• FTSE 100 index closes 2.19% higher
  • Sterling rallies against the US dollar
  • US indices up

5.10pm: FTSE 100 closes higher

FTSE 100 index closed higher on Tuesday with travel-related stocks back in fashion as the bullish sentiment continued.

Britain’s blue-chip benchmark finished up over 122 points, or 2.2% at 5,704. The midcap FTSE 250 index was also higher, up by over 732 points at 15,545.

“With market focusing on the weeks ahead, traders have been striking an optimistic tone as we see a number of countries turn the tide on the coronavirus,” noted Joshua Mahony, a senior market analyst at IG, the online trader.

On Wall Street, stocks were also higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added around 642 points at 23,322, while the broader-based S&P 500 gained over 65 at 2,729.

Mahony noted that travel firms had enjoyed a rise on the day as the government’s transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris signalling the Government may take a stake in some of the hardest-hit airlines.

“The air traffic controller decision to delay £1 billion of fees provided another rare piece of good news today, alleviating some of the financial pressures for the time being,” he added.

Among the top Footsie risers was budget carrier EasyJet (LON:EZJ), which added over 15% to 635.80p. Beleaguered cruise ship operator Carnival (LON:CCL) added over 22% to 874.80p.

4.00pm: London comes off the boil, following New York’s lead

Though it is still in positive territory, the Footsie is no longer sporting a triple-digit gain.

London’s index of blue-chip shares turned south circa 3.00pm and is now at 5,673, up 91 points (1.6%).

“Though the Dow Jones initially exploded out of the gate, it did cool slightly as the opening bell receded, taking the edge off of Europe’s gains in the process,” observed Connor Campbell at Spreadex.

“A 400 point rise is nothing to be sniffed at; however, it is noticeable lower than the 800 point surge the Dow posted at the very start of the session, keeping it above 23300, but shy of its 23400, four-week highs,” he added.

2.50pm: US stocks fast out of the stalls

US indices have opened sharply higher albeit the gains do not quite match the advance of the Footsie.

London’s index of large-cap shares was up 175 points (3.1%) at 5,757 while in the US, the S&P 500 is up 73 points (2.7%) at 2,736.

The more narrowly-based Dow Jones 30-share is matching the Footsie’s pace, with a 3.1% (701 points) advance to 23,381.

In London, just four Footsie stocks are not getting with the programme and all four are stocks that fared OK when the market was in freefall, namely drugs companies Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC (LON:HIK) and AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN); groceries delivery specialist Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO); and household essentials maker Reckitt Benckiser PLC (LON:RB.).

2.00pm: US indices expected to storm the ramparts at the open

London’s leading shares have maintained the morning’s gains, buoyed by expectations of a stonking start to proceedings on Wall Street.

The FTSE 100 was up 170 points (3.1%) at 5,753, despite sterling rising by one-and-a-quarter cents against the US dollar at US$1.2355; a strong exchange rate is generally reckoned to be a drag on the Footsie’s performance.

Sterling has bounced back after initially taking a knock following news that the prime minister, Boris Johnson, had been admitted to an intensive care unit, suffering from the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

In the US, the Dow Jones is tipped to open around 778 points higher at 23,458 while the S&P 500 is expected to start 76 points higher at 2,740.

12.50pm: Still on the front foot

The Footsie is close to its intra-day high without much help from the heavily-weighted oil titans despite the oil price recovering sharply.

London’s index of heavyweight shares was up 168 points (3.0%) at 5,750, just 29 points off its intra-day high.

“G20 countries are set to send oil ministers for an emergency meeting this Friday, a sign that there is a chance that OPEC and Russia can pull in other oil-producing countries into a global production cut,” said the boutique brokerage, SP Angel.

“However, sentiment of a massive production cut deal is still met with a large dose of scepticism. This is largely due to Trump tempering hopes yesterday emerging from a meeting with American oil executives and said that the free market would sort things out,” the broker continued.

“That statement may have caused OPEC+ to delay a meeting until the end of this week.

Saudi Arabia delayed its release of its monthly pricing list, an influential data point that offers both a pricing benchmark and also offers a window into Saudi strategy. The delay suggests that Riyadh will wait and see if there is any progress on OPEC+ talks before taking action one way or another,” SP Angel surmised.

On the futures markets, Brent crude for June delivery is up 91 cents at US$33.95 a barrel.

BP PLC (LON:BP.) seems largely oblivious to the movement in the oil price, and is up just 1% at 339.05p; Anglo-Dutch rival Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSB), up 2.3% at 1,470p, was a bit more responsive.

Two stocks going particularly well in the oil sector are Global Petroleum Limited (LON:GBP) and Premier Oil PLC (LON:PMO).

Global Petroleum soared 71% to 1.2p after it came to an agreement to license 3D seismic data on its offshore Namibia Block, 2011A (PEL0094).

Premier Oil climbed 16% to 29p after it proved movable hydrocarbons exist in the Charlie-1 well, with sampling confirming a large condensate discovery in the Torok formation.

11.45am: UK productivity (was) moving in the right direction

Labour productivity, as measured by output per hour, in the UK for the fourth quarter saw a small rise of 0.3% year-on-year.

The rise was caused by gross value added growing at 1.1% compared with the same quarter a year ago, while hours worked grew by 0.8%.

The 0.3% growth in output per hour was largely caused by a strong performance from construction, while manufacturing made the largest negative contribution to whole-economy productivity growth, the Office for National Statistics said.

“While slight, the 0.3% year-on-year rise in output per hour in the fourth and third quarters of 2019 actually marked the strongest annual rises since the second quarter of 2018,” observed Howard Archer, the chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club.

“The fourth quarter of 2019 also marked a second successive year-on-year increase in output per hour, following four successive quarters of flat or declining performances including a fall of 0.5% year-on-year in the second quarter, which had been the sharpest year-on-year drop in productivity since the second quarter of 2014,” he added.

“A positive spin on the latest data would be that, while the underlying picture is still poor, a second successive quarter of improvement could be a sign that things are starting to move in the right direction. However, it is difficult to judge at this stage,” he added.

“The hope had been that reduced uncertainties following December’s decisive election result and leaving the EU with a deal on 31 January would boost businesses’ willingness to commit to investment, which in turn would have a positive impact on productivity.

“However, the hit to the economy coming from coronavirus is likely to take a near-term toll on business investment,” he warned.

The FTSE 100 was up 165 points (3.0%) at 5,747.


10.15am: Happy days are here again (?)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas is coming early for those who reckon markets have bottomed out.

Admittedly, we have not even had Easter yet but the FTSE 100 is up 125 points (2.2%) on the day at 5,707, having been below 5,000 as recently as 23 March.

“The sharp rally in the FTSE 100 since the low of 23 March is inevitably begging the question as to whether markets are nearing (or even past) the bottom after the savage sell-off that dates back to 24 February. Many will have their doubts, not least because history suggests market downturns are usually littered with rallies that turn out to be no more than vicious, bear-market traps,” said Russ Mould, the investment director at AJ Bell.

“That said, the sudden nature of the downturn means that it is tempting to think the rebound could be equally sharp. The price collapse of February and March, coupled with a surge in VIX, or ‘fear index’, to new highs implies that sentiment has already switched from greed to fear. That is usually as good a starting point as any for some contrarian value-hunting but there are other signals which investors can use if they are looking for signs that we may be coming through the worst,” he added.

Today’s rise on the Footsie continues to be driven by stocks that were hit hard by the slump in economic activity that was created by the spread of the coronavirus.

Airlines easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) and British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (LON:IAG) are up 25% at 688.2p and 13% at 256.4p respectively, while terrestrial broadcaster ITV PLC (LON:ITV) is 14% higher at 66.84p.

Housebuilders are drawing encouragement from this morning’s house price index from the Halifax, which showed house prices were holding steady in March before the lock-down.

“The Halifax reported house prices were flat month-on-month in March. This followed four months of increases, including 0.2% month-on-month in February and 0.4% month-on-month in January, which had looked an ongoing robust performance following prices jumping 1.8% month-on-month in December (the largest month-on-month jump since February 2007) and 1.2% month-on-month in November. Prior to this, there had been month-on-month dips of 0.1% in October and 0.4% in September,” reported Howard Archer, the chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club.

“It is clear that coronavirus impacted housing market activity during March, reflecting the mounting restrictions on people’s movements as well as the hit to confidence and economic activity. Hometrack reported on 26 March that demand for houses was down 40% over the past week and that ‘demand is set to fall further now the UK is moving into a 3+ week period of partial lock-down.’

“The Halifax observed that the housing market started March similarly to early-2020 with sustained buyer and seller activity, but it ended the month in very different territory due to coronavirus and the country’s response,” Archer noted.

Colby Short, who is either a refugee from an American TV soap opera or the chief executive officer of GetAgent.co.uk said it seems pretty clear that “monthly price growth ground to a halt in March, despite the pandemic only really taking hold in the final week”.

“While still up notably compared to the Brexit blighted market conditions of last year, a sudden freeze in market activity of this proportion will start to impact price growth notably as the months go on.

“The silver lining, at least, is that home buyer and seller sentiment remains strong and the resilience of the UK property market should bring a swift recovery once normality does finally return,” he added.

9.45am: FTSE 100 driven higher by housebuilders and recovery plays

Mortgage lender Halifax said UK house prices in March were up 3.0% year-on-year but were unchanged month-on-month.

House prices were up 2.1% quarter-on-quarter, the Halifax said.

The average selling price in the UK at £240,384 was little changed from February’s record high.

“The UK housing market began March with similar trends to previous months, as key market indicators showed a sustained level of buyer and seller activity,” said Russell Galley, the managing director of the Halifax.

Then the coronavirus pandemic changed the landscape.

“On a practical level, most market activity has been paused, with the public rightly following advice to stay at home, and estate agencies, surveyors and conveyancers temporarily closing as a result. With viewings cancelled and movers being encouraged to put transactions on hold, activity will inevitably fall sharply in the coming months. It should be noted that with less data available, calculating average house prices is likely to become more challenging in the short-term,” Galley said.

“However, it’s still too early to properly assess what potential long-term impacts the current lock-down might have on the UK housing market. While there is very significant uncertainty at the moment, much will depend on the length of time it takes for restrictions to be lifted, the pressure that has been exerted on the economy in the meantime and the effect this has on consumer sentiment,” he added.

Housebuilders were much in demand this morning although that is likely more to do with improving sentiment over the likely length of the lock-down than the Halifax’s reading of the housing market.

Taylor Wimpey PLC (LON:TW.), up 13% at 132.75p, and Barratt Developments PLC (LON:BDEV), up 12.3% at 502.6p, were the picks of the housebuilding sector and helped propel the FTSE 100 to a 177 point (3.2%) gain at 5,759.

8.30am: Sentiment buoyed by increasing evidence that lockdown is working

With the news on the coronavirus front (apart from one high-profile exception) generally improving, equities got off to a flying start this morning.

The FTSE 100 was up 184 points (3.3%) at 5,767.

WATCH: Morning Report: FTSE 100 rises for second day on optimism spread of virus in Europe is slowing

“It seems odd to be discussing how the global virus trend numbers continue to get better whilst the PM of your country is moved into intensive care trying to battle it; however, that’s where we stand at the moment,” said Jim Reid at Deutsche Bank.

“The latest percentage growth in new cases and fatalities have slowed notably in recent days even in the US and UK which are at the rear in terms of Western World progress through the virus. If the UK numbers just stabilise today that will be a big deal as over the last three weeks Tuesday’s numbers have been notably higher as the weekend data gets properly absorbed,” Reid observed.

The top performers among Footsie constituents read like a roll-call of the companies hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic and the measures implemented to combat it.

Cruises operator Carnival PLC (LON:CCL), up 17% at 835p, was the top riser, closely followed by aerospace engineer Meggitt PLC (LON:MGGT), which added 11% at 279p.

Elsewhere in the hard-hit aerospace sector, low-cost airline easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) was 9.5% better at 604.8p and aeroplane engine designer and maintenance specialist Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.) moved 9.1% higher at 324.8p.

In the tourism sector, hotels operator InterContentinal Hotels Group PLC (LON:IHG) clawed back some recent losses, advancing 8.5% to 3,444p.

Proactive news headlines:

Regency Mines PLC (LON: RGM) has agreed to a new framework for the Mambare nickel joint venture in Papua New Guinea. Regency has agreed to take a revised 41% interest in the joint venture, with further reduction occurring if a mining lease award over the Mambare project is recommended by the relevant government agency in the next 19 months.

Haydale Graphene Industries PLC (LON:HAYD), the global advanced materials group, has signed an exclusive distributor agreement with Dalian Yibang Technology (DLYB). The agreement is for an initial period of four years and allows DLYB exclusive distributor rights to market Haydale’s electrically conductive graphene-enhanced master-batch in the Chinese and Taiwanese markets.

Avation PLC (LON:AVAP) is anticipating that it can “successfully operate for an extended period greater than a year” as it unveiled several measures to support its finances during the coronavirus pandemic. The aircraft leasing company said its liquidity position is “satisfactory” with total cash of US$129mln, US$53.9mln of unencumbered assets and US$11.1mln in trade receivables.

In a separate announcement, Avation said it is continuing its review of strategic options to maximise value for shareholders, including a potential sale, previously announced in January. The company confirmed that it is “engaged with multiple interested parties as part of the formal sale process” and while several parties remained interested, progress had been delayed “in light of the market dislocation resulting from the [coronavirus] pandemic”.

ReNeuron Group PLC (LON:RENE) revealed it has signed a research agreement with an unnamed “major pharmaceutical company” to develop the former’s exosome technology. In very simple layman’s terms, exosomes are used by cells to communicate and are released as tiny “nano-bubbles” into the body to do so. The AIM-listed stem cell specialist has created its own line to deliver a drug payload. Derived from the research group’s CTX neural stem cell line, the exosomes will carry gene silencing sequences developed by the pharma company.

Bidstack Group PLC’s (LON:BIDS) in-game advertising technology is to be used by game developer Codemasters Group Holdings PLC (LON:CDM) to provide ads in its games encouraging players to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Tech provided by the AIM-listed firm will be used in Codemasters’ Dirt Rally 2.0 game to show players the advice on roadside banners as they race through virtual tracks.

PCF Group Plc (LON:PCF) has said that, as approved by shareholders at its Annual General Meeting on Friday, March 6, it will be making payment to shareholders of the dividend of 0.4p on April 9. The bank pointed out that it has strong cash resources and adequate capital headroom and the size of the dividend payment – the total cash amount being £992,914.68 – does not cause any concerns for the company.

Benchmark PLC (LON:BMK), the aquaculture genetics, health and advanced nutrition company, announced that Trond Williksen will join the company as its chief executive officer (CEO) in June. Williksen is highly experienced in the international aquaculture and seafood industries, having held senior executive positions in the sector for more than 20 years, Benchmark said in a statement. Most recently he was the CEO of SalMar ASA, the Norwegian fish farm company and one of the world’s largest producers of farmed salmon.

Alliance Pharma PLC (LON:APH) said it is focused on delivering yet further growth from its “resilient” business as it unveiled a strong set of 2019 results. See-through revenues for the 12 months ended December 31 were up 16% to £144.3mln, which translated to underlying earnings (EBITDA) of £39.4mln, up 22%. The company’s star brands performed well, led by its Kelo-cote scar treatment. The figures also included a first-time contribution from Nizoral, the medicated shampoo acquired from Johnson & Johnson.

Anglo Pacific Group PLC (LON:APF) (TSE:APY) has revealed it delivered record income in the year to December 31, 2019. The company saw its royalty-related revenue hit a record £55.7mln, an increase of 21% on the previous record of £46.1mln returned in 2018. This was driven by a strong performance at the Kestrel coal mine in Australia. There was also a 21% increase in operating profit to £44.8mln, despite continued investment in the business which saw operating expenses rise to £7.1mln.

ADES International Holding PLC (LON:ADES) has reported a 91% increase in full-year earnings and said that it is in a ‘strong position” to maintain its operations during the coronavirus pandemic. For the year ended 31 December 2019, the oil drilling and production services firm reported underlying earnings (EBITDA) of US$193.4mln, up from US$101mln in 2018, while revenues surged 132% to US$477.8mln.

Cello Health PLC (LON:CLL) has said it will pay an interim dividend next month after it reported “in-line” trading in the first quarter of 2020 and “good revenue growth”. In an update on Tuesday, the healthcare advisory group said it will pay an interim dividend of 1p on May 22, adding that it is aiming to declare a special dividend either before or alongside the next interim dividend, subject to future trading performance and outlook. However, to maintain “as much flexibility as possible” during uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic, Cello said it had decided to withdraw its full-year final dividend.

Falcon Oil & Gas Ltd (LON:FOG, CVE:FO) has agreed on a further farm-out of its stake in the Beetaloo shale project, in Australia, to partner Origin Energy. The company is transferring a 7.5% participating interest in the project in return for A$150mln of additional cost cover by its larger partner.

Anglo Asian Mining PLC (LON:AAZ) has made a further shipment of gold doré containing 4,688 ounces of gold to MKS Finance SA. This is further to the company’s announcement on 26 March that it was looking at other logistical options for the shipment and sale of gold doré, due to the suspension of air travel.

BlueRock Diamonds PLC (LON:BRD) has said it produced 2,503 carats of diamonds in the first quarter of 2020, an increase of 76%. The company also sold 3,267 carats during the quarter, up 77%. However, operations have been suspended on the order of the South African government and will remain on care and maintenance until the market recovers sufficiently for them to become cash-flow positive every month.

Kodal Minerals PLC (LON:KOD) is raising new money via a financing agreement with Riverfort Global Opportunities PCC Limited and YA II PN Ltd. The company has limited working capital and therefore, the board has determined that the financing facility with Riverfort is in the best interests of the company and shareholders.

88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E) (ASX:88E) told investors that it has proved movable hydrocarbons in the Charlie-1 well, with sampling confirming a large condensate discovery in the Torok formation. In a statement, however, Dave Wall, the explorer’s chief executive, described it as “a mixed result”. The main Charlie target could not be tested because the formation was found to be “poorly developed” and was therefore not sampled. Oil shows previously noted in Charlie are now deemed to be ‘residual’, the company said.

Block Energy PLC (LON:BLOE) has detailed several measures designed to protect the company amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including cost-cutting to reduce cash spending by 40%. The company has also decided to suspend the West Rustavi field operations, to conserve its gas reserves until a pipeline project completes later this year. Early production facilities are presently in transit to the field, in the Republic of Georgia. In a statement, the group said it had US$3.4mln of cash and its crude inventory was worth around US$470,000.

Keywords Studios PLC (LON:KWS), the international technical and creative services provider to the global video games industry, announced that 65,550 new ordinary shares have been issued to the vendors of Cord Worldwide Limited in respect of the non-contingent deferred share consideration due on the second anniversary of Cord being acquired.  Also, Keywords said that 8,194 new ordinary shares have been issued to the vendors of Laced Music Limited in respect of the non-contingent deferred share consideration due on the second anniversary of Laced being acquired.

Franchise Brands PLC (LON:FRAN), a multi-brand franchise business, has announced that all its directors and many members of senior management have elected to receive the scrip dividend instead of cash in respect of the proposed 2019 final dividend, details of which were announced on March 30.

6.45am: Strong start expected

The FTSE 100 is expected to make a positive start on Tuesday, rallying for the second consecutive day on growing optimism about slowing the spread of coronavirus. 

London’s big-cap index was being predicted to start 55 points higher by spread betters, having closed up over 166 points, or 3.08%, at 5,582 the previous session. 

Asian stocks were higher, led by the Shanghai Composite and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo, while overnight Wall Street enjoyed a barnstorming rally, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average surging 1,627 points, or 7.7% higher to close just under 22,678.

The broader S&P 500 index rose 7% and the more tech-laden Nasdaq Composite gained 7.3% even though the coronavirus death toll in the US is expected to worsen in coming weeks.

However, the numbers of new coronavirus cases and death rates dropped in Italy, Spain and France. Germany announced the previous day that it would be easing its lockdown later in the month after getting a grip on the spread of the virus, as well as saying it was planning a “limitless credit” facility for small companies.

In the UK, the overnight news was that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been moved into intensive care as his coronavirus conditions were said to have worsened. 

Financial markets showed their sympathy with a fall in the pound, though sterling was rebounding on Tuesday morning, up 0.5% to US$1.2288. 

In Tuesday’s corporate news there are certain to be some coronavirus-related trading statements, as well as some planned updates, including from Plus500 Ltd (LON:PLUS), which has been one of the happy few companies that that seen its shares in positive territory driven by the market volatility through the coronavirus outbreak.

Today the online CFD broker will let investors know the effect on trading in the first quarter, having said last month that it has seen significantly increased levels of customer trading activity alongside strong momentum across all financial and operational metrics.

There should also be a trading update from Homeserve PLC (LON:HSV), it’s first since mid-November. 

The provider of emergency repairs and heating services delivers has been allowed to remain open for business during the coronavirus lockdown – although it is prioritising emergency cases at the moment, with technicians wearing protective gear when visiting customers’ homes.

There is still likely to be some disruption to the business from the coronavirus pandemic and the government lockdown, even though it will still be expected to maintain a level of revenues. 

Around the markets:

  • Pound, up 0.5% to US$1.2288
  • Oil, up one dollar or 3% to US$34.03
  • Gold, up 1.7% to US$1636.60

Significant announcements expected on Tuesday:

FinalsAlliance Pharma PLC (LON:APH), Northbridge Industrial Services Plc (LON:NBI)

Trading statementsFerrexpo PLC (LON:FXPO), Homeserve PLC (LON:HSV), Plus500 Ltd (LON:PLUS), ADES International Holding PLC (LON:ADES), Gooch & Housego PLC (LON:GHH)

Economic announcements: Halifax house prices, US JOLTS job report

City headlines:


  • Boris Johnson moved to intensive care as condition worsens – Raab to deputise as PM transferred as precaution in case he needs a ventilator
  • Grant Thornton audit profits fall by 90% – accountancy firm says 150 of its 4,500 UK staff have agreed pay cuts during coronavirus outbreak
  • US small business rescue runs into difficulties – Federal Reserve reveals new facility aimed at speeding flow of funds to main street
  • UK looks to Italy and China for clues on lockdown exit strategy – hopes for phased lifting of restrictions in summer depend on mixture of testing and technology

The Times

  • The impact of the lockdown on poorer people’s health is being weighed against the harm caused by coronavirus in deciding whether to lift restrictions, the chief medical officer has revealed.
  • High street banks have blamed the government-owned body responsible for overseeing the coronavirus loans scheme for delays preventing thousands of small businesses from accessing urgently needed funds.
  • The regulator has asked large pub companies to explain what they are doing to support tenants if they are refusing to waive rent during the Covid-19 crisis.
  • The “crazed conspiracy theory” that 5G causes coronavirus has been criticised by the government for putting lives at risk, as attacks on mobile network infrastructure threaten to block 999 calls.


  • EasyJet’s founder and biggest investor has threatened to sue the airline’s bosses personally as a row deepens over a £4.5bn order of Airbus planes.
  • Lloyds staff have claimed they are struggling with unclean office space and ultra-long hours as the banking industry scrambles to cope with surging demand.
  • Uber is directing its drivers to jobs at other companies as opportunities for millions of gig economy workers dry up due to social lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


  • Mark Barnett, the protege of fallen investment star Neil Woodford, has been sacked as manager of a £400m investment trust for poor performance.
  • Eurozone countries will on Tuesday battle over how to rescue their economies from the deepening recession the coronavirus pandemic is triggering across the continent.
  • China has demanded an explanation from Brazil after the far-right government’s education minister linked the coronavirus pandemic to Beijing’s “plan for world domination”, in a tweet imitating a Chinese accent.