• FTSE 100 index closes down 138 points
  • US indices sharply lower

5.15pm: FTSE 100 closes sharply lower

FTSE 100 index closed firmly in the red on the first day of May as traders ran out of steam and fear another bout of the China/US trade spat.

Britain’s blue chip index closed down over 138 points at 5,763. FTSE 250  was also down, shedding over 306 points to 16,148. Over the week as a whole, FTSE 100 lost 0.19%.

Wall Street shares also tanked. The Dow Jones Industrial Average  lost over 536 points at 23,804. The S&P 500  shed over 76 and the Nasdaq lost 271 points.

President Donald Trump believes the pandemic broke out from a lab in China, but has not shown any evidence. He has threatened to impose new import tariffs on the country due to the financial chaos caused by the virus More than 30 million people in the US have lost their jobs since it struck.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets, noted that Footsie this week, had reached its highest level since early March, so Friday’s “rising trade tensions acted as a good excuse to dump stocks”.

There has been a decent recovery in European equities since mid/late March, but now traders are worried we could be in for another round of the US-China trade spat,” he said.

Chris Beauchamp at IG Index summed up: “The new month has started off on a poor note for stock markets, which look at risk of turning lower as recent major events fade into the past. It was an action-packed week, including earnings from giants like Apple and Amazon and meetings of the BoJ, Fed and ECB, the three key global central banks. But with these now over and done with, it looks like markets are running out of key catalysts.”

2.55pm: US markets down by around 2%

US indices have taken a bath at the outset, with the Dow shedding more than 450 points and the S&P 500 plunging close to 60 points.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 443 points (1.8%) 23,902, having recovered a little, while the S&P 500 was also recovering slightly at 2,856, down 56 points (1.9%).

In London, where the talk earlier this week was of a bull market after one of the shortest bear markets on record, the FTSE 100 was wearing its second triple-digit loss in as many days.

The index was down 109 points (1.8%) at 5,792.

2.15pm: US indices trading lower on spread betting exchanges

US indices on spread betting exchanges are trending lower today.

The Dow Jones, which closed last night at 24,346, is trading 386 points lower and the S&P 500, which finished yesterday at 2,912, is quoted at 2,860, down 52 points.

If UK investors were hoping the US cavalry would rescue them – most European exchanges are closed for Mayday – then they have been disappointed and the FTSE 100 index languishes below 5,800 at 5,793, down 108 points (1.8%).

1.00pm: Shell leads the retreat for the second day in succession

It appears that Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSB) may have got off lightly yesterday when it announced its dividend cut; further losses have followed today.

The FTSE 100 index was down 111 points (1.9%) at 5,790, led lower by Shell, which is off 7.7% at 1,188p despite the price of Brent crude holding steady today.

“Oil prices have staged an impressive rebound this week after a rocky start, as the USO – America’s largest oil ETF – opted to avoid another May contract scenario and shed its June holdings. This represented around 20% of its US$3.6 billion portfolio so traders were naturally keen to get out the way and compress prices to very generous levels if you’re a buyer. The price rebounded shortly after but still trades below US$20,” said OANDA’s Craig Erlam.

“The production cuts are finally kicking in with Saudi Arabia reportedly implementing agreed reductions ahead of schedule, the OPEC+ deal officially underway as of today, Norway announcing a reduction of 250,000 barrels per day and ConocoPhillips culling 265,000 this month, rising to 460,000 next. Others will likely follow, at which point we may see downside pressures ease on oil prices and near contracts. Prices are still extremely low though and the next two weeks will likely see extreme volatility return,” he added.

11.50am: Mortgage approvals slump to a seven-year low

More news on house buying activity in the form of mortgage lending data from the Bank of England.

The bank reported that mortgage approvals for house purchases fell to a seven-year low of 56,161 in March from 73,674 in February. The consensus forecast was around 59,000 approvals.

“March’s sharp drop in mortgage approvals occurred as the early-2020 upturn in the housing market was brought to a halt during the month by the impact of coronavirus on the economy, households and people’s movements. The housing market received a leg-up at the start of 2020 from increased optimism and reduced uncertainties following December’s decisive General Election result,” wrote Howard Archer, the chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club.

“We believe house prices could fall back 5% over the next few months. The expectation is that house prices will come under downward pressure from a sharp rise in unemployment and many people’s incomes being hit (despite the Government’s supportive measures) as well as sharply lower consumer confidence and increased caution,” Archer said.

Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted that net consumer credit fell by £3.8bn in March, which was much worse than the average increase of £1.0bn in the previous six months and the consensus forecast of £700mln.

“March’s money and credit data show that private-sector demand for cash surged in March, as businesses and households battened down the hatches. The broad money—M4—holdings of private non-financial corporations leapt by 4.4% month-to-month in March, pushing up the year-over-year growth rate to 9.7%, from 4.2% in February, as firms sought to improve liquidity,” Tombs said.

“These data are month-end, so they capture the initial impact of the lockdown on firms’ cash holdings, but not any support to firms provided by the BoE’s and Treasury’s liquidity and loan operations. Data for April will provide a clear steer on whether businesses are collapsing, though March’s figures are tentatively encouraging,” he added.

The FTSE 100 was down 114 (1.9%) at 5,787.

10.55am: RBS and Barratt Developments defy the trend

Leading shares have carried on yesterday’s ragged retreat, although some stocks are defying the trend.

The FTSE 100 was down 132 points (2.2%) at 5,769 and would’ve been lower but for a relieved reaction to the results of Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC’s (LON:RBS) results.

READ RBS profits almost halved by charges for potential coronavirus losses

Richard Hunter of interactive investor said the provisions for bad loans won’t have been a big surprise and “there are also a number of elements of this release” that give comfort in underlying the bank’s capital position.

“There is a large liquidity buffer which exceeds £200 billion and results in a liquidity coverage ratio in excess of 150%. The capital cushion is one of the highest in the sector at 16.6% and the total income figure for the group exceeded both expectations as well as the year-on-year figure. Alongside a focus on expenditure, this has resulted in an impressive improvement to the cost/income ratio which, at 57.7% compare favourably to 59.4% a quarter ago and 63% a year ago,” Hunter noted.

RBS shares were up 3.3% at 114.15p.

Also defying the trend was housebuilder Barratt Developments PLC (LON:BDEV), which was up 0.8% at 523.2p despite the Nationwide noting in its house price index release this morning that house buying activity has seized up.

Barratt’s shares were up 0.8% at 523.2p after it outlined plans to reopen construction sites on 11 May, although sales offices will stay closed.

“It’s an important step but it’s too early for a fanfare. Reopening will be gradual, and the group’s retail shops and show homes are staying closed for now. We know life without a shop front is hurting Barratt‘s new sales, with reservations low throughout lockdown, and with construction efforts prioritising homes already started any additional new completions are unlikely,”said Emilie Stevens, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Unlike some of its peers, who said prices had generally remained firm, we didn’t hear anything about price from Barratt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it makes judging the recovery difficult. We’ll need more clarity on prices and the demand for houses as the UK eases lockdown before we can plot a course forward,” she added.

Talking of the Nationwide house price index, which recorded a seventh successive month of year-on-year house prices, Howard Archer, the chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club, said the 0.7% month-on-month rise in house prices in April was unexpected.

“The Nationwide had reported regarding the 0.8% month-on-month rise in house prices in March that the cut-off point for its survey was just before the end of the month, so the survey would not have fully captured developments after the government imposed the lockdown,” Archer said.

“Significantly, the Nationwide observed that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is not fully captured in its April data. This is because its index is constructed using mortgage approval data, and there is a lag between mortgage applications being submitted and approved.

“Specifically, Nationwide reported that around 80% of cases in its April sample relate to mortgage applications that commenced prior to the lockdown, and hence before the full extent of the impact of the pandemic became clear,” Archer reported.

“Latest surveys and reports clearly show that housing market activity took an increasing and substantial hit from coronavirus during March, reflecting the restrictions on people’s movements as well as the impact on confidence and economic activity,” he noted.

10.15am: House prices were heating up … pre-lockdown

House prices in the UK were up by 3.7% year-on-year in April, representing the strongest growth rate since 2017, according to the mortgage lender, Nationwide.

The building society’s house price index rose 0.7% in April to 443.1 after rising 0.8% in March to 439.9.

The average house price (not seasonally adjusted) rose to £222,915 from £219,583.

“Annual house price growth increased to 3.7% in April, up from 3% in March – the fastest pace since February 2017 (when annual growth was 4.5%). There have been month-on-month gains for the last seven months in a row, after taking account of seasonal effects,” said Robert Gardner, the chief executive officer of the Nationwide.

The figures came with one obvious caveat.

“It’s important to note that the impact of the pandemic is not fully captured in this month’s figures. This is because our index is constructed using mortgage approval data, and there is a lag between mortgage applications being submitted and approved,” Gardner explained.

“Indeed, c80% of cases in the April sample relate to mortgage applications that commenced prior to the lockdown, and hence before the full extent of the impact of the pandemic became clear, he added.

Housing market activity is now grinding to a halt, Gardner said, after steadily building momentum in the opening months of the year.

Gardner apparently forgot to tell shareholders in Rightmove PLC (LON:RMV); shares in the property listings website operator were up 2.0% at 507.8p in a declining market.

The FTSE 100 was down 132 points (2.2%) at 5,769

10.00am: Supply chains under strain

Despite an admittedly predictable dire manufacturing PMI reading for April, the Footsie is trading sideways after opening sharply lower.

London’s index of blue-chip shares was down 127 points (2.2%) at 5,775.

“UK manufacturing suffered its worst month in recent history in April, as output, orders books and employment all fell at rates far surpassing anything seen in the PMI survey’s 28-year history. Huge swathes of industry were hit hard by company closures, weak global demand, lockdowns and social distancing measures in response to COVID-19. The only pockets of growth were seen at firms making medical and food products,” said Rob Dobson, a director at the index’s compiler, IHS Markit.

“Supply-chains also felt the full force of the outbreak as average supplier delays rose to the greatest extent seen since PMI records began. International goods flows were constrained by delays in air freight, shipping and border control issues, and staff shortages often limited production,” he added.

“Inflationary pressures are remaining in check at the moment, linked to weak demand and collapsing global oil prices, but persistent shortages could start to drive some prices higher, notably for food,” Dobson warned.

Duncan Brock, the group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), said last month’s “dismal predictions” became a reality in April.

“Domestic customers deferred orders and export customers thrashed around trying to source a dwindling number of raw materials to keep their supply chains operating before finally giving up. Complicated by government edicts terminating normal business activity, UK companies were forced to put factories on lockdown anyway bringing their operations to a complete stop,” Brock said.

“With the expectation of potential price rises to come, some firms resorted to stockpiling measures in an attempt to beat future supply pandemonium which only exacerbated the problem of dysfunctional supply chains. Some sectors such as food and medical supplies were able to continue but obstacles in logistics and transportation as borders closed and social restrictions were implemented meant usual activity was beyond difficult,” he added.

9.40am: Manufacturing PMI not quite as bad as feared

The IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to a record low of 32.6 in April, from 47.8 in March; the consensus forecast was 31.

The fall in the Manufacturing PMI (which is a composite of five indices) was ameliorated by a comparatively modest reduction in stocks of purchases and record lengthening of vendor lead times (which has an inverse contribution to the PMI level), the survey compiler explained.

Survey data were collected between 7-27 April. Response levels were similar to those observed before the outbreak, IHS Markit noted.

The FTSE 100 was down 119 points (2.1%) at 5,781 shortly after the release of the PMI reading.

8.45am: Weak start before weekend

The FTSE 100 opened with a triple-digit fall on the first day of May as traders waited nervously for the latest monthly manufacturing print from the UK purchasing managers index.

The PMI number is expected to be dire at around 33. Remember, a reading below 50 reveals contraction. So, the figure currently being touted estimate suggests a rapid decline.

The index of UK blue-chips opened 146 points lower at 5,755.38. The Footsie lost over 200 points on Thursday following another depressing round of weekly unemployment data from the US; the Eurozone, meanwhile, saw its economy shrink at a record pace.

Wall Street set the tone as it closed firmly in negative territory yesterday; while Asia markets, led by Japan, were also hard hit today.

Shell’s (LON:RDSA) decline continued after Thursday’s dividend cut with its A-shares off 6%.

The mining sector was hit hard by concerns over global growth with Glencore (LON:GLEN), down 5.5%, leading the charge lower.

Worries over international travel came back to haunt easyJet (LON:EZJ) amid worries of a prolonged lockdown. The airlines’ shares were off 4.9%.

Proactive news headlines:

Genedrive PLC (LON:GDR) has said that its coronavirus testing kit has completed the last significant manufacturing milestone and remains on track. The diagnostics firm said the test has completed its pilot manufacturing runs and yielded high performing multiplexed assays for coronavirus testing. The company is now aiming for the test to receive CE marking in around three weeks.

Kromek Group PLC (LON:KMK) has updated on the status of its business and its response to the coronavirus pandemic. In a trading update on Friday, the detection technology specialist said despite the outbreak it will continue to deliver on its multi-year contracts, which it said will give it “good visibility over future revenues”, adding that it also has a healthy pipeline of projects.

Vectura Group PLC (LON:VEC) has drawn attention to a recommendation relating to the use of one of the company’s asthma treatment formulations in Europe In a statement, the company noted that the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) has adopted a positive opinion recommending the approval of Novartis’s Enerzair Breezhaler (QVM149). Enerzair Breezhaler, which uses a formulation devised and licensed by Vectura, is a maintenance treatment for uncontrolled asthma in adult patients.

Inspiration Healthcare Group PLC (LON:IHC) has revealed that the first consignment of ventilators it will distribute to the National Health Service (NHS) has arrived in the UK. The medical technology company said the consignment will shortly be shipped to a holding and distribution facility managed by the Ministry of Defence. In the last few days, Inspiration Healthcare has also extended its 24-hour helpline facility for clinical staff at all UK hospitals.

MaxCyte PLC (LON:MXCT) chief executive Doug Doerfler has described the company’s £25.1mln fundraiser, which also marks the start of preparations for a NASDAQ listing in the US, as the start of a “new and exciting growth chapter” for the company. The issue of new stock priced at 131p will be split into two tranches – a £7.3mln placing and subscriptions to bring in a further £17.8mln. The cash will be put to work on a number of fronts, including helping MaxCyte prepare financially and commercially for customers scaling up their requirements. It will also be used to “accelerate growth and explore opportunities for new product development”, investors were told.

Quadrise Fuels International PLC (LON:QFI), the developer of cleaner marine fuel, said a new round of cost savings has given it financial headroom until the middle of next year. “We are pleased that we have been able to deliver a material extension to our cash runway, which will now take us to mid-Q2 2021,” Quadrise chairman Mike Kirk said in a statement. “This provides us the opportunity to progress our business development opportunities in earnest for over one-year – an increase of around 5 months to that forecasted at the beginning of 2020.”  

Frontier IP Group PLC (LON:FIPP) revealed that its portfolio firm Molendotech has raised £425,000 in an equity funding round to accelerate the development of its bacteria testing technology. The investment firm said, following the fundraising, Molendotech is now worth £3.9mln, valuing Frontier’s own 12.6% stake in the firm at around £493,000. Before the funding round, Frontier held a 14.1% stake valued at £324,000.

KR1 PLC (LON:KR1) revealed that it has invested US$75,000 into Union Finance, a credit mutual built on Ethereum. The blockchain and cryptocurrency investor said Union Finance will allow people and organisations to take out loans on the blockchain without the need for collateral, a credit score, or revealing personal information on a public ledger. KR1 added that it will receive a yet-to-be-determined amount of discounted tokens from its participation in the seed round.

Rainbow Rare Earths Limited (LON:RB.) said activity at its Gakara mine has continued largely unhampered by restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Although foreign travel has been largely suspended into and out of Burundi, goods are now able to pass across road borders, and the latest export of 100 tonnes of concentrate reached the port of Dar-es-Salaam unhindered, Rainbow told investors. Work continues towards the completion of the company’s maiden JORC-compliant resource estimate, which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks, it added.

Block Energy PLC (LON:BLOE) told investors that the company is prepared for an extended period of low prices, and its fundamentals remain strong, as it reported results for the 18 months to December 31, 2019, after the market close on Thursday. “We are accelerating the exploitation of gas resources in West Rustavi and are planning the increase of oil production and exploitation of gas resources in the blocks being acquired from Schlumberger,” Block Energy chairman Philip Dimmock said in the results statement. “We are confident the market will recognise our inherent value and re-rating potential.” Block Energy ended December with US$6.49mln of cash, and it reported a US$6.03mln loss for the year.

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC (LON:BPC) said it has received confirmation that its fund has been approved for listing on the Bahamas International Stock Exchange (BISX). It has been set up to enable Bahamas investors to participate in the company’s exploration programme, with shares in the company issued to the fund via subscription. The Central Bank of the Bahamas (CBB) has also now approved the process by which Bahamas Petroleum will receive subscription funds, expected to take place shortly after the CBB has finished vetting the investors.

Tekcapital PLC (LON:TEK) said it has raised £925,000 via a share placing to provide additional funding for its portfolio firms and additional working capital. The IP investment group said it raised the funds through the issue of around 9.2mln new shares at a price of 10p each, a 13% discount to its closing price on Thursday. The shares in the placing will represent around 10.54% of the enlarged share capital.

i3 Energy PLC (LON:I3E) told investors that it was not able to enter into a reserves based lending facility of alternative funding facility by April 30, the extended deadline set by noteholders back in November. Nonetheless, it said that it remains in talks with all noteholders to waive this condition. The group added that it will update the market once these discussions have concluded.

Scancell PLC (LON:SCLP), the developer of novel immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, announced that in recognition of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and to help fund the initial research work to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 the members of its senior management team have agreed to a temporary 25% reduction in salaries with effect from May 1, 2020. The group said none of Scancell’s other employees will be affected. The company also announced that on April 30 it granted 1,000,000 share options to acquire ordinary shares in the company to each of the members of its senior management team – Dr John Chiplin, Dr Cliff Holloway, Professor Lindy Durrant, Dr Sally Adams, Dr Richard Goodfellow and Mr Keith Green – with an exercise price of 8.15p each which will vest twelve months from the date of the grant.

Genel Energy PLC (LON:GENL) told investors that it continues to seek a viable commercial way forward for the Bina Bawi project’s oil and gas resources. In a statement, the company said it received documentation, including a new draft production sharing contract (PSC), from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in mid-April following a commercial understanding reached in September. It added that the documentation requires further negotiation, and, whilst these talks are ongoing, the KRG has said it will not serve notice to terminate the existing PSC.

Shield Therapeutics PLC (LON:STX) said it has seen little disruption from the coronavirus pandemic on plans to commercialise its iron deficiency drug Feraccru. Talks to find a partner for the product in the US, where it is known as Accrufer, are ongoing, it added, with significant interest from a range of companies. Sales of Feraccru in Germany and the UK rose during the first quarter of 2020, according to the firm’s European partner Norgine, though Shield noted this was before the full impact of the pandemic became clear. Shield added, however, that it has had to repay a €2.5mln milestone to Norgine following the results of the AEGIS-H2H clinical study, which showed Ferracru had not met its primary endpoint of non-inferiority at 12 weeks in both the “intention to treat” (ITT) and “per protocol” (PP) populations.

Horizon Discovery Group PLC (LON:HZD), a cell engineering company focused on commercialising the application of gene editing and gene modulation to accelerate scientific innovation and biopharmaceutical drug development, has announced the appointment of Dr Siddhartha Kadia as a non-executive director, with effect from April 30. The group also announces that Dr Susan Galbraith stood down from her position as a non-executive director with effect from the same date. It noted that Kadia has a deep background in executive management and public company governance across a range of global businesses, predominantly in the Life Sciences Tools, Diagnostics and Medical Technologies, High Tech and  TIC (Testing, Inspection and Certification) industries. He was formerly president and CEO of EAG Laboratories until its acquisition by Eurofins Scientific in 2017 and continued to serve as the CEO of EAG laboratories until December 2018. Dr Ian Gilham, Horizon’s non-executive chairman commented: “We are delighted to welcome Siddhartha to the Board. He brings a wealth of US public company experience and international expertise in the life sciences tools arena across global markets with a particular emphasis on North America, Asia and Europe.” He added: ”At the same time, on behalf of my colleagues, I would like to thank Susan for her outstanding contributions and commitment to the Group since her appointment in 2014. We wish her every success in the future.”

Clinigen Group PLC (LON:CLIN), the global pharmaceutical and services company, said it has appointed JPMorgan Cazenove as its nominated adviser and joint broker with immediate effect. It added that RBC Capital Markets will continue to act as the company’s joint broker.

Eurasia Mining PLC (LON:EUA) said that further to its announcement of April 9, 2020, the company confirms that WH Ireland has now ceased to act as its nomad and joint broker with immediate effect. The group added that it is in advanced discussions with a new nomad, which has substantially completed its due diligence procedures and it will provide a further update shortly. The company noted that, under AIM rules, if a new nomad is not appointed by 7am on May 29, 2020, trading in the company’s shares on AIM will be cancelled.

Kavango Resources PLC (LON:KAV), the exploration company targeting the discovery of world-class mineral deposits in Botswana, announced that it has published a new corporate presentation on the company’s website. The firm said it has updated the presentation following the recent successful financing and subsequent release of Dr David Holwell’s independent review of its Kalahari Suture Zone Project. The presentation can be viewed here – https://www.kavangoresources.com/investor-relations/presentations – and Dr Holwell’s full report can be viewed here – https://www.kavangoresources.com/media/attachments/2020/04/29/mineral-systems-review-of-the-ksz-botswana.pdf.

Sareum Holdings PLC (LON:SAR), the specialist small molecule drug development business, announced that the company’s virtual presentation, including the video content, given by its CEO, Dr Tim Mitchell delivered on April 28 at BioTrinity 2020 can now be viewed via the company’s website and at bit.ly/3aMVo8Z.

6.35am: Mayday, mayday

It’s Mayday, and that’s what investors in distress will be signalling today as equities look set to add to yesterday’s heavy losses.

Spread betting quotes suggest that the FTSE 100, which yesterday plunged 214 points to close at 5,901, will shed another 86 points at the outset to kick-off at 5,815.

US markets ended an otherwise good month in retreat yesterday after a slew of economic data that provided a bit of a reality check.

The Dow Jones Industrials Average tumbled 288 points to 24,346 and the S&P 500 fell 27 points to 2,912. Some pundits suggested there may have been some end-month profit-taking involved in yesterday’s trading.

Asian markets have been mixed this morning, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 off 528 points (2.6%) at 19,666 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was 6 points (0.3%) to the good at 24,644.

“After yesterday’s raft of disappointing economic numbers from Europe and the US, attention is set to turn back to the UK economy, with the final manufacturing PMI for April, which is expected to come in at 32.8,” observed CMC’s Michael Hewson.

“We’ll also be getting a look at the latest mortgage approvals, consumer credit and lending numbers for March. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see a significant drop off in all of these numbers, given the news flow that we saw in the lead up to the lockdown being announced. Mortgage approvals are expected to fall to 58k from 73.5k, which net consumer credit is expected to fall back slightly to £0.7bn,” he added.

On the company news front, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (LON:RBS) will be the last of the FTSE 100-listed banks to post a first-quarter trading update.

Given yesterday’s shocker from Lloyds, RBS shareholders might be advised to buckle up and prepare for a bumpy ride.

The sector has long been struggling with Brexit woes but the coronavirus pandemic has changed the landscape completely, with peers Barclays, Lloyds, and HSBC all posting slumps in quarterly profits this week amid worries over loan defaults.

Analysts expect RBS to take less than £700mln of impairments, with pre-provision profits more than halved to just below £1bn from the £2.2bn seen in the last quarter of 2019.

Given it announced yesterday it had received a bid approach there might be more attention paid today to the full-year results from cash-strapped energy industry services provider, Gulf Marine Services PLC (LON:GMS).

The company has indicated that underlying earnings (EBITDA) for 2019 will be at the higher end of the previously disclosed US$48mln – US$50mln range. Given recent events that have rocked the oil industry, what will be more interest is whether the company sticks with guidance for the current year of EBITDA in the range of US$57mln – US$62mln.

Significant announcements expected on Friday:

Trading announcements: Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (LON:RBS)

Finals: Gulf Marine Services PLC (LON:GMS)

Economic data: UK manufacturing PMI; US manufacturing PMI

Around the markets:

  • Sterling: US$1.2561, down 0.33 cents
  • 10-year gilt: yielding 0.225%, down 6.06 basis points
  • Gold: US$1,691.10 an ounce, down US$3.10
  • Oil: US$27.01 a barrel, up 53 cents
  • Bitcoin: US$8,782, down US$49

City headlines:

  • Financial Times

  • PM Boris Johnson has indicated he will reveal a “road map” next week on how the UK will approach and end to the lockdown
  • Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell slashed its dividend for the first time since WWII as the coronavirus pandemic halved quarterly earnings.
  • Coronavirus eliminated Lloyds Bank’s first-quarter profits almost completely, as the lender announced a 420% increase in provisions for bad loans.
  • Finablr level of indebtedness may be four times as high as previously reported, the company admitted, following an independent investigation at the financial services group.
  • The Times

  • Thirty million Americans have lost their jobs in the six weeks since the coronavirus crisis struck, according to the latest government figures.
  • Reckitt Benckiser posted what is thought to be its strongest sales growth since its merger two decades ago on the back of strong sales of disinfectants and medicines ahead of government lockdowns.
  • Wealth manager St James’s Place has held back £60 million of a planned investor payout to help tide it over during the economic downturn.
  • Hospital demand for anaesthetics, sedatives and anti-infectives has boosted sales at Hikma Pharmaceuticals.
  • British Airways could leave Gatwick airport, where it is the second-biggest operator, as it emerged that it is to sack 1,100 of its pilots on statutory redundancy terms only.
  • American Airlines reported a $2.2 billion first-quarter loss, its deepest quarterly loss since the 2008 financial crisis, as the coronavirus pandemic all but wiped out demand for air travel.
  • Drinks company C&C Group has scrapped the dividend and cut salaries for workers and senior management as part of a continuing attack on costs.
  • Manufacturing activity in China fell back into decline in April as the pandemic crushed global demand.
  • The Daily Telegraph

  • The eurozone economy suffered its steepest quarterly contraction ever, with GDP plunging 3.8% in the first three months of 2020, as it was dealt a hammer blow by the coronavirus.
  • Amazon disappointed investors on Thursday night as it said the coronavirus pandemic would wipe out its entire profits for the next three months despite skyrocketing sales.
  • Daily Mail

  • The Covid-19 crisis is set to cost the British car industry more than £8billion, an industry report predicted.
  • Sainsbury’s has deferred a £160 million dividend and cancelled bonuses, saying it will not profit from the crisis due to an extra £500 million in staffing and store costs.
  • Twitter revealed record numbers of new accounts but swung into a loss as the coronavirus crisis hit spending by advertisers.
  • The Guardian

  • Apple reported sales and profits that beat Wall Street expectations on Thursday despite the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Baker and takeaway chain Greggs has postponed reopening 20 shops next week, fearing crowds of customers could gather.
  • AstraZeneca is teaming up with Oxford University to manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine if clinical trials currently underway show it is effective.
  • Oasis and Warehouse are to permanently close all their stores and online shopping with the loss of more than 1,800 jobs after they failed to secure a rescue deal for the fashion chains.
  • Almost 1 million holidaymakers who were due to travel with Tui have had their trips cancelled after the company announced a fresh round of suspensions in response to the coronavirus crisis.