• FTSE 100 closes 58 points lower
  • Wall Street shares down
  • US trade deficit falls sharply in November

5.10pm: Weak close on final full session of 2019

FTSE 100 ended its recent winning streak on the penultimate trading day of the year to close in the red, tracking falls on Wall Street.

The UK’s premier share index finished nearly 58 points lower at 7,587, while the FTSE 250 plunged over 122 points to 21,936.

“After an impressive 11 consecutive winning sessions the FTSE was on the back-foot heading towards the close,” noted Fiona Cincotta, analyst at GAIN Capital UK.

“With Wall Street starting in the red, a stronger pound and little for traders to grab onto in the sluggish seasonal trading period, profit-taking was the order of the day.”

Sterling was up nearly 0.5% against the US dollar, as currency traders appeared to shrug off no-deal Brexit fears. Britain is due to leave the bloc as the end of January, 2020 and into a transition period, in which it will remain in the single market and customs union until the end of the year, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to not extend the transition period.

“In the case that no trade agreement is reached the UK will leave the EU under WTO trade rules, a significant step down from the current arrangement and an arrangement that investors fear will negatively impact the UK economy,” noted Cincotta.

The top blue-chip loser was BAE Systems plc (LON:BA.), which dropped 2.21% to stand at 566.80p.

3.35pm: FTSE 100 negative into final hour of trading

The final hour of the last full trading session of 2019 has seen the FTSE 100 fail to pull out of its early slump, with the blue-chip index down 48 points at 7,597 around 3.30pm.

Given the seasonal lull, there has been little for traders in London to get excited about, while a similarly sluggish start across the Atlantic has failed to catalyse any uptick in activity.

There may also be some slight pressure from sterling, which was 0.4% higher at US$1.3128 in late-afternoon.

NMC Health PLC (LON:NMC) was continuing its reign at the top of the FTSE 100 risers, with the shares up 4.1% at 1,807p.

At the bottom of the pile was defence firm BAE Systems PLC (LON:BA.), which was down 2.4% at 566p.

2.45pm: Wall Street starts lower on penultimate trading day of 2019

The US markets have kicked off Monday’s session on a predictably sluggish note as seasonal trading conditions left little for traders to get excited about.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.24% lower at 28,575 while the S&P 500 dropped 0.23% to 3,232 and the Nasdaq fell 0.33% to 8,976.

While there is little on the corporate front for US traders, US trade deficit data released before the open showed a sharp 5.4% fall in November to US$63.2bn, its lowest level in over two years.

While the figure is not as comprehensive as the full trade report for the month, due next week, it may serve as an indicator that the US economy could be in better shape than previously thought.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 took its lead from Wall Street’s dull open and was down 42 points at 7,602 just before 2.45pm.

1:30pm: US markets to open flat as trade optimism fails to shake off holiday sluggishness

Monday’s open on Wall Street is expected to be fairly flat as traders continue to be subdued amid the holiday lull despite something of a reduction in trade tensions between China and the US following the announcement of a ‘phase one’ trade deal earlier this month.

However, despite the sleepy session expected today the US markets seem poised to end a blockbuster year, with the S&P 500 on track to end 2019 just short of a 30% gain, well above analyst expectations of an 11% increase.

Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, added that US stocks “seem poised to march higher in 2020… as fears of both a complete collapse with global trade talks and Brexit have abated”.

Back in London, the FTSE was still trading in the negative in early afternoon, down 22 points at 7,623 at 1.30pm.

The biggest faller among the blue-chips was high street clothing chain Next PLC (LON:NXT), which was 2.3% lower at 7,104p, while private healthcare firm NMC Health PLC (LON:NMC) was leading the risers, up 3.6% at 1,798.5p.

12:25pm: UK mortgage approvals rise unexpectedly in November

While most of the trading session has provided little to get traders excited, one surprise this morning came from UK mortgage approvals, which spiked in November to 43,700.

Howard Archer, chief economic advisor at the EY ITEM Club, said the “significant upward surprise” could be attributed to buyers wanting to make a move ahead of the general election earlier this month “amid concerns over a potential change of government”.

“November’s jump in mortgage approvals was very much a surprise as the fact that they had fallen back over the previous three months to be at a seven-month low in October had pointed to housing market activity being pressurised by recent heightened uncertainties. It is also notable that the labour market is now showing increasing signs of faltering with both employment and earnings growth coming off the highs seen around July”, Archer said.

Looking ahead, he added that the Conservative’s victory in the election on 12 December could give the housing market “a modest leg-up” as Brexit uncertainty eased, while mortgage interest rates continued to remain at historically low levels.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 was still in the red at lunchtime, with the blue-chip index down 27 points at 7,617 just before 12.30pm.

11:10am: FTSE 100 losses widen through quiet trading

The FTSE 100’s early losses widened somewhat through mid-morning deals on Monday.

London’s blue-chip index was down 27 points, or 0.36%, changing hands at 7,617.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 nudged 22 points or 0.1% lower to trade at 22,036.

8:30am: FTSE 100 opens lower into quiet Monday trading session

The FTSE 100 opened lower on what is typically a quiet trading period sandwiched between Christmas and New Year.

At 7,634, the index was down 10 points or 0.14% in early deals.

Without major corporate headlines and amid low volumes there’s little to stir City desk deputies into action, so attentions will largely be on macro factors and currencies.

“With many investors still in holiday mode, global stocks continued to hover near their 2019 highs,” said Lukman Otunuga, senior research analyst.

“Easing trade worries and less Brexit uncertainty were the two key components of December’s equity rally and investors are continuing to enjoy some festive cheer in the final trading days of the year.”

The analyst added: “The Dollar seems to be out of love as we approach the new year.

“The Dollar Index has fallen by more than 1% from last week’s high and 2.9% from its 2019 peak, sending it closer to where it started the year.”

Proactive news headlines:

GSTechnologies Ltd (LON:GST) today released interim results showing a 1.11% increase in revenue whilst the company described a period with “increasing market complexity”. Revenue for the period amounted to US$2.59mln and operating income totalled US$2.59mln, up from US$2.32mln. Net cash from operating activities were positive, at US$20,000.

Iconic Labs PLC (LON:ICON) told investors it has been informed by chairman David Sefton that he wishes to resign from the board at the conclusion of today’s AGM. Sefton will continue to be involved with the company though not as a director. John Quinlan will now take the role of interim chairman.

BigDish PLC (LON:DISH) released its half-yearly results statement which confirm that the food technology company has sufficient funding until the third quarter of 2020. The company had £1.29mln of cash in the bank at the end of September.

Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy LON:FARN) told investors it has filed a request for arbitration with the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce to seek damages related to a dispute over a terminated manufacturing agreement with  Rentschler Biopharma. In October, Faron revealed it had received a contract termination notice from German producer Rentschler Biopharma, which was providing active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing.

Mosman Oil And Gas Ltd (LON:MSMN) said its partially owned associate GEM International Resources Inc has raised new capital through an issue of 8mln new shares priced at 5 Canadian cents each and, at the same time, converted some C$270,500 via a debt-for-equity swap.

Cadogan Petroleum Plc (LON:CAD), an independent, diversified oil & gas company focused on Ukraine, announced that the Bitlyanska exploration license expired on the 23rd December. During the license validity term, the company said, it has fully fulfilled the work programme and obligations without any breach. The group added that the application for a 20-year exploration and production license was filed in due time and is progressing positively; all required intermediate approvals, including that of the regional Council of L’viv, had been secured in due time. It concluded that further announcements will follow in due course.

Diversified Gas & Oil PLC (LON:DGO), the US-based owner and operator of natural gas, natural gas liquids, oil wells and midstream assets, announced that, in accordance with the terms of its share buyback programme, announced on 30 April 2019, it has purchased 50,721 of the company’s ordinary shares in the market at a volume-weighted average price of 107.72p per share through Stifel Nicolaus Europe. It added that the shares acquired will, in due course, be cancelled.

7:00am: FTSE 100 set to start Monday on back foot

CFD and spreadbetting firm IG Markets makes the blue-chip benchmark 4 points lower, with a price of 7,635 to 7,638 with just over an hour to go until the open.

It comes after Friday’s positive close of 7,644 and after a mixed finish in New York last week – which saw the Dow Jones edge 23 points or 0.08% higher to 28,645, the S&P 500 slightly higher and the Nasdaq slightly lower.

Around the markets:

The pound: US$1.3108, up 0.23%

Gold: US$1,513 per ounce, up 0.26%

Brent crude: US$68.33 per barrel, up 0.24%

Bitcoin: US$7,377, up 0.99%

City headlines: