- FTSE 100 index down 8 points
- US stocks start lower
- UK and EU come to a compromise over Northern Ireland border
3.10pm: Agreement reached on the Northern Ireland protocol
There has been a compromise in the Brexit negotiations, prompting a small rally by blue-chip equities.
The FTSE 100 was down 8 points at 6,547, paring earlier losses after it was announced that the UK and the European Union had reached agreement on the Northern Ireland protocol.
Following the agreement, the UK government said it would drop what are considered the most controversial parts of its Internal market Bill, specifically the parts that contravene international law, which is likely to please the “law and order” evangelists in the Conservative Party.
Delighted to announce agreement in principle on all issues in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee. Thank you to @MarosSefcovic and his team for their constructive and pragmatic approach.
— Michael Gove (@michaelgove) December 8, 2020
The decision means that the withdrawal agreement agreed last year is now just about ready for the oven.
The agreement relates specifically to ” checks on animals, plants and derived products, export declarations, the supply of medicines, the supply of chilled meats, and other food products to supermarkets”.
UK firms face GBP7.5bn cost in post-Brexit paperwork, warns HMRC, and to add insult to injury most of our paper comes from Germany and France.
— Have I Got News For You (@haveigotnews) December 8, 2020
2.48pm: Wall Street opens in the red
As expected, the main Wall Street indices were all lower in the opening minutes of Tuesday’s session amid doubts over a new US stimulus package and rising cases of COVID-19 across the country.
Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.15% at 30,024, while the S&P 500 fell 0.26% to 3,682 and the Nasdaq dropped 0.13% to 12,503.
A cocktail of uncertainties over the economy, be it stimulus or the outcome of Brexit negotiations, seems to have given traders pause for thought following recent rallies, while others may also be looking to let their foot off the pedal as Christmas edges closer.
“We may be heading into the festive period but we’re a long way from officials easing their way into the holiday season. Everywhere you look, negotiations are underway to prevent a variety of very undesirable outcome, whether that be no-deal Brexit, US government shutdown, the expiration of Covid relief measures or the failure to pass the EU budget and relief package”, said Craig Erlam as OANDA.
“One thing they all have in common – apart from having significant economic consequences at a time we least need them – is that they all need to be resolved by the end of the year. The other thing they all have in common is they’re being negotiated by officials that love an eleventh hour deal. These people thrive at a minute to midnight, which doesn’t bode well when it comes to festive plans for anyone involved”, he added.
However, Erlam also said that should things work themselves out, the new year could be a good one for markets.
“On the one hand, this means there’s a multitude of downside risk for markets that have performed exceptionally well since the start of November. It’s not all doom and gloom though. That also means that, should everything pan out as it should – and is expected to – stock markets could get a nice boost into the end of the year. Perfect timing for Santa rally enthusiasts”, he said.
Another area that could boost markets earlier than years end is the FDA’s meeting on Thursday, which could see the regulator approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use in the US.
Back in London, the FTSE 100 had recovered some losses but was still down a little with an 8 point fall to 6,547 at around 2.45pm.
1.30pm: IHG and Cineworld lower after broker commentary
There is little sign of the Santa Surge/Father Christmas rally today, as investors wait for more developments in the Brexit negotiations marathon.
London’s index of heavyweight stocks was down 18 points (0.3%) at 6,537p.
Hotels group Intercontinental Hotels Group PLC (LON:IHG) has been on many fund managers’ ‘buy’ list since the news about the first COVID-19 virus broke but Jefferies thinks the shares are now overpriced following their recent rally.
The broker switched to “underperform” from “hold” and chopped the 12-month target price to 3,550p from 4,100p.
Another hospitality stock, cinema chains operator Cineworld Group PLC (LON:CINE) is another that received a fillip from the vaccine news, recovering from 28.5p at the end of November to 62.26p at last night’s close but it is off 3.6% today at 60p even after HSBC played catch-up and lifted its share price target to 60p from 25p and Jefferies hiked its price target to 110p from 40p.
12.20pm: US stocks to open mostly lower
US stocks are expected to open mostly lower, despite news of a new initiative to agree on a fresh stimulus package for the USA.
Spread betting quotes indicate the Dow Jones industrial average will open about 80 points lower at around 28,890 while the broader-based S&P 500 is expected to slide 23 points to 3,669.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite is tipped to defy the trend and open 19 points firmer at 12,539.
On the subject of tech stocks, electric cars maker Tesla has indicated it will raise up to US$5bn through the sale of new stock via an “at the market” offering programme.
Demand for the company’s shares has been insatiable of late, with the shares up 13% over the last three days. It’s only about three months since the stock market glamour stock whacked out US$5bn in shares to the market.
Chinese search engine and social media giant Baidu is travelling in the opposite direction, buying back shares from the market. It announced today it would increase its share buyback programme by US$1.5bn to US$4.5bn.
In the old school sector of the stock market, United States Steel has opted to exercise its option to buy up the rest of Big River Steel for US$774mln – roughly the amount Elon Musk keeps in the coffee-cup holder well of his Tesla.
The only economic reports scheduled for release in the US today are the NFIB’s small business survey for November and the final productivity and unit labour cost readings for the third quarter, according to Daiwa Capital Markets.
“Regarding the latter, while the second estimate of GDP growth was unrevised, Daiwa America chief economist, Mike Moran, thinks that productivity will be revised down 0.8ppt to 4.1% AR [annualised rate] because of an upward revision to hours worked. Neither of these reports are likely to move the market, so the focus for investors will remain on any progress on fiscal stimulus negotiations,” Daiwa said.
Talking of which, Chirs Beauchamp at IG Group reckons the rise in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases has lit a fire under US lawmakers, who are now talking about revising ideas of a stimulus package, albeit well below the US$900bn that was being talked about in the dog days of summer.
“Even if the bill does go through, the lack of a ‘trillion’ in the headline could mean markets greet it with a collective shrug, deeming it insufficient to provide a real boost for the US economy,” Beauchamp suggested.
In the UK the focus is on Brexit negotiations – where not much is happening at present, not even public posturing by the politicians – and COVID-19, where the first person in the world to be jabbed with the vaccine developed by German company BioNTech in conjunction with US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer is being lauded as a British success story.
Margaret Keenan got the honour of being the first to be vaccinated and talking of British success stories, the second person to receive the jab was a Warwickshire gentleman rejoicing in the name of William Shakespeare.
Let’s hope it is not a case of much ado about nothing. As some wag on Twitter suggested, the next person to get the jab will be Richard III and then Henry IV …
The FTSE 100 was down 33 points (0.5%) at 6,552.
11.40am: Bank of England mortgage survey shows a slight improvement in mortgage arrears
The outstanding value of all UK residential mortgage loans was GBP1,527.3bn at the end of the third quarter of, 2.9% higher than a year earlier.
The Bank of England‘s quarterly report also revealed that the value of gross mortgage advances was down 14.7% year-on-year at GBP62.5bn. On the other hand, the value of new mortgage commitments (lending agreed to be advanced in the coming months) was 6.8% higher than a year earlier, at GBP78.9bn – the highest level since the third quarter of 2007.
The share of mortgages advanced in the third quarter that had loan to value (LTV) ratios exceeding 90% was 3.5%, 2.4 percentage points (pp) lower than a year earlier.
The share of gross advances for remortgages for owner-occupation was 25%, a decrease of 3pp since the third quarter of last year while the share for house purchase for owner occupation was 55.8%, up 2.6pp from a year earlier.
The value of outstanding balances with some arrears fell by 1.2% over the quarter to GBP13.8bn, and now accounts for 0.90% of outstanding mortgage balances, the central bank said.
The FTSE 100 was down 29 points (0.4%) at 6,527.
10.45am: Pandemic counter-measures sap demand for oil
The FTSE 100’s rally proved to be short-lived and it is back on the retreat, with the oil giants responsible for much of the decline.
London’s benchmark of big-cap stocks was down 29 points (0.5%) at 6,526.
Oil prices fell yesterday and the downtrend continued overnight as pandemic measures strengthened, SP Angel said.
“Renewed lockdowns in California, Germany and South Korea are impacting demand expectations.” the resource stocks specialist said.
“California has enacted a stay at home order which affects 85% of the population in the state,” it noted.
Brent crude for February delivery is down 22 cents at US$48.57 a barrel.
9.35am: Ashtead leads the rally
London’s index of leading shares was down 4 points (0.1%) at 6,551.
Ashtead was the top riser, advancing 3.7% to 3,347p after it lifted full-year guidance in its interims.
The shares are currently trading at an all-time high.
“Stocks are struggling to find a direction,” according to Milan Cutkovic at Axi, and market reporters and commentators are struggling to find news ways of saying not much is happening.
Top marks, therefore, to Connor Campbell for “elsewhere the markets were mixed-to-barely awake.”
Cutkovic said that stimulus and vaccine hopes are keeping the rally alive but “grim coronavirus numbers” are a reminder that the worst of the pandemic might not yet be behind us.
“However, few market participants are willing to bet against the market amid expectations that further stimulus measures are just around the corner,” the Axi analyst said.
8.45am: Brexit worries impinge
With another day of agonising over the Brexit talks in prospect, leading equities opened lower on Tuesday, despite the weakness of sterling.
The FTSE 100 was down 28 points, or 0.4%, at 6,528, while sterling was off by four-tenths of a cent at US$1.3337.
“Ferguson has made a solid start to the [financial] year, with each of its geographies making progress against a difficult backdrop,” said Richard Hunter at interactive investor.
“With US revenues improving in the quarter by 3.2% and underlying trading profit by 11.3%, Ferguson has demonstrated that its previous controls on operating and capital expenditure have borne fruit. At the same time, new residential housing starts propelled sales higher, although manufacturing and restricted municipal funding were notable headwinds,” he noted.
Elsewhere, the latest grocery market share figures from market research group Kantar for the period ending November 29, 2020, showed it was the largest month ever for the grocery market, with GBP10.9bn spent in-store and online.
According to Kantar, the average British household has spent a record GBP4,206 on groceries this year.
“The three days before non-essential retail and hospitality closed on 5 November were especially busy, with grocery sales that week up by 17%. November as a whole saw shopper frequency hit its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting more confidence among people going into stores. Those factors contributed to November being the single largest month ever for the supermarkets, with GBP10.9 billion spent over four weeks. December’s numbers are likely to surpass that again, and we expect spend to be close to GBP12 billion in the month ahead, around GBP1.5 billion more than last year,” said Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.
UK Grocery Sales Up 11.3% Y/Y In 12 Weeks To Nov. 29 – Kantar
-Tesco Sales Up 10.4% Y/Y In 12 Week To Nov 29
-Sainsbury Up 10.8%, Asda Up 7.7%, Morrison’s Up 13.7%
-UK Grocery Inflation 1.4% In 12 Weeks To Nov. 29
— LiveSquawk (@LiveSquawk) December 8, 2020
In the 12 weeks to November 29, Tesco PLC‘s (LON:TSCO) share of the grocery market was 27.0%, compared to 27.3% over the same period of 2019. J Sainsbury PLC (LON:SBRY) saw its share hold steady versus the year before at 15.7% while Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC (LON:MRW) grew its share to 10.3% from 10.1% the year before. Ocado Group PLC‘s (LON:OCDO) share has risen to 1.7% from 1.4%.
Proactive news headlines:
EQTEC PLC (LON:EQT) said it has signed a share purchase agreement (SPA) to acquire full ownership of the Deeside Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) project in Wales. The gasification technology specialist said an initial consideration of GBP2.31mln, including a deposit amount of GBP300,000, from which an existing exclusivity payment of GBP100,000 will be deducted, is payable on signing of the SPA and the balance of GBP2.01mln will be payable on or before a date 12 months from the date of signing. An additional deferred consideration of GBP2.29mln is also payable on the achievement of certain conditions relating to development milestones of the project.
Sativa Wellness Group Inc (LON:SWEL) said it has expanded its coronavirus (COVID-19) testing service to the Goodbody Wellness store in Bristol following a “significant success” of the service at its store in Bath. The Aquis-listed cannabidiol (CBD) firm’s in-store clinic provides testing for people not presenting symptoms who require negative tests for travel, work, or peace of mind. Sativa originally launched the testing service in November and offers polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for travel and work, antigen testing providing results in 15 minutes as well as antibody testing for those who want to find out if they have had COVID-19.
Incanthera PLC (AQSE:INC) used its interim results statement to hail the “solid progress” of its lead asset, a cream that treats solar keratosis and helps prevent certain types of skin cancers. University College of London’s School of Pharmacy ran a study on the Bradford University-developed technology, called Sol, and the results exceeded expectations. The data revealed Sol delivered more of the active ingredient into the skin than four comparator products. They also showed that a new refined formulation of the cream was effectively better than an oral treatment (in scientific speak, it exceeded the bioequivalence threshold). Sol is being prepared for licensing to a commercial partner in the next 12-18 months.
Kromek Group PLC (LON:KMK) has been awarded two contract extensions by a European government-related company. The supplier of detection technology is to provide network solutions of its D3S-related technologies to counter nuclear terrorism. The contract extensions are worth a total of GBP460,000 and will be delivered in the current financial year. In total, this company has put slightly more than GBP2.5mln of business Kromek’s way. Separately, Kromek also said that it will be announcing its interim results for the six months ended October 31, 2020, on Wednesday January 13, 2021. It added that Dr Arnab Basu, the group’s chief executive officer, and Paul Farquhar, its chief financial officer, will be hosting a presentation to analysts at 9.00am GMT on the day via webcast. To register to participate, please contact: [email protected]
Amryt Pharma PLC (NASDQ:AMYT) (LON:AMYT) said it has raised US$40mln from leading biotech investors with a tranche of the proceeds being used to in-license or invest in rare disease technologies. The group issued 3.2mln American Depositary Shares at US$12.50 each to new and existing shareholders including Stonepine Capital, Aquilo Capital Management, Amati Global Investors, Athyrium Capital Management and Highbridge Capital Management. As well as being invested in new drug opportunities, the fresh cash injection will be used for “general working capital and general corporate purposes”.
C4X Discovery Holdings PLC (LON:C4XD) said that Clive Dix, chief executive of the AIM-listed biotech has taken over as the interim chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce following the departure of Kate Bingham. The Taskforce was set up by the UK government to find and manufacture a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine and has said it will outline the plans for its long-term leadership shortly. Dix was already deputy chair of the taskforce and C4X added that his appointment will not affect his day-to-day role as C4X’s CEO. Separately, on Monday, C4X Discovery said it will be announcing its full-year results for the year ended July 31, 2020, on Thursday, December 10, 2020.
Blackbird PLC (LON:BIRD) said it has won the accolade of emerging tech company of the year at the OTT Awards, organised by sports sponsorship and broadcasting media firm SportsPro. The cloud video editing specialist said the OTT Awards are “one of the most coveted recognitions in the sports broadcast industry” with a 29-strong panel of industry judges having carried out a deliberation process to choose winners across 14 categories. “Our judges awarded Blackbird the top prize as they felt they showed extremely good growth and had a number of very high-profile customers. The platform is a great solution for many content creators, particularly due to its ability to turn content around so quickly”, SportsPro said in a statement.
Guild Esports PLC (LON:GILD) has launched its first range of branded digital merchandise, allowing players of Rocket League to add via in-game customisation. The digital products, referred to as ‘decals’ in Rocket League, are added to players vehicles – for example, they could play with the Guild logo affixed to their car during competition. Guild noted that many top-tier professional esports teams sell their team-specific decals or ‘skins’ along with other digital customisation items. Like a digital football jersey, fans can buy and ‘wear’ these items to show their support for the teams.
IXICO PLC (LON:IXI) has secured a contract for neuroimaging solutions with a large global pharmaceutical company. The Phase IIB trial will investigate an orphan drug designated clinical asset for the treatment of Huntington’s disease (HD). The AIM-listed artificial intelligence data analytics company said the contract win was included in management’s expectations of performance for the current financial year but adds to the company’s strong order book.
ADES International Holding PLC (LON:ADES) said it has shown an ability to adapt to unfavourable market conditions as it confirmed revenue growth over the first nine months of 2020. In a trading update for the third quarter, the firm reported US$349mln of revenue in the nine months ended September 30, 2020, up 2% on the US$342mln marked at the same point last year. Third-quarter revenue amounted to US$100mln and the group’s earnings margin was described as in-line with the first half of 2020. ADES repeated its full-year guidance, which is for a ‘broadly flat’ performance.
Futura Medical PLC (LON:FUM) has updated investors on the regulatory and commercial progress of its MED3000 treatment candidate for erectile dysfunction (ED). The AIM-listed pharmaceutical firm said it recently received the pre-submission minutes of a meeting held on October 19, 2020, by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which has confirmed the outline design of the requested FM17 supplemental clinical trial. Futura said FM71, assuming it meets its primary endpoints, will provide the FDA with the “necessary reassurance” of MED3000’s efficacy and safety for up to six months use by ED patients.
San Leon Energy PLC (LON:SLE), the independent oil and gas production, development and exploration company focused on Nigeria, announced that Linda Beal, a non-executive director of the company, has decided to step down from the board with immediate effect. The company had previously announced that, following the appointment of Allenby Capital Limited as its nominated adviser, it proposed to appoint at least one new non-executive director and it confirmed that its search is already well underway with a consultant appointed to advise the company on suitable candidates and some preliminary interviews having already been conducted. Oisin Fanning, San Leon chief executive, commented: “Linda has been an enormous asset to San Leon, frequently fulfilling a role that goes far beyond that of a conventional non-executive in the assistance she has given us on our annual audits and ongoing financial planning. I am very grateful to her for all the support she has given the Company and I wish her well in the future.”
i3 Energy PLC (LON:I3E) (TSX:ITE) said that, following the completion of regulatory due diligence, John Festival has been appointed to the group’s board of directors with immediate effect. Majid Shafiq, i3 CEO, commented: “We are pleased to announce the appointment of John to our board. His knowledge and experience operating in the Canadian oil and gas sector will be invaluable as we look to optimise and grow our Canadian business.”
The Brunner Investment Trust PLC (LON:BUT) noted that, as described in the company’s latest Annual Report the board has a succession plan in place for the appointment and retirement of directors and in accordance with this plan Ian Barlow is to retire from the board on 8 December 2020. The trust’s chairman, Carolan Dobson, commented: “We will very much miss Ian who has delivered wisdom, dedication and excellent guidance over his years on the board and during his time as Chairman of the Audit Committee. We wish him well for the future.”
ECSC Group PLC (LON:ECSC), the provider of cybersecurity services, said it has been informed that on December 7, 2020, Ian Mann, its chief executive officer purchased a total of 8,059 ordinary shares of 1 penny each in the company at a price of 74.45p each. The group noted that Mann now has a total beneficial interest in 2,300,948 ECSC ordinary shares, equivalent to approximately 22.99% of the company’s issued share capital.
Plexus Holdings Plc (LON:POS), the AIM-quoted oil and gas engineering services business and owner of the proprietary POS-GRIP friction-grip method of wellhead engineering, has said its annual general meeting (AGM) will be held on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. at 2.30pm. Due to restrictions arising from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the AGM will be a closed meeting at which a quorum will be present in a secure and compliant arrangement. Shareholders are encouraged to submit their votes by appointing the chairman of the meeting as their proxy.
World High Life PLC (LON:LIFE), the AQSE listed investment company with a focus on developing business opportunities in the regulated cannabis industry in Europe, has given notice that its annual general meeting will be held at 12.00pm on December 31, 2020, at 7-9 Swallow Street, London, W1B 4DE.
Oracle Power PLC (LON:ORCP), the AIM listed international natural resource and power project developer has said an updated corporate presentation has been uploaded to the company’s website: http://www.oraclepower.co.uk/investor-relations/presentations/
6.50am: Footsie single-minded
The FTSE 100 is expected to backtrack on Tuesday after five days on the front foot, as Brexit talks hit another wall.
London’s blue-chip share index was being called 22 points lower ahead of the open on the IG spread-betting platform, having added 5 points at the start of the week to reach 6,555.39.
Overnight, Wall Street had a mixed session as stimulus package talks resumed in Congress. The Dow Jones Industrials Average dropped 0.5% to 30,069.79 and the S&P 500 slipped 0.2% but the tech-fuelled Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.45%.
Brexit talks are a focus around the world, with the UK and EU appearing to be heading down a road to no deal ahead of the final, final deadline this month.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson put out a statement on Monday to say that he will travel to Brussels for a last-ditch showdown today or tomorrow with Ursula Von Der Leyen, the President of the EU Commission, to try to resolve “significant differences” still remaining on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries.
The pound, which has risen in the past fortnight, came under pressure as a result of the toing and froing, before recovering most of its lost ground after the Downing Street announcement.
“For all the bluster coming from either side it is in neither side’s interest to run the clock down to a no-deal outcome, however, given the current state of play, that option remains a very real possibility,” said market analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.
“EU officials insisted that the deadline for any deal to be agreed was Wednesday, however as with all things EU this could well slip too.”
Around the markets:
- The pound fell 0.1% to US$1.3361
- Brent crude down 0.6% to US$48.48 per barrel
- Gold up 0.2% at US$1,868.40
6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia
Asia-Pacific markets were lower on Tuesday as investors remained cautious over rising coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and uncertainty over Brexit talks between the UK and the European Union.
The health-care arm of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com made its trading debut in Hong Kong and saw its share price surge 34% from its offer price at open.
Chinese mainland shares fell with the Shanghai composite 0.09% lower and in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dropped 0.61%.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 dipped 0.30% while South Korea’s Kospi declined 1.53%.
Australia’s benchmark ASX 200 reversed its early losses to close 0.19% higher.
Proactive Australia news:
engage:BDR Ltd (ASX:EN1) has closed its share purchase plan (SPP) on Monday, December 7, after receiving strong support with applications exceeding the target of $1 million.
Venture Minerals Limited (ASX:VMS) (OTCMKTS:VTMLF) has high hopes for its Golden Grove North Project in WA after confirming the potential for a large volcanic massive sulphide (VMS) body in maiden drilling at the Orcus prospect, according to managing director Andrew Radonjic.
Northern Minerals Ltd (ASX:NTU) (FRA:NUN) is encouraged by strong price gains since the beginning of 2020 in the primary payable heavy rare earth elements from its Browns Range Project in WA as well as the future market outlook.
Andromeda Metals Ltd (ASX:ADN) welcomes reverse circulation drilling results of up to 31 metres at 3.06 g/t gold at Clarke prospect within the Wudinna Gold Joint Venture Project with Cobra Resources PLC (LON:COBR) on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia.
Nanoveu Limited (ASX:NVU) has entered into a 12-month exclusive agreement with Touch Guard Pty Ltd for the distribution of Nanoveu’s antiviral products, including Nanoshield products, in the Australian and New Zealand markets.
VIP Gloves Ltd (ASX:VIP) has approved a new dividend policy for the company whereby an annual dividend payout ratio of between 20% and 40% of earnings before significant items, subject to the company’s financial position, will be determined.
Yandal Resources Ltd (ASX:YRL) is encouraged by positive initial metallurgical test-work on primary samples from Gordons Dam prospect with results confirming high gold recoveries of up to 97.53% using conventional gravity and cyanide leach techniques.