- FTSE 100 closes 171 points down
- US benchmarks off
- US existing home sales in March fall to 5.27mln (annualised) from 5.65mln in February
5.05pm FTSE finishes deep in hole
FTSE 100 index finished deeply in the red on Tuesday as the oil price continues to slump and resource stocks took a big hit.
Britain’s benchmark of top shares closed out the day down over 171 points, or 2.96%, at 5,641.
Spot US crude (West Texas Intermediate) rebounded over 113% having fallen into negative mode for the first time ever on Monday, but was still at just US$5.18 a barrel. Brent crude shed over 23% to around US$19.6 a barrel.
“It is a similar picture to yesterday whereby the aggressive move lower in oil rattled equity traders. Brent crude was relatively calm yesterday amid WTI’s meltdown, but Brent has seen large declines today, and that has fed into a narrative that global demand is under attack,” noted David Madden, the market analyst at CMC Markets.
He noted that the negative oil sentiment has hit copper too and the mood is that all-natural resource shares across the board will fall. Antofagasta (LON: ANTO) was among the top five Footsie fallers, off over 8% at 1,675p.
“Interestingly, while everyone has been transfixed on equity markets over the course of this coronavirus crisis, eyes are turning to the commodity sector as the fallout of this oil slump reverberates across other assets,” added Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones fell 625 points to 23,025, while the S&P 500 index shed over 86 at 2,737.
3.30pm: FTSE 100 pares losses as US equities resume their retreat
US markets opened with heavy losses as traders continue to fret about disruption in the oil market.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 408 points (1.7%) at 23,242 while the S&P 500 was down 55 points (1.9%) at 2,768.
US existing home sales numbers for March registered at an annualised 5.27mln, down from 5.76mln in February and broadly in line with expectations.
“Existing home sales reflect the point at which the sale is closed and given the length of time involved to complete a housing transaction it is generally viewed as a lagging indicator; however, this time it does tell us some interesting things about the post Covid-19 restricted world, indicating that the rapid closure of the economy has meant many transactions have collapsed or at the very least been delayed,” said James Knightley, the chief international economist at ING.
“The strains are going to become increasingly apparent in the housing data. As of early April, mortgage applications for home purchases have fallen 42% since late January and are at their lowest levels since October 2015. Meanwhile, NAHB home builder confidence has plunged to its lowest reading since 2012.
“With unemployment still rising and some social distancing measures likely to remain in place once the economy re-opens, home buyer demand is unlikely to return to pre-Covid-19 levels quickly. Credit availability may further constrain the housing market should rising defaults result in more wariness from lenders,” he added.
Existing home sales fell -8.5% in March, just above last years level. Median existing home price was up 8.0% from a year ago to $280,600. Housing inventory also increased, up 2.7%, but supply remains 10.2% smaller than a year ago. https://t.co/lLTb4KYmGO
— MTS Insights (@MTSInsights) April 21, 2020
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo Securities said its recession models “hit a ceiling in March”, suggesting it may be the starting month for a recession in the US.
In the UK, the FTSE 100 was making a late attempt to apply some lipstick to what has been a pig of a day for equity markets, recovering to 5,700, down 113 points (2.0%).
2.15pm: US markets to open sharply lower
Traders are bracing themselves for another pummelling on US markets today.
Spread betting quotes are indicating that the Dow Jones will open 626 points lower at 23,024 while the S&P 500 is seen kicking off 64 points weaker at 2,759.
In London, the FTSE 100 was at its lowest point of the day – 5,670, down 143 points (2.5%).
Despite the shellacking being taken by equities, attention remains firmly focused on the oil market, where the rout continues.
In fact, the word “rout” seems to be supplanting “unprecedented” as the most overused word by talking heads.
“Oil’s rout continues to command all the attention in global markets, as investors move on from the Covid-19 crisis to the complete breakdown of normality in one of the world economy’s most vital components,” said Chris Beauchamp at IG.
“While the May contract is now banished to the history books, it looks like the June contract is going the same way, falling below $20 and then taking out $19 and $18 in short order for WTI, while Brent crude has met the same fate,” he added.
“We are witnessing markets finally play catch-up to the reality on the ground in the oil market – huge oversupply and non-existent demand have combined with nearly-full storage facilities to drive complete dislocation in the crude oil market and this is being felt in stock markets too, which could not long remain indifferent to the chaos but as risk appetite vanishes, the carnage has spread beyond oil stocks, hitting mining shares, banks and indeed almost every other sector on the FTSE 100,” Beauchamp continued.
To paraphrase Jaws II, just when you thought it was safe to go back into the stock market, Beauchamp has a warning for investors.
“Having decided they could weather the coronavirus crisis, equities now have to reckon with an entirely different problem.”
In normal circumstances, it would be a good time to pop out and fill up the tank with petrol except for most people there’s no reason to drive anywhere, all of which explains why car insurer Admiral Group PLC (LON:ADM) has offered its customers a £25 rebate on their car insurance policies.
Reduced traffic equals lower claims equals bumper profits for the insurance companies, see?
Shares in Admiral were up 2.6% at 2,252p but not all parties (third or otherwise) were happy; “Motor insurance incumbents could make as much as £1 billion in profits from a reduction in claims of up to 50%. It’s only fair that those funds are returned to customers automatically, in line with individual policies,” asserted Freddy Macnamara, founder of insurance pressure group Cuvva.
“No doubt this is a step in the right direction, but a one month premium holiday split over the months of April and May would more accurately reflect motor usage during lockdown and extended periods of isolation,” Macnamara grumbled.
If nothing else, the move has got Admiral trending on Twitter in the UK.
Good initial move here from Admiral – will other car insurers follow suit? https://t.co/Nzt16f5gbw
— Steve Nowottny (@stevenowottny) April 21, 2020
12.30pm: Sea of red
A mid-morning revival has petered out as investors continue to fret about disruption to the oil market.
The FTSE 100 was down 105 pointss (1.8%) at 5,708, thanks largely to resource stocks and fellow travellers, such as steelmaker Evraz PLC (LON:EVR), which is down 8.7% at 240.5p and currently occupying the cellar position in the Footsie.
The price of Brent crude for June delivery is US$4.43 lower at US$26.33 a barrel while for the US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), buyers of the June contract are being asked to pay US$16.38 a barrel, down US$4.05 on the day.
According to David Winans, a credit analyst for PGIM, at these prices the entire oil industry is underwater.
“The focus is entirely on liquidity. How long can each of these companies hold their breath? Yesterday’s price move feels like oil is passing a kidney stone. A very painful move, but it cannot last for long, since producers are switching off wells as we speak. First quarter earnings hardly matter to oil/gas right now. The focus will likely be to what level companies can cut capital spending without seeing production go into a tailspin.
“Liquidity and credit quality are paramount now, almost any dividend in the sector should be taken with a grain of salt. Most companies have cut already. Last cycle, the majors got a tailwind from refining and chemicals margins, and they cannot count on that this time. There may be some painful choices ahead depending on the length of this down cycle.
“The ‘supply shock’ from the OPEC+ collapse in March was really a mirage, the demand shock from COVID-19 is overwhelming everything. Ultimately, the path for oil prices is going to follow the path of this virus. Until demand shows some sign of life, oil prices will likely remain on life support,” Wynans predicted.
Sébastien Galy, a senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management, reckons the pressure to cut global oil production will intensify.
“In the coming days and weeks, we will see increased pressure for another deal with OPEC+ and to reduce overall global production, potentially involving the Americans. This could eventually have a huge impact on oil prices,” he suggested.
— DeskTrading (@desktrading) April 21, 2020
10.30am: Blue-chips pare losses
Leading shares have trimmed their losses after UK employment data that was a bit hard to fathom, given the lockdown situation.
The FTSE 100 was down 75 points (1.3%) at 5,738.
The employment figures released this morning showed some signs that the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus outbreak were already beginning to be felt in March, as the number of paid employees fell by 0.06% compared with the month before, based on early estimates.
The UK employment rate in the three months to February 2020 was estimated at a record high of 76.6%, 0.4 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points up on the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The ONS added the caveat that the estimated in this morning’s release cover the period prior to the implementation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing measures.
The UK unemployment rate for the three months to February 2020 was estimated at 4.0%, largely unchanged compared with a year earlier and up by one-tenth of a percentage point on the previous quarter.
In real terms (after adjusting for inflation), annual growth is estimated to be 1.2% in total pay and 1.3% in regular pay in the three months to February 2020, both down from a recent peak of 2.0% in the three months to June 2019.
9.45am: Employment growth slowed in March
The number of paid employees in the UK in March grew by an estimated 0.8% year-on-year, following on from February’s 1.1% increase.
Based on early estimates for March, the number of paid employees fell by 0.06% compared with the month before, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Median monthly pay grew by 3.6% in February 2020, compared with the same period of the previous year.
— Howard Archer (@HowardArcherUK) April 21, 2020
9.00am: Resource stocks under the cosh
Resource stocks are dragging down the Footsie early doors – that includes miners as well as oilers.
Also getting the treatment this morning was Primark owner Associated British Foods PLC (LON:AB) after it pulled its interim dividend and reported a fall in half-year profits from the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“AB Foods has produced a measured response to the effects of the pandemic, battening down the cost hatches wherever possible and consolidating those parts of its business where some sort of earnings visibility is still possible,” said Richard Hunter, the head of markets at interactive investor.
“Unfortunately, its flagship retail operation cannot be overlooked. Primark represents some 65% of the group’s adjusted operating profit and since the enforced store closures, any progress has been utterly derailed, leaving a gaping hole in the overall revenue picture. Previously running at sales of £650 million per month through its stores, that figure has now evaporated entirely. As yet, it is, of course, impossible to estimate when the stores might reopen – with some of the European ones likely to be the first – and even then, the continuation of social distancing is likely to lead to fewer people in those stores at any one time, which in turn would continue to crimp revenues and profits,” he added.
8.40am: Crude fall hits Footsie
The FTSE 100 opened sharply lower on Tuesday after a session of unprecedented volatility on the oil market that saw the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) trade in negative territory. In other words, ‘buyers’ were being paid to take barrels of crude oil off traders’ hands.
In early trade in London that was still the case with WTI at -US$4.51 a barrel. Meanwhile, the index of UK blue-chips tumbled 101 points to 5,711.64.
“Yesterday’s historic plunge in US oil prices into negative territory may have made headlines and split opinion about the importance of a contract that is due to expire today, has little volume and is trading on very low liquidity, but it can’t disguise what it tells us about the state of the global economy, as well as the oil market,” said Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.
“The very fact that the May contract even traded into negative territory tells us a sobering truth about how much supply is out there relative to demand and while June prices are still trading at $21 a barrel that doesn’t mean that they won’t go the same way, and fall sharply in the coming days, given that we saw net inflows into US Oil ETFs yesterday. How long before these long positions also start to bail out?” he added.
But miner BHP (LON:BHP) topped the losers with a 4.2% fall after cutting its 2021 budget because of flagging demand from the US.
However, the precious metals stocks, led by Fresnillo (LON:FRES) up 4.4%, were well bid after gold moved decisively above US$1,700 an ounce as investors sought haven investments. Egyptian digger Centamin (LON:CEY) was also among the gainers with a 4% rise after a production update.
Proactive news headlines:
Gfinity PLC (LON:GFIN) has signed a contract with YaLLa Esports, one of the leading esports teams in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), to expand its RealGaming101 website into the region. The esports media firm said the partnership will see a new Arabic MENA focussed website, RealGaming101.me, launched later this month targeting 93mln engaged gamers in the region.
Equals Group PLC (LON:EQLS), the business-to-business-focused e-banking and payments group, said revenues in the first quarter of 2020 were up 32% year-on-year at £8.3mln. In an update, the company said it’s business-to-business (B2B) accounted for 67% of the revenues, up from 46% in the same quarter of 2019 and 52% for the whole of 2019. The group said the “robust” first-quarter performance was driven by its international payments operations, where revenue was up 116% year-on-year (YOY) and corporate banking, where revenues were up 30% YOY.
Kromek Group PLC (LON:KMK) announced that it has received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its contribution to international trade. The supplier of radiation detectors said it was recognised for its “outstanding” growth in overseas sales, up 52% in the three years to April 30, 2019. “It is an honour to receive this prestigious award following a period of significant international growth for Kromek,” chief executive Arnab Basu said in a statement.
MaxCyte Inc (LON:MXCT) said it “remained highly confident” after a strong year operationally and financially, although it recognised the coronavirus lockdown would have some impact on the business. The company, which earns its commercial income from its cell engineering expertise, saw revenues for the year to December 31, 2019, jump by 30% to US$21.6mln.
Personal Group Holdings PLC (LON:PGH), the provider of employee services in the UK, has confirmed that its underlying earnings were ahead of expectations in 2019. The group had tipped the wink last month about the better-than-expected performance and revealed Tuesday that its adjusted underlying earnings (EBITDA) clocked in at £11.0mln for 2019, down 4% from £11.4mln the year before but a bit better than investment analysts had been forecasting. Profit before tax rose 3% to £10.5mln from £10.2mln the year before on revenue that jumped 28% to £70.9mln from £55.3mln.
Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) has said the ground position at the Alamo gold project has been significantly expanded, following a staking campaign undertaken by its local partner in the USA. The additional claim areas are being registered with the County and Bureau of Land Management and expanded land position will now cover an area potentially containing a proximal bedrock gold source for the 60 ounces of nugget mineralisation already identified near-surface. Power Metal Resources owns an option over the project and is currently undertaking due diligence.
Franchise Brand PLC’s (LON:FRAN) plumbing businesses, Metro Rod, Metro Plumb and Willow Pumps, have seen “continuing demand” for a majority of their services, which have been designated as ‘essential’ under the UK government’s pandemic rules. In a trading update released after the close on Monday, the franchise business said it expected the B2B division, which includes Metro Rod, Metro Plumb and Willow, to continue to trade profitably during the coronavirus lockdown, adding that in the first quarter of the year, earnings (EBITDA) for the division were 42% higher year-on-year, while growth in Metro Rod system sales accelerated to 19% from 14%. Meanwhile, the company’s B2C division, which includes its brands ChipsAway, Ovenclean and Barking Mad, was 5% ahead of the prior year in the first quarter, although the company said it had “significantly reduced or eliminate” franchise fees as the pandemic impacted customer demand for the franchisee’s products from early March. Franchise Brands also unveiled plans for a share placing to issue up to 19.9% of its current issued share capital, with certain directors and senior management to participate for a minimum of £2mln.
Benchmark Holdings PLC (LON:BMK), the aquaculture genetics, health and nutrition business, has announced that Alex Raeber is stepping down as its chief scientific officer. In a statement, the firm said Raeber will cease to be a director of the company with effect from July 31, 2020. It added that he has decided that as the company is moving from a research & development investment phase into commercial execution, the time is right to move on to pastures new.
Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (LON:TILS) (NASDAQ:TLSA), the US and UK-listed biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of novel molecules to treat human disease in oncology and immunology, said it has convened a general meeting to consider proposals to take increased authorities to allot shares; consider the replacement of share option awards and to adopt new articles of association. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, at 11.00am and, as the firm expects significant restrictions on personal movement to still be in place due to coronavirus (COVID-19) it will be an electronic meeting only.
Cello Health PLC (LON:CLL), the global healthcare-led advisory group, announced that its annual general meeting (AGM) will be held at 12.30pm on Wednesday, May 20 at the offices of Cello Health Consulting, Cello House, West Street, Farnham GU9 7EQ. The group noted that, further to its announcement on April 9, the board has decided that it is prudent to withdraw the recommendation to pay the final dividend of 2.95p per share, so consequently, the dividend resolution referred to in the notice of AGM will not now be put to the meeting. The company also advised that, if the stay at home measures remain in place, the meeting will be a procedural meeting, and attendance will be limited to a bare quorum comprised of two directors who are shareholders. In the light of these measures, shareholders will not be permitted to attend the AGM and are strongly encouraged to vote by proxy on all of the matters of business by appointing the chairman of the meeting as their proxy by submitting the form. It said it has also made arrangements for shareholders holding their shares in certificated form to vote electronically. Copies of the notice of AGM, accompanying letter and 2019 accounts are available to view on the company’s website.
Advanced Oncotherapy PLC (LON:AVO), the developer of next-generation proton therapy systems for cancer treatment, has announced that further to its announcements of April 9, it has convened a general meeting of shareholders to propose resolutions to enable completion of the proposed share subscription. The meeting will be held at 2.00pm on May 11. 2020, and in light of the current British government restrictions placed on public gatherings in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak it will not be possible for shareholders to attend in person so they are strongly urged to vote by proxy in advance of the deadline with the circular and form of proxy available on the company’s website.
6.50am: Footsie tumble predicted
The FTSE 100 is tipped to drop on Tuesday after extraordinary moves by crude oil overnight, with US prices dropping into negative territory.
Overnight, the US oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), fell to -$37.63 per barrel, after closing on Friday at $18.27.
Wall Street was understandably thrown by this, with equity markets all in the red, led by Dow Jones Industrials Average falling 592 points or 2.4% to 23,650.4. The broader S&P 500 tumbled 1.8% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was down 1%.
Asian markets were in the red on Tuesday too, with the Nikkei 225 down 1.9%, the Hang Seng falling 2.3% and the Shanghai Composite losing 1.4%.
“I never thought I would see the day when oil would be this low,” said market analyst Neil Wilson at Markets.com.
Oil prices are in a state of ’super contango’, meaning prices in the future are higher than the near month contract as demand has collapsed in the short term but agreed output cuts by Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US are yet to take effect.
“The world is awash with crude with nowhere to put it,” said Wilson, with storage capacity nearing tank-tops.
“The market is hoping that WTI will be higher in the coming months but demand won’t bounce back and already the glut of Q1 is threatening to overwhelm storage capacity. Demand destruction is so mammoth, and storage already so strained, I would struggle to see anyone wanting to take delivery in June or Jule either,” he added.
But with the WTI May futures contract expiring on Tuesday, David Madden at CMC said the WTI June contract is a “better representation of the underlying oil market” and although it lost approximately 18% of its value it has settled above $20.00 per barrel.
“Once the May contract has expired, things are likely to settle down in terms of monumental price swings.”
Looking forward to the scheduled day’s events, Tuesday’s main macro data in the UK is the labour market report, where some of the data will reveal the scale of the coronavirus fallout in March.
While the headline unemployment numbers will refer to the three months to February, before the government coronavirus lockdown came into effect, the report will include March claimant count data that includes the time when the UK went into lockdown.
Unemployment claimant numbers could be pushed to around 2mln from 1.25mln last month and the claimant count unemployment rate to around 5.5%, economists at RBC Capital Markets said.
In company news, there will be trading updates from the likes of BHP, London Stock Exchange and Associated British Foods.
Around the markets:
- Brent crude down 1% to US$25.32
- WTI up 104% to US$1.65
- Pound sterling down 0.3% to US$1.2408
- Gold down 0.4 to US$1,704.80
Significant announcements expected on Tuesday:
Economic data: UK unemployment
- US oil price back above zero after historic plunge – worries persist about level of demand for crude as coronavirus hits world economies
- Trump vows to temporarily suspend immigration to US – President says move is part of effort to combat coronavirus as death toll hits 43,000
- Mutations map holds the key to bringing coronavirus under control – scientists create vast genealogical tree that will be crucial to halting pandemic and developing medicines
- Spain calls for €1.5tn EU recovery fund to ‘protect internal market’ – economy minister Nadia Calviño tells FT richer countries should not be able to support their economies more generously
- Few will seek solace in retail therapy when coronavirus lockdown ends – survey shows only one in five Britons will hit the shops as soon as quarantine restrictions end
- A shipment of vital protective equipment from Turkey for NHS staff had not been formally secured when the government announced on Saturday that it would arrive the next day
- The economy is caught between a “pincer movement” of company closures and a collapse in start-ups, academics have warned
- The number of vehicles on the road exceeded 40 million for the first time last year after the popularity of online shopping brought a big increase in delivery vans
- British households will have £43bn less cash available for essential spending between April and June, as the UK slides into its deepest recession in decades
- Sales of baking ingredients, frozen vegetables and alcohol are rising while makeup, garden plants and newspapers have taken a hit as the UK changes its shopping habits during the coronavirus crisis
- One million people placed on furlough on first day, with around 140,000 firms applied for the scheme within hours, with the government under pressure to extend the programme until August
- Millionaire father of McLaren F1 ace plots electric bike revolution with rescue of Halfords shops