two weeks before all other non-essential shops.

10.30am: Working from home could dent future office demand

The Footsie had kept its momentum by mid-morning as investors remain optimistic on society becoming accustomed to social distancing measures.

The UK big caps advanced 88 points to 6,156, although all the recent gains could quickly be wiped out amid Brexit issues, US-China tensions, Hong Kong unrest and fears over a second wave of coronavirus infections.

WATCH: Morning Report: FTSE 100 rises as travel and holiday stocks continue recovery

British Land Company PLC (LON:BLND) shot up 8% to 409.5p despite reporting a £1.1bn post-tax loss for the year to March 31, 202, as the value of its retail property shrank sharply.

The real estate investment trust said around half of its customers are likely to suffer a relatively higher impact from the coronavirus crisis, including sectors such as food and drink outlets, leisure, fashion & beauty retail and other general retail.

But the value of British Land's offices business is holding up with most tenants paying rent on time, although the current crisis may dent future demand as companies could keep working from home.

The ONS today indicated there might be substantial well-being and lifestyle benefits from not being in the office.

"We are spending less time on travelling and work and more on free time, gardening and DIY, and sleep and rest" said the report.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. added: “Already corporate leaders, including the CEO of Barclays Jes Staley, are publicly noting they might not need the same level of office space in the future as they eye the savings that could be achieved by reducing their footprint.

“It remains to be seen whether home working will pose the same existential threat to office real estate as online retail has to physical shops but it is a clear risk facing British Land, given offices account for substantially more than 50% of its holdings.”

9.45am: Markets ignore US-China red flags

FTSE 100 continued its ascent on Wednesday morning as markets focus on lockdown-easing measures from around the globe.

Londons leading index bagged 69 points to 6,136, as sterling dipped 0.3% to US$1.2299.

Spreadex, however, said investors are ignoring further potential red flags for the US-China relationship “with varying degrees of tenacity”.

“As Beijing add a bill banning mockery of the Chinese national anthem, while preparing to rubber-stamp a new set of national security laws, armed policed flooded the streets of Hong Kong in an attempt deter and disperse pro-democracy protests,” said analyst Connor Campbell.

“Beyond the terrifying implications for Hong Kong itself, it is also adding fuel to the fire of US-China tensions. Trump has said he is displeased with China, and that he will take action against the superpower this week if the national security laws are imposed.”

President Donald Trump said the U.S. was working on a strong response to Chinas planned national security legislation for Hong Kong and it would be announced before the end of the week. More: https://t.co/9RlnyJ7bn2 pic.twitter.com/9SDI1ULUpm

— Reuters (@Reuters) May 27, 2020

8.30am: Further advance for Footsie

The FTSE 100 got off on the front foot once more with traders positivity around the easing of lockdown restrictions undimmed by political tensions both nationally and internationally.

The US and China are daggers drawn on the thorny issue of Hong Kong and the potential clampdown following social unrest and mass demonstrations there.

At home, prime minister Boris Johnson may have to face down a revolt of his own as the row over advisor Dominic Cummings mercy dash to the north-east continues to simmer.

Later the European Commission is set to announce a new multi-billion stimulus package.

On the market, the travel stocks continued to attract buyers with TUI (LON:TUI) up a further 16% after the Lufthansa bail-out moved a step closer.

Cruise operator Carnival (LON:CCL) was up 8% and British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG) was ahead 4.7%.

Wealth manager St James Place was 7.5% higher after defying the odds to see a net inflow of new business during April.

Proactive news headlines:

Iofina PLC (LON:IOF) has revealed it moved into a profit in 2019 after record iodine production for a second year running. In a statement covering the period for the year to December 31, 2019, the chemicals group reported revenues that rose by 22% to US$29.2mln while there was a pre-tax profit of US$600,000 compared to a loss of US$1.1mln. Net debt also fell to US$18.2mln from US$25.6mln and chief executive Tom Becker said the 2019 performance had left it in a "stronger position than ever from which to resolve its current debt situation".

ECSC Group PLC (LON:ECSC) saw its shares move higher on Wednesday as the group announced the launch of its new Nebula Cloud cybersecurity breach detection service. The AIM-listed firm said Nebula Cloud will enable users to collect, store, and use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyse IT system logs and generate 24/7 alerts to potential cybersecurity breaches.

Kromek Group PLC (LON:KMK) said it has been awarded an extension to its contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to detect and identify pathogens in an urban environment. The detection technology specialist said under the new deal it will be awarded up to US$5.2mln to further work on its mobile wide-area bio-surveillance system capable of detecting airborne pathogens. The extension follows completion of the base period of the DARPA contract which was awarded in December 2018 to develop a vehicle-mounted biological threat identifier.

Zoetic International PLC (LON:ZOE) said it has signed a deal with Path Investments PLC to sell its 75% interest in DT Ultravert (DTU), a method for hydrocarbon well stimulation and protection, as well as its nitrogen assets in Kansas. The cannabidiol (CBD) products firm said under the deal Path will issue Zoetic with 15mln new shares together with warrants to subscribe for a further 15mln Path shares at 1.5p each at any time between the first and third anniversaries of the completion of the transaction. Path has also agreed to pay Zoetic royalties equal to 5% of all gross revenues derived from the DTU technology attributable to the 75% interest in perpetuity.

Argentex Group PLC (LON:AGFX), a provider of foreign exchange services to institutions, corporates and high net worth private individuals, has announced the completion of terms for a new London headquarters as momentum behind its growth strategy gathers pace. The group said the new headquarters – located at 25 Argyll Street, London, and managed by W.RE. – will support the significant expansion of headcount across all areas as Argentex recruits to meet the growing demand from its diversified client base for its leading foreign exchange services and advice.

Supermarket Income REIT PLC (LON:SUPR) has joined forces with the British Airways pension fund to buy a 25.5% stake in one of the UKs largest portfolio of J Sainsbury PLC (LON:SBRY) stores. The 50:50 joint venture will pay vendor British Land PLC (LON:BLND) £102mln for the stake in the portfolio, which comprises 26 Sainsbury stores predominately based in London and the south-east. After the transaction, Sainsbury's will own 49% of the freeholds of the properties, insurance group Aviva 25.5% and the JV the remaining 25.5%.

Eden Research PLC (LON:EDEN) said its licence agreement with Bayer Animal Health has been amended as there will be increased investment in the project, in part financed by Eden's successful March fundraise. The biopesticides group will also contribute its expertise in bio-active substances to the formulation development process. The pair are working on an animal shampoo, a conditioner, a spray, and an ear flush using Edens encapsulation technology.

Savannah Resources PLC (LON:SAV) told investors it has entered into an added value services agreement' with EIT InnoEnergy to assist project financing for the Mina do Barroso project, in Portugal. EIT InnoEnergy is part of a business investment platform (BIP) launched in September to accelerate the development of Europes battery industry. The aim of the BIP is to facilitate some €70bn of investments into EU based battery-related projects that will be required to meet peak European demand by 2023, Savannah noted.

Touchstone Exploration Inc (LON:TXP) (TSE:TXP) told investors it has entered into escrow for a US$20mln seven-year loan with Trinidad and Tobagos Republic Bank Limited. The loan will carry interest of 7.85%, payable quarterly in arrears, and is secured against the companys assets and subsidiaries. "We are pleased to be able to source local financing from Republic Bank, the largest lender in Trinidad and the Caribbean,” said Scott Budau, Touchstone chief financial officer in a statement.

In a separate statement after the close on Tuesday, Touchstone Exploration also announced that on May 22, 2020, certain employees exercised share options representing a total of 101,400 common shares of no par value in the company.

Genel Energy PLC (LON:GENL) has told investors that average output from the 25%-owned Tawke production sharing contract in Kurdistan, Iraq is expected to reduce down to 100,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) in 2020, assuming new wells arent drilled to arrest the natural decline. Without new wells the 2020 exit rate is forecast to be marked at around 80,000 bopd. In the first quarter, production from Tawke amounted to 115,210 bopd and in the second it was down to 100,000 bopd, while for the remainder of 2020 it is predicted at around 90,000 bopd.

Diversified Gas & Oil PLC (LON:DGOC) has now completed the second of its lockdown acquisitions, sealing the deal to acquire 6,100 US wells from Carbon Energy Corporation. It paid US$110mln gross – US$98mln net – to acquire the package of wells which yield around 9,100 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) along with associated midstream and infrastructure assets, adding 4,700 miles of mid-stream with “flow optionality and margin-enhancing opportunities”. This completion comes just a day after DGOC completed a separate but similar acquisition of assets from EQT Corporation for US$112mln, to add 9,000 boe per day from 900 wells.

Eurasia Mining PLC (LON:EUA) said it has appointed a new nominated adviser (Nomad) and a non-executive director as well as updating on the status of its shares, which are currently suspended from trading on AIM. The company said it has appointed SP Angel as its nomad and joint broker with immediate effect, and added that qualified lawyer and experienced corporate financier Iain Rawlinson will join the board as a non-executive director. Meanwhile, the company said it will make a further announcement in due course regarding the status of CITIC Merchant Co Limiteds role and strategic options in its current mining assets, and that its shares will remain suspended pending further notification.

Nuformix PLC (LON:NFX) unveiled a new development agreement on Wednesday, alongside a trading update which demonstrated the resilience of the group's business during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown. Nuformix, which unlocks the therapeutic potential of known drugs, has teamed up with Nasdaq-listed VistaGen Therapeutics. The pair will work on new crystalline forms of VistaGens AV-101, which is being developed to treat conditions including neuropathic pain and epilepsy. Turning to current trading, Nuformix chief executive, Dr Dan Gooding, said last years £1.25mln fundraise and the business low operating costs, meant the firm was “well-placed to ride out the current worldwide issues”.

Amur Minerals Corporation LON:AMUR), the nickel-copper sulphide mineral exploration and development company focused on the far east of Russia, has raised £0.5mln, before expenses, through a share placing to progress the development of the Kun-Manie nickel-copper sulphide project. The placing of 47,619,048 ordinary shares of no par value at a price of 1.05p each was undertaken by SP Angel acting as the companys broker.

The Brunner Investment Trust PLC (LON:BUT) announced the appointment of Douglas Armstrong as an alternate independent, non-executive director for Carolan Dobson with immediate effect until the conclusion of the company's annual general meeting on Wednesday. It noted that Armstrong is a solicitor at Dickson Minto W.S., the company's lawyers and will act as chairperson of the meeting.

Sareum Holdings PLC (LON:SAR) , the specialist drug development company delivering targeted small molecule therapeutics to improve the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases, has announced that its CEO, Dr Tim Mitchell, will give a company presentation at BIO Digital 2020, which will be delivered on-line from June 8-12, 2020. The presentation will highlight Sareum's two proprietary TYK2/JAK1 kinase inhibitor programmes, SDC-1801 and SDC-1802, targeting autoimmune diseases and cancers, respectively.

Circassia Group PLC (LON:CIR) has announced that the mandatory 30 day waiting period for US anti-trust clearance expired at midnight on May 26 and, accordingly, the proposed transfer of the Tudorza and Duaklir assets to AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) first announced on April 9, 2020, is now expected to complete during the course of the next three days. A further announcement will be made once completion has taken place.

KRM22 PLC (LON:KRM), the technology and software investment company, has announced that further to its announcement of May 14, 2020, Keith Todd, the groups executive chairman and CEO, Kim Suter, its chief financial officer, and Steve Sparke, a non-executive director of the company have subscribed for an aggregate of 449,998 new ordinary shares in KRM22 at a price of 30p each. Following the share subscriptions, the group added, Todd has a 10.69% holding in the company; Suter has aRead More – Source