FTSE 100 picks up the pace, with Aviva lifted by arrival of activist investor but oil firms lower

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11.37am: Leading shares off best levels


A number of major websites ranging from Amazon to the Guardian to the UK government have been knocked off-line in a major and unprecedented internet outage.


So far the cause of the problem is not known, but Sky News is reporting there was a spike in reports of outages on Amazon Web Services.


So far the London Stock Exchange seems unaffected so we can report that the FTSE 100 is now up just 5.85 points or 0.083% at 7083.07.


10.43am: Asset manager tops the risers


The leading index has sparked into life, helped by the arrival of an activist investor pushing for change at insurer Aviva PLC (LON:AV.)


But the top riser is Intermediate Capital Group PLC (LON:ICP).


The asset management business has climbed 6.26% to 2291p after it reported record full year profits of GBP597.7mln and increased its annual dividend for the eleventh successive time (click here to read more).


The heavyweight oil companies are proving a bit of a drag on the market. Brent crude continued recent weakness following this week’s news of a 15% fall in Chinese crude imports in May, suggesting a slowdown in demand. It has dipped 0.56% to $71.09 a barrel, helping push Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSA) down 1.22% and BP PLC (LON:BP. 0.31% lower.


Still, this has not stopped the FTSE 100 moving back above the 7100 level, up 25.83 points or 0.36% at 7103.05.


9.44am: Insurer in focus on calls for change


A bit of excitement now.


Shares in insurance giant Aviva PLC (LON:AV.) have jumped 3.53% or 14.5p to 425.2p on reports that activist investor Cevian Capital has taken a 5% stake and is pushing for change.


According to the Financial Times, Cevian wants the business to cut costs further and return GBP5bn to shareholders.


Cevian managing partner Christer Gardell, said: “Aviva has been poorly managed for many years and its high-quality core businesses have been held back by high costs and a series of bad strategic decisions.”


Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell said: “”One might initially think this is an odd move, given that activists often push for asset disposals and Aviva has just finished a big spate of selling international operations. However, Aviva is also sitting on a large amount of cash from these sales, and it appears that Cevian wants the insurer to be generous with cash returns to investors and to make deeper cost cuts.”


Sadly this has done little to spark the FTSE 100 into life,


The leading index is up just 8.6 points or 0.12% at 7085.82.


Reports that the June 21 date for lifting lockdown might be delayed is doing little for market sentiment.


9.20am: Bitcoin hit by ransom recovery?


Some are attributing the latest fall in Bitcoin – down 8.8% to $32,942 overnight – to news that millions of dollars worth of the cryptocurrency had been recovered by US officials from a ransom paid to hackers by the operator of the Colonial Pipeline following a cyberattack last month.


Whatever the case, it has undermined the sector, with the total market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies falling below US$1.5trn for the first time since May..


8.59am: Markets off to an uninspiring start


Leading shares have edged higher in early trading but it is nothing to write home about.


The FTSE 100 is up 13.53 points or 0.19% at 7090.75, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 is even less enthusiastic, up a miniscule 0.08% at 22,925.64.


With little on the economic agenda apart from US job openings and trade figures, investors are keeping their powder dry until the US inflation figures later in the week. Then there could be sparks.


Neil Wilson at Markets.com said: “Markets seem to be bobbing along pretty happily until there is the next big short-term risk scare – a well-understood, or at least fairly static, macro picture for the time being keeping things on an even keel.


“Inflation remains the big unknown but for now, bond yields are steady – US Treasury yields continue to look pretty calm around 1.55% – but the path for bond yields seems only higher this year. The question is one of timing and markets seem happy to wait until they get a clearer signal.


“Look out Thursday for the double header of the European Central Bank..and the US CPI inflation print, which is expected to be something in the region of +3.4%, which is another big reading after the +4.2% hit last month.”


On a quiet day for corporate news too – it feels like summer is really coming – British American Tobacco PLC (LON:BATS) has added 2.24% or 62p to 2836p after a positive update.


Richard Hunter, head of markets at interactive investor, said: “BATS is firmly focused on the changing habits of consumers and has made further progress to that end.


“The company reiterated its target of GBP5 billion of revenues from New Category products by 2025 and 50 million consumers of non-combustible products by 2030. The latter figure currently stands at 14.9 million, having added 1.4 million consumers in the latest quarter.


“At the same time, traditional sales have also held up on the whole, such that BATS has upped its revenue growth guidance for 2021 to over 5%, from a previous range of between 3-5%. Strong pricing overall, demonstrating once more the defensive nature of the stock, combined with a worthwhile contribution from the US, enabled the upgrade.


“The stock has underperformed of late given the industry headwinds, having lost 13% over the last year, as compared to a gain of 9% for the wider FTSE100. This has not been enough to deter supporters, however, given its cash-generative abilities and generous dividend yield, with the market consensus resolutely remaining at a strong buy.”


Proactive news headlines


Feedback PLC (LON:FDBK) said it expects to benefit from “increasing demand” for its software solutions going forward, allowing it to grow repeating revenues and increase product visibility through its software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.


Mineral and Financial Investments Ltd (LON:MAFL), an investor in junior mining companies, saw its net asset value rise 13% in the third quarter to end March 2021 as it increased its precious metals weighting.


Oncimmune Holdings PLC (LON:ONC) said revenues in the year to the end of May were eight times higher year-on-year, in line with expectations. Revenue growth in the current fiscal year is expected to be predominantly driven by the continued strength of the ImmunoINSIGHTS services business.


Xpediator PLC (LON:XPD) said it is “well placed to exceed market forecasts” for its current financial year as the company said demand for its transport and logistics services has remained strong.


Panther Metals PLC (LON:PALM) said a soil survey will start next week on the Dotted Lake property in Ontario, Canada that it hopes will build out and in-fill the westerly strike extensions of high-grade gold mineralisation intersected by historical trenching.


Cornerstone FS PLC (LON:CSFS) said trading volumes have increased this year and the group has continued to expand its customer base.


Base Resources Limited (ASX:BSE, LON:BSE) advised investors that Canaccord Genuity has been appointed as the company’s joint UK broker.


Zephyr Energy PLC (LON:ZPHR) has pledged to achieve 100% carbon-neutral operations by the end of September this year.


ADM Energy PLC (LON:ADME) clarified the structure through which it invested in the Barracuda oil field in Nigeria, noting that its investment was made with an acquisition of a 51% interest in KONH UK Ltd, which in turn holds a 70% stake in the Barracuda risk-sharing agreement.


Cobra Resources PLC (LON:COBR) said it is sending out documents ahead of its annual general meeting on 30 June.


Panthera Resources PLC (LON:PAT) said assay results from recent drilling at the Paimasa gold project in central Nigeria will be delayed while some samples are subject to re-assay by accelerated cyanide leach.


Kodal Minerals PLC (LON:KOD) has moved a step closer to being granted a mining licence for its flagship Bougouni lithium project in southern Mali.


6.44am: Another dawdling day but Bitcoin may suffer


The FTSE 100 is headed for another dawdling day, though some market watchers predict a Bitcoin crash could add drama to proceedings.


London’s blue chip shares index is heading for a two-point decline at the open, according to spread-betters in the City, following a tortuously slow start to the week, gaining eight points to close at 7,077.22.


Wall Street had a mixed session overnight, with the Dow Jones falling 0.4%, the S&P 500 finishing just below flat and the Nasdaq Composite rising 0.5%.


Meme stocks GameStop and AMC Entertainment led a rally for the small cap index of the Russell 2000 (read more here).


Largely the markets are in a range-bound pattern as traders await US inflation data later in the week and negotiations over President Biden’s infrastructure package, said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda.


Today, data such as German factory orders, US trade and JOLTS jobs openings will be “of passing interest”, he said.


“One thing that has caught my eye today is my old friend Bitcoin,” he added.


The analysts said he previously thought the cryptocurrency was forming a technical analysis pattern akin to a “bearish symmetrical triangle”.


“However, its fall through $35,000.00 of fiat US Dollars, backed by the tax-payer revenues of America, triggered a downside breakout.


“The breakout has a target of $22,000.00, which could happen in the next few days. Failure of $30,000.00 will basically put every long position since January 1st in the red, which I believe, will trigger another capitulation trade.”


Around the markets


Pound – down 0.1% to US$0.7063


Oil – Brent crude down 0.7% to US$70.96


Gold – down 0.1% to US$1,896.8


Bitcoin – down 10% (over 24 hours) to US$32,735


6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia


Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mostly lower on Tuesday as Japan’s economy shrank 3.9% in the first quarter, an improvement from the initial estimate of a 5.1% contraction.


The Shanghai Composite in China fell 0.81% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 0.42%


In Japan, the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.14% while South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.06%.


Shares in Australia lifted, with the S&P/ASX 200 trading 0.15% higher.


READ OUR ASX REPORT HERE


Proactive Australia news:


Pantoro Ltd (ASX:PNR) (FRA:RKN) has discovered high-grade mineralisation in the first drilling program into the Noganyer Formation, a sedimentary iron formation on the eastern edge of the Scotia Mining Centre at Norseman Gold Project (PNR 50%) in Western Australia.


Nova Minerals Ltd (OTCMKTS:NVAAF) (ASX:NVA) (FRA:QM3) has reported strong early results from infill drilling at Korbel Main, within its flagship Estelle Gold Project in the prolific Tintina Gold Belt in Alaska.


Ora Banda Mining Ltd (ASX:OBM) (FRA:M6N) has received firm commitments from new and existing professional, and sophisticated investors to raise $21 million at 17 cents per share.


Australian Vanadium Ltd (ASX:AVL) has confirmed high vanadium extraction rates of 88-90% during the first stage of a two-stage pilot-scale water leach process for the Australian Vanadium Project.


Piedmont Lithium Inc (NASDAQ:PLL) (ASX:PLL) (OTCMKTS:PDDTF) has completed the final leg in the strategic partnership with Sayona Mining Ltd (ASX:SYA) (OTCMKTS: DMNXF) and its investment in Sayona Quebec Inc.


Queensland Pacific Metals Ltd (ASX:QPM) (FRA:4EA) has entered into a binding agreement with LG Energy Solution (LGES) and POSCO GEM 1ST FUND for a combined equity investment of US$15 million with shares up as much as 24%.


Maximus Resources Limited (ASX:MXR) (FRA:M5F) has started a 1,500-metre reverse circulation (RC) resource extension and infill drilling program at the Wattle Dam Gold Mine, 24 kilometres from Kambalda, Western Australia’s premier gold and nickel mining district.


St George Mining Ltd (ASX:SGQ) has kicked off its maiden drilling campaign at the Paterson Project in WA’s Paterson Province, “elephant country” for copper-gold discoveries.


Golden Rim Resources Ltd (ASX:GMR) has released additional geochemical sample results from Loreto copper target at its Paguanta Project in northern Chile, which indicate the porphyry centre, a highly prospective copper target, is around 2.3 kilometres x 1 kilometres – or double the area suggested by previous sampling.


Prospect Resources Ltd (ASX:PSC) has completed around 92% of the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) scope for its high purity petalite pilot plant at the Arcadia Lithium Project in Zimbabwe.

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