• FTSE closes around 50 points off
  • Pound remains higher on election hopes
  • Oil and gas indices focused on OPEC meeting

5.10pm: FTSE 100 closes in red

FTSE 100 index failed to extend yesterday’s gains and closed in the red on Thursday as a stronger pound hurt the dollar earning constituents of the benchmark index.

Footsie closed around 50 points lower, to stand at 7,137, with miners taking a hit.

The pound added 0.44% against the US dollar, at 1.3163.

“It is a broad based sell-off as several industries are suffering. The rally in the pound has hit the firms that draw a large portion of their income from overseas, while an investigation surrounding Glencore has hurt the mining sector,” noted David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

On the ongoing trade situation, he added: “Some traders are optimistic that some sort of a phase one trade deal will be sorted out within two weeks, while others are still fearful Mr Trump could talk about pushing back any trade deal until the 2020 presidential election is over – like he did earlier this week.”

Elsewhere, on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed nearly 30 points at 27,619, while the S&P 500 fell over two points to stand at 3,110.

4pm: FTSE 100 at nine-week low

Stock market indices on both sides of the Atlantic aligned in the red as the S&P 500 joined its peers on the back foot.

Global equity benchmarks are shaking over persistent uncertainty regarding US-China trade talks, especially after Beijing did not seem to be as ready to clinch an agreement, following today’s demand for tariff cuts.

“While the markets avoided the kind of bloody plunges that opened December, the afternoon wasn’t without its losses,” Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, said in a note.

In London, the Footsie said goodbye to another 47 points to 7,141, its lowest since the start of October, with commodities stocks the main drag due to the fraud investigation into Glencore and the upcoming 15 December deadline set for Washington and Beijing.

Anglo American plc (LON:AAL), BHP Group PLC (LON:BHP) and Rio Tinto plc (LON:RIO) were among the biggest fallers, along with Asia focused stocks HSBC Holdings PLC (LON: HSBC), Standard Chartered PLC (LON:STAN) and Prudential (LON:PRU).

Paper and packaging companies were also pulled lower by DS Smith’s disappointing update.

3.15pm: Wall Street opens flat

US equity indices barely moved after the opening bell.

In early Wall Street trading, the Dow and the Nasdaq Composite were barely in the red, losing 46 points to 27,605 and 5 points to 8,561 respectively.

The broad-based S&P 500 was doing slightly better, but only gaining 2 points to 3,114.

Back on this side of the pond, the FTSE 100 hastened its descent as it moved towards the close.

Blue-chip index doubled its loss to 46 points, reaching 7,143.

Sterling kept the steady growth rising 0.4% to US$1.3152.

2.25pm: Glencore to be investigated by UK fraud authority

The FTSE 100 dipped further as shares in Glencore PLC (LON:GLEN) took a plunge after the UK fraud watchdog announced it is investigating the commodity giant.

The blue-chip index shed 21 points to 7,167, while the Anglo-Swiss group went down by 7% to 222p.

Glencore said in a statement it will cooperate with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which in turn said it cannot comment on the process as it has not been concluded yet.

Earlier this year it emerged the SFO was looking into dealings with Dan Gertler, a former business partner in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The US slapped sanctions on Gertler in December 2017 for alleged corruption in oil and mining deals.

Meanwhile, Burberry was still enjoying the 4% surge, trading at 2,065, on the back of a potential merger between fashion companies Kering and Moncler, despite the Italian brand stating “there is not any concrete hypothesis under consideration” after the rumours sparked.

1.30pm: Wall Street to open higher

Wall Street stocks are set to open higher on Thursday as optimism over US-China trade talks could avoid further tariffs on 15 December, though the Footsie remains under water losing 18 points to 7,170.

The Dow Jones and S&P 500 are set to rise 78 and 8 points respectively, according to the futures market as traders mull new China reports.

The Chinese commerce ministry said earlier today that tariffs must be cut in order to reach a deal, while analysts say that Trump is willing to keep the market happy ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

Brent crude was up 0.86% to US$63.54 per barrel as OPEC-plus oil ministers gather in Vienna, with Saudi Arabia set to confirm its pledge of production cuts while holding Russia and Iraq accountable for their promises to join in with cuts.

If all parties agree, analysts expect oil prices to be supported in their surge.

“The talk of a deeper 400K bpd production cut however is likely as the Saudis already voluntarily overcomply by roughly that amount,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note.

“The base case is for the OPEC + alliance production to get extended at least six months or possibly to end of next year.”

12.15pm: Burberry boosted by merger speculation

London’s blue chips slipped slightly lower by lunchtime on Thursday even though the pound lost a bit of momentum after the seven-month high reached earlier this morning.

Sterling has softened from its earlier seven-month high against the dollar to 1.3138, up 0.2%, while the FTSE is has dipped 13 points to 7,175.

“As has been a constant theme in recent months the leading UK benchmark continues to lag with the FTSE 100 pretty much flat on the day,” said David Cheetham, chief market analyst at XTB.

“The further appreciation of the pound is providing a headwind for UK blue-chips and the FTSE remains not far from its lowest level in 6 weeks,” he added.

The fairly uneventful day in the City was revived by some chatter over a potential merger in the continent’s luxury sector, lifting Burberry Group PLC (LON:BRBY) 3% to 2,050p.

French group Kering, the owner of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, may be interested in buying Italian puffer jacket maker Moncler, according to Bloomberg, only weeks after the sector saw Louis Vuitton owner LVMH confirming the US$16bn takeover of New York jeweller Tiffany & Co (NYSE:TIF).

11am: Aston Martin races higher

The Footsie is flat after pound retreated slightly after hitting a seven-month high earlier with traders optimistic about a “market friendly” general election result.

Sterling hit 1.3148, its highest level against the dollar since early May, but has since dropped to 1.3130, up 0.2%, while the Footsie inched up 3 points to 7,191.

One share that has raced higher is Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings PLC (LON:AML), up 8% to 545p after Autocar reported billionaire Lawrence Stroll is preparing to buy a major stake in the troubled luxury carmaker.

As the market waits for a key announcement from today’s meeting of the OPEC oil-producers cartel in Vienna, oil prices were up slightly but heavyweights BP (LON:BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSB) were little moved. 

The price of a barrel of Brent crude is up 0.5% to US$63.31.

Prices surged yesterday in anticipation of cuts, although analysts say the market may present some resistance as the global economy continues to falter.

Despite a tough capital market environment, UK equities in the oil and gas sector remained flat year-to-date (YTD) wiping out September’s 8% gains, broker SP Angel pointed out.

Small cap oil and gas indices have stabilised after 2018’s decline as, says SP Angel, they are due to engage in an active year of operational activity in 2020, with a number of “high impact drilling catalysts”.

9.45am: Pound makes more gains

One week to go to the general election and all eyes are on the pound, which is continuing to gain ground on the back of a potential Tory majority.

Sterling is up 0.33% against the dollar to 1.3147 and up 0.2% versus the euro to 1.1850, putting pressure on the overseas-focused FTSE 100, which was knocked further into the red, down 17 points or 0.2% to 7,171.

In a quiet day for economic data, some investors were focusing on motor industry number, with private new car registrations falling 6.1% year-over-year in November, worse than the 3.5% average decline in the previous 12 months.

Total registrations, including fleet and business sales, fell by 1.3%.

Not all is lost, noted Pantheon Macroeconomics, as EU consumer confidence rose in November to its highest level since July and now is back in line with its 35-year average, while car price inflation also should ease from October’s 4.1% rate, given that the present level of sterling against the euro is above the €1.13 average level of the last two years.

“That said, any recovery in demand will be constrained by a declining flow of people coming to the end of PCP finance deals, which typically last three years; registrations were 10% lower in 2017 than in 2016. Accordingly, the underlying trend in registrations probably will be no better than flat next year,” the economists said in a note.

8.30am: Subdued early progress

With the US president Donald Trump storming off in a huff home after the NATO summit and opening new fronts in his global trade war, the markets were due a quieter session on Thursday.

And so it transpired, early on at least, with the FTSE 100 index down just 6 points at 7,182.96.

On currency markets, the pound continued to make headway, however, nudging above US$1.31, hitting levels not seen in more than six months as the market started to price in a Boris Johnson electoral victory with a decent majority after next week’s polling.

There also appeared to be some relief that Donald Trump managed to complete his visit to the UK without courting controversy over the NHS.

“As a result of that currency markets appear to be starting to price out the prospect that Labour might win a majority at next week’s election,” said Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.

“Having been so negative on the pound for so long, markets are starting to believe in the prospect that we could well start to see the prospect of an orderly withdrawal from the EU in the next two months, and thus short positions are starting to get squeezed out, sending the currency to its best levels against the euro since before the 2017 election.”

While a boost the national self-esteem, the rise in the British currency did hit the big foreign exchange earners.

The miners figured heavily in the losers list, while British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG) took a double hit as a spike in the oil price – ahead of today’s OPEC meeting – exerted additional pain. The stock was down 1.5%.

Here’s a rarity – a retailer making profit upgrades rather than downgrades. And what a reception Dunelm (LON:DLNM) received after saying its online offering was having a material impact on the top line. The shares soared 14% higher.

Proactive news headlines:

Thor Mining PLC (LON:THR) (ASX:THR) topped the early gainers in London, with its shares leaping nearly 36% higher to 0.475p after news the former boss of resources investor Metal Tiger Plc (LON:MTR) has amassed a near 4.5% stake in the group. In a brief statement, Thor said it has informed on 4 December 2019 that Paul and Michelle Johnson now hold a beneficial interest in 47,976,083 ordinary shares representing a 4.46% interest in the company.

European Metals Holdings Ltd (LON:EMH) shares advanced in Thursday’s early deals as it confirmed an agreement that sees state-owned CEZ receive the option to invest €34.06mln and take a 51% stake in the company’s Czech subsidiary Geomet. The Czech unit holds the Cinovec asset which is described as a “globally significant lithium project”, as it is presently the largest known lithium resource in Europe.

James Parsons, the former chief executive of Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) is to take over at Regency Mines PLC (LON:RGM) and help fund its push into battery metals. A placing will raise £831,000 as a part of a refinancing of the business with C4 Energy, a new company part-controlled by Parsons also granted an option to acquire Regency’s debt.

Circassia PLC (LON:CIR) has undertaken a major overhaul of its board and senior management. Steve Harris is stepping down as chief executive of the respiratory drug specialist after thirteen years, with Ian Johnson appointed executive chairman as his replacement. Johnson is best known from his time as executive chairman of Bioquell and is currently a non-exec chair of Redcentric and on the board at Ergomed.

InnovaDerma (LON:IDP) said trading on the Black Friday weekend was its strongest to date and overall the Skinny Tan group continues to perform well. In a brief update, the AIM-listed developer of life sciences, beauty and personal care products said the performance was largely driven by Innovaderma’s DTC (direct to consumer) platform with online store sessions increasing by 43% compared to the previous year.

BATM Advanced Communications Limited (LON:BVC) has been awarded a US$4mln agri-waste contract by an unnamed Taiwanese food conglomerate. In a statement, the company said it would receive 30% of the sum by the end of December, with the remainder paid on completion of the project around this time next year. The contract will see BATM supply and install three waste treatment units based around its integrated steriliser and shredder technology at two sites.

Crossword Cybersecurity PLC (LON:CCS) revealed Thursday that its Consulting division has received CREST accreditation for its penetration testing services. In a statement, the AIM-listed firm noted that this means that the company now holds certifications from CREST, IASME and Cyber Essentials Plus. Stuart Jubb, managing director of Crossword Consulting, commented: “It is an excellent achievement that Crossword have been recognised by CREST as a credible organisation in the penetration test service marketplace.”

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) has received European regulatory sign-off for the unflavoured version of SlimBiome Medical. The CE Mark provides a product line extension for the firm’s weight loss sachets after initial approval last November.

AFC Energy PLC (LON:AFC) has launched the zero-emission H-Power electric vehicle (EV) charging system, which is based on its scalable alkaline fuel cells. In a statement, the company also revealed a ‘blue-ribbon’ partnership with the British Motor Show 2020, becoming the event’s official EV charging partner. It noted that the British Motor show returns next year, after a 12-year absence, and it is expected to see over 50,000 visitors attend.

Europa Metals Ltd (LON:EUZ) has completed the first hole in a drilling campaign at its Toral lead-zinc and silver project in Spain. The AIM-listed miner said the TOD-024 hole had been drilled to 302.4 metres and had returned visible sulphide mineralisation. A second drill hole, TOD-025, was begun immediately afterwards and is expected to continue until mid-December and the drilling will then resume in early January, in line with the company’s schedule.

Plexus Holdings Plc (LON:POS) chairman Jeff Thrall has told investors that talks with more potential partners about new and existing applications for the company’s flagship POS-GRIP technology continue to see progress. In a statement ahead of today’s AGM, Thrall noted that the company has “a growing suite” of proprietary products based around the POS-GRIP technology, which includes certain patented features such as superior metal-to-metal seals. Such technologies and products have diversified applications beyond oil and gas, where the initial business is centred.

Remote Monitored Systems PLC (LON:RMS) says it is continuing to review strategic options for its Geocurve subsidiary following a restructuring. The AIM-listed group said that following headcount reductions and restructuring at Geocurve earlier in the year, the subsidiary had returned to profitability in the first half of the year.

W Resources PLC (LON:WRES), the tungsten, tin and gold mining company with assets in Spain and Portugal, confirmed it has secured a new €500,000 revolving credit facility with leading Spanish Bank, CaixaBank, which will provide the ramp-up working capital financing outlined in the company announcement on 15 November 2019. The group said the Caixa facility is in place and funds have been drawn and it is in the process of negotiating additional facilities and further announcements will be made in due course. W Resources chairman, Michael Masterman commented: “The Caixa facility allows us to further reduce the average cost of funds of our debt facilities and provide solid working capital support for the ramp-up of La Parrilla.”

Live Company Group PLC (LON:LVCG) said that, further to its announcement of 29 November 2019 in respect of the £1.0mln Riverfort Facility, discussions remain ongoing regarding the proposed extension, and, accordingly, the investors have agreed to extend the payment of the outstanding balance due under the facility to 13 December 2019 from 5 December 2019. David Ciclitira, LVCG’s chairman commented: “I believe the outcome of these discussions will be genuinely positive for the Company and I remain confident about the Company’s prospects for 2020 and 2021”.

Kromek Group PLC (LON:KMK), a worldwide supplier of detection technology focusing on the medical, security screening and nuclear markets, said it will be announcing its interim results for the six months ended 31 October 2019 on Wednesday 11 December 2019.

6.50am: Lull predicted 

The FTSE 100 is set to start Thursday on the front foot amid a likely-short lull to the distractions of politics.

US President Donald Trump managed to leave the UK without much more controversial soundbites, although the spectre of the Chinese trade war is never far from the market’s awareness.

Not for the first time, investor sentiment is tentatively rebuilding amid hopes that progress can be made between the US and Chinese governments. This saw equity markets recover a little yesterday.

“While sceptical, given President Trump’s comments earlier in the week the rebound, while fairly modest, suggests that there is enough doubt there to compel investors not to get too pessimistic about a positive outcome quite yet,” said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets.

“Ultimately, we’ll only know what the true state of play is as we get closer to 15th December and the decision on the implementation of tariffs on the remaining $150bn of Chinese goods.”

Of course, Trump’s trade war is only one of the political distractions – the other being the UK general election and Brexit.

Hewson added: “The pound broke to the upside yesterday, as President Trump came and went while managing to avoid courting controversy over the NHS, and by virtue of that putting Boris Johnson in a difficult spot. 

“As a result of that currency markets appear to be starting to price out the prospect that Labour might win a majority at next week’s election.

“Having been so negative on the pound for so long, markets are starting to believe in the prospect that we could well start to see the prospect of an orderly withdrawal from the EU in the next two months, and thus short positions are starting to get squeezed out, sending the currency to its best levels against the euro since before the 2017 election.”

IG Markets sees the FTSE 100 rising around 13 points ahead of today’s open, with the CFD and spreadbetting firm making a price of 7,191 to 7,194 with just over an hour to go until the start of trading.

Last night on Wall Street, the Dow Jones rallied 146 points or 0.53% to close at 27,649.

The S&P 500 recovered 0.63% to 3,112 and the Nasdaq climbed 0.54% to finish Wednesday at 8,566.

In Asia, meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei this morning rose by 164 points or 0.71% to 23,300 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was lifted by 0.51% to 26,194, and, the Shanghai Composite added 0.67% to 2,897.

Attentions will later today be on OPEC’s meeting in Vienna, with crude prices already beginning to rise amid calls among some members for price supporting production cuts.

Around the markets:

Pound: US$1.3107, up 0.02%

Gold: US$1,476 per ounce, up 0.2%

Brent crude: US$62.81 per barrel, up 3.1%

Bitcoin: US$7,297, up 2.21%

Significant announcements expected for Thursday December 5:

Finals: Daily Mail & General Trust PLC (LON:DMGT), Victrex plc (LON:VCT)

Interims: DS Smith plc (LON:SMDS),

Trading announcements: IG Group Holdings PLC (LON:IGG)

Ex-dividends to knock 0.3 points off the FTSE 100: Next PLC (LON:NXT)

Economic data: US jobless claims, US trade balance, US factory orders

City Headlines:

HSBC to bring in single overdraft rate of 40% – BBC News

Saudi Arabia to urge Opec to make deeper cuts in production – Financial Times

Peloton loses $942mln of its market value amid furious backlash over its ‘sexist’ holiday ad – Mail Online

Huawei launches a new legal challenge against US ban – BBC News

Donald Trump is losing his trade war with China, and running out of economic time – Telegraph

UK services activity ‘back in decline’ as political uncertainty lingers – Financial Times

Cave diver tells court Elon Musk tweets ‘humiliated’ him – BBC News