• FTSE 100 index closes up a shade
  • US benchmarks mainly lower
  • BoE economist warns spending levels could remain depressed for some time

5.05pm:  FTSE ahead- just

FTSE 100 index closed with its nose just above water on Monday as the weak pound and fears of a second wave of coronavirus uneased traders.

The Footsie finished up around three points at 5,939. 

FTSE 250, though, was a little more convincing, adding around 23 points at 16,271.

Against the US dollar, the pound shed around 0.64% to US$1.2325.

“The easing of lockdowns has turned out to be a double edged sword, as the move towards reopening economies boosted equities recently, but now there are fears that it might set the countries back in terms of the health crisis,” noted David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets.

“Reports from South Korea and Germany show that new cases have jumped amid the easing of restrictions, and that’s why traders are dumping stocks today.”

3.30pm: Might as well have extended the bank holiday weekend

The Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane has warned that the coronavirus pandemic could cause companies and households to curtail spending for some time.

“All crises leave scars and this crisis assuredly will be no exception,” said Haldane on a Royal Economic Society webcast.

On the plus side there have been indications of stabilisation in some spending measures recently, Haldane said, albeit at very low levels; the employment market remains a train wreck, however.

Talking of stabilising at low levels, the Footsie has apparently parked the bus at around the 5,927 level, down 9 points (0.2%).

2.50pm: US indices open lower

US indices opened lower without even bothering to throw investors a dummy like the Footsie did this morning.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 181 points (0.8%) at 24,151 and the S&P 500 was odd 15 points (0.5%) at 2,915.

The Footsie has at least pared its losses and is now down 12 points (0.2%) at 5,924.

2.00pm: Losses lengthen

As has been the case in Europe, US shares are set to take a step back today.

Spread betting quotes point to the Dow Jones opening around 245 points lower at 24,086 and the S&P 500 30 points lower at 2,900.

“On the earnings front, the first-quarter reporting season is now drawing to a close in the US and last week did see estimates revised up marginally. The consensus is now looking for a mere 12% year on year drop; however, this good news did not extend to projections for the rest of the year which continue to be revised lower, with a 40% fall now expected in the second quarter,” said Rupert Thompson, the chief investment officer at asset manager, Kingswood.

In London, the FTSE 100’s losses lengthened over the lunchtime session with the index drifting to 5,905, down 31 points (0.5%).

British Gas owner Centrica PLC (LON:CNA), down 7.4% at 36.38p is jostling with budget airline easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) for the Footsie’s wooden spoon ahead of the former’s trading statement due out this week.

At the moment, easyJet is still holding the wooden spoon; the shares, which have lost two-thirds of their value this year, are down 8.1% at 488.48p after analysts at Citibank’s said the Prime Minister’s message on Sunday about the lockdown – vague as it was – does not bode well for the airline industry.

Johnson confirmed that travellers into the UK will be required to self-isolate on arrival in the UK.

12.15pm: IAG burning through cash

Fears of a second wave of infections have soured equity investors initially optimistic mood today.

The FTSE 100 was down 9 points (0.2%) at 5,927.

Noting some worrying trends in Korea and Germany regarding the coronavirus, Saxo Bank’s Peter Garnry said “[The] number of COVID-19 cases have recently surged and today saw 34 new cases the highest since 9 April as new chains of the virus has started at nightclubs in Seoul. This comes after Germany just announced that its R0 (virus reproduction value) increased to 1.1 as it opened up society. These stories tell us that reopening the economies may not be that easy and LesEchos has in collaboration with Kayrros-EY Consulting made a new real-time economic activity index based on satellite images. This shows that Chinese activity despite reopening is still down 25% from levels before the COVID-19 outbreak.”

This obviously does not bode well for the tourism industry.

British Airways owner IAG PLC (LON:IAG) remains under the cosh, as its boss, Willie Walsh, addressed parliament’s transport committee.

The shares shed 3.6% at 183.6p after Walsh admitted the company was burning through cash.

“We’ve probably exhausted every avenue that I can think of at this stage to shore up our liquidity. The cash has been reducing significantly and that will be the case as we go through May, June and July. We’re not taking in any revenue,” Walsh told MPs.

Meanwhile, package tours operator and hotels owner TUI AG (LON:TUI), up 1.4% at 268.6p, has unveiled a 10-point plan for the reopening of its hotels.

It means the end for the time being of the “all you can eat” self-service buffet, which is probably not a bad thing.

The 10 points can be accessed via the tweet below if you fancy practising your German, although curiously point one is “online check-in”, which suggests there is no 74-letter-long word for it in the German language.

10.45am: The Footsie turns south

London’s blue-chips are lower on balance after a bright start fizzled out.

The FTSE 100 was down 14 points (0.2%) at 5,922, with the heavily-weighted oil majors partly responsible for the decline as the oil price heads south.

BP PLC (LON:BP.) was down 1.8% at 310.25p and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB) was off 0.7% at 1,254.6p as Brent crude for July delivery slipped 83 cents to US$30.14 a barrel.

Away from the big guns, Georgia Healthcare Group PLC (LON:GHG) was in rude health, up 14% at 92p after it signed a US$ 25mln two-year loan agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to fund potential working capital and operational expenditure requirements for the group’s role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Sticking with eastern Europe, up for sale Volga Gas PLC (LON:VGA) shot up for the second day in succession after a consultant to the company was hoodwinked into revealing confidential information about the formal sales process.

A case of WhatsApp, doc?

9.20am: You will go on a long journey … just not anytime soon

London investors were bathing in sunny optimism on Monday morning in the hope of an imminent end to cabin fever.

The FTSE 100 was up 49 points (0.8%) at 5,984, although travel stocks were conspicuous by their absence from the list of risers.

Despite the first rumblings of a lifting of lockdown restrictions in the UK “it seems fairly obvious that social distancing is likely to be with us for quite some time which means people will be travelling a lot less, as well as going out a lot less,” according to CMC’s Michael Hewson.

Small wonder then that low-cost airline easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) was the Footsie’s biggest faller, with a 6.7% fall to 495.7p.

British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (LON:IAG) was down 3.2% at 184.45p while aerospace-focused engineers Meggitt PLC (LON:MGGT) and Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.) were off 5.4% at 243.9p and 3.8% at 276.2p respectively.

Cruises operator Carnival PLC (LON:CCL), down 1.7% at 921.2p, was also friendless as market pundits questioned how long it would take for international travel to become as prevalent as it was before the pandemic.

Away from the FTSE 100, Tissue Regenix PLC (LON:TRX) was the star performer in early trading after it announced a new product line that should add materially to revenue over the next couple of years.

The shares shot up 30% to 0.875p after the company announced a collaboration with an unnamed “top 10 global healthcare company.”

Gfinity PLC (LON:GFIN) jumped 26% to 1.825p after it hooked up with telecoms giant BT to co-produce a new competitive gaming series, ‘The BT Sport FIFA Challenge’.

8.40am: Bright start to the week

The FTSE 100 made a better than anticipated start to proceedings on Monday morning as the potential incremental easing of lockdown restrictions here in the UK outweighed worries over a second wave of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The index of UK blue-chips opened 57 points higher at 5,988.77.

That said, it was a confusing message from the UK prime minister, who has been panned by the opposition, the leaders of Scotland and Wales, and in the media. Adding to the mounting sense of chaos was cabinet member Dominic Raab’s intervention, urging workers to stay at home until Wednesday – this as commuter trains in London were already full to capacity.

“Boris Johnson’s plan to begin the phased and conditional re-opening of the UK economy has come under significant fire from many for being unclear and risking a second spike in the virus in the UK,” said James Hughes at Scope Markets.

Intercontinental Hotel Group (LON:IHG), up 3.5%, led the blue-chip index with optimistic bargain hunters buoyed by a repeated ‘buy’ recommendation from Deutsche Bank.

BT Group (LON:BT.A) enjoyed a 3.1% bounce after the recent sell-off, prompted by the cancellation of the dividend. The cash will be diverted into a £12bn scheme to roll fibre broadband out across the country, according to the Telegraph.

On the FTSE 250, there was some hope for investors in Cineworld (LON:CINE) as the phased end to lockdown suggested that places such as multiplexes could start opening in July if all goes to plan. The stock was marked 6.4% higher.

Among the tiddlers, Open Orphan, the healthcare group, opened 22% higher after inking a COVID-19 testing deal.

Software group KRM22 surged 19% following a City fundraiser that brought in £1mln and was done at a premium to the prevailing share price.

Proactive news headlines:

Mosman Oil And Gas Ltd (LON:MSMN) shares jumped in early deals on Monday following news of a farm-out deal for exploration permit (EP) 155 in the Amadeus Basin, in Australia’s Northern Territory. Westmarket Oil & Gas, a subsidiary of Georgina Energy PLC, has inked a deal to earn a 70% stake by investing in work programmes at the project. Mosman will retain 30% and the transaction allows for the AIM-quoted firm to be ‘carried’ in an exploration well in return for a further 15% interest in the project.

Gfinity PLC (LON:GFIN) has partnered with BT Sport to co-produce a new competitive gaming series, ‘The BT Sport FIFA Challenge’. The esports firm said the six-episode series, which will encompass a four-team tournament featuring members of BT Sport’s football and rugby talent, will be produced remotely using BT’s newly developed remote technology, while both firms will work together to oversee gaming content and competition elements. The series will use the FIFA20 video game developed by game developer EA Sports and will feature sports stars such as Robbie Savage, Joe Cole and Ugo Monye while Chelcee Grimes, singer, songwriter and Fulham Ladies player, will captain a women’s team.

Bidstack Group PLC (LON:BIDS) has confirmed to investors that it will deliver in-game advertising for Codemasters Group Holdings PLC’s (LON:CDM) new DIRT 5 game. DIRT 5 is due for release in October 2020 on the new generation consoles Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 along with the current Xbox One and Playstation 4 systems and PC (via Steam). It will also be available via Google Stadia by early 2021. “It’s great to be working with Codemasters, using our technology to deliver native in-game advertising for DIRT 5, which is the first racing game to be confirmed for the all-new Xbox Series x,” James Draper, Bidstack chief executive said in a statement.

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Taipei-based nutraceuticals firm MAXCARE to commercialise its SlimBiome product in Taiwan. The AIM-listed group said MAXCARE was “well placed to educate customers on the benefits and functionality SlimBiome can provide” and had a team of registered dieticians to support commercialisation, with market exclusivity to be linked to minimum sales targets being achieved.

Tissue Regenix Group PLC (LON:TRX) has received a further loan of US$417,000 under the US government-backed coronavirus (COVID-19) business support scheme. This funding is in addition to the receipt of a similar loan, for US$629,000, announced in mid-April. Following receipt of the loan, the board now expects that the group’s current cash runway will extend at least until after the first week of August.

Open Orphan PLC (LON:ORPH) said its subsidiary hVIVO has agreed a coronavirus (COVID-19) antibody testing partnership with NASDAQ-listed medical devices firm Quotient. hVIVO will use Quotient’s recently-certified MosaiQ system to screen for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The technology is 100% effective in detecting the tell-tale antibodies and was able to rule out a person having them in 98.8% of cases.

Open Orphan also announced the appointment of finnCap Ltd as its joint broker with immediate effect.

IronRidge Resources Ltd (LON:IRR) has raised £4.75mln through a conditional share placing, with the funds earmarked for an accelerated drill programme at the Zaranou gold project in Côte d’Ivoire. The group is issuing some 67.85mln new shares priced at 7p each. The funding comprises two tranches, due to the company’s existing allowances, with just over 50mln new shares issued in the first tranche and a further 17.8mln to be issued conditionally with the passing of resolutions at a general meeting in June.

Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (LON:TILS) (NASDAQ:TLSA) has said it will showcase data via four submissions at the virtual replacement for the world’s leading cancer conference. Leading the way are two poster sessions on StemPrintER at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) summit. The technology is being developed to predict the potential recurrence of breast cancer. In one of those posters, there is a direct comparison of Tiziana’s product with the current market leader, Oncotype DX. A further two ‘e-abstracts’ assess the potential of the firm’s Milciclib drug candidate in treating hepatocellular carcinoma.

BlueRock Diamonds PLC (LON:BRD) has said mining and processing operations have restarted at its Kareevlei diamond mine in the Kimberley region of South Africa. The company added that it expects to be operating at capacity by the end of this month but said that its expansion plans for the mine remain on hold.

Primary Health Properties PLC (LON:PHP) has acquired twenty purpose-built medical centres in England and Wales and conditionally signed contracts for a further two. The consideration is £47.1mln for the acquired centres with a further £6.9mln payable for the additional two. PHP said that the acquired properties are leased to GPs, NHS operators or pharmacies with 91% of their rental income backed by the UK government. The deal will increase the size of FTSE250- group’s portfolio to 510 properties worth just under £2.5bn and with annual rents of £131mln.

Vast Resources PLC (LON:VAST) has updated investors on the Baita Plai polymetallic mine project, in Romania, where it has placed new hire Adrian Badita as general manager. In a statement, the firm said Badita, who will report into chief operating officer Craig Harvey, will be responsible for the overall management of Baita Plai including, but not limited, to ensuring the safety and health of all the team at the mine as well as implementing and monitoring the company’s development plan. Badita is due to start his position on May 18. He brings over 20 years’ mining experience including progressive supervisory experience in all phases of the mining industry, with specific experience including drill & blast, haulage, waste management, risk management strategy and environmental site rehabilitation.

Amryt Pharma PLC’s (LON:AYP) has revealed that its business performance exceeded expectations in the first quarter of 2020. The commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company, which is focused on life-threatening rare diseases, said its revenues in the first quarter of this year rose by 30% to US$44.6mln from US$34.3mln in the corresponding period of 2019. Revenues were 10% higher quarter-on-quarter. The group made an adjusted operating profit of US$4.6mln before finance expenses versus a loss of US$2.8mln in the same quarter of last year.

Ariana Resources PLC (LON:AAU) has boosted the resource estimate at its Kizilcukur project in Turkey. The new resource stands at 21,100 ounces of gold and 620,000 ounces of silver, with contained metal on three main veins, the group said, with 85% of the tonnage in the measured and indicated categories. Higher grade ore has been found on the Zeki Main Vein, and trial mining has commenced, it added. “This is a significant improvement over the previous resource estimate, which integrates the latest drilling data and geological modelling,” Ariana’s managing director Dr Kerim Sener said in a statement.

Oriole Resources PLC (LON:ORR), the exploration company-focused on West Africa, said it plans to commence its maiden drilling programme later this year on its Bibemi gold project in Cameroon, subject to the easing of coronavirus (COVID-19) related travel restrictions. The AIM-listed firm noted that results from its exploration programme in the fourth quarter of 2019 have enabled the company to expand its planned 2020 drilling campaign at the Bakassi Zone to almost 2,000 metres (m).

Galileo Resources PLC (LON:GLR) has announced it is to acquire 21 prospecting licences inside the Kalahari Copper and Limpopo Mobile Belts in Botswana from Crocus-Serv (Pty) Ltd. covering 14,875 square kilometres. The consideration for the acquisition comprises 38.8mln shares and £10,082 in cash. Galileo will conduct due diligence during a 30-day exclusivity period. “We are very pleased with this proposed acquisition,” Galileo chief executive Colin Bird said in a statement posted after the market close on Thursday.

Union Jack Oil PLC’s (LON:UJO) has confirmed the onshore UK firm is fully funded for all its current drilling and well testing commitments in its full-year 2019 results statement. The AIM-quoted company told investors it had a £5.5mln cash balance at the start of May 2019 and it remains debt-free. “My confidence in respect of Union Jack’s future remains highly positive,” executive chairman David Bramhill said in the statement.

Kodal Minerals PLC (LON:KOD) said it has received initial test results from a bulk sample of pegmatite-hosted lithium mineralisation taken from the Bougouni lithium project in southern Mali. The group said the recoveries from the Bougouni bulk sample rang in at up to 83%, to give a 5.5%-to-6% Li2O spodumene product. That is significantly higher than the 71% recovery used in Kodal Minerals’ initial feasibility study and indicates upside on the project. It also said the spodumene concentrate is low in impurities with iron content reported at below 0.5%

Adamas Finance Asia Limited (LON:ADAM) said it has raised around US$1.72mln through a new subscription to its US dollar-denominated corporate bond from high net worth individuals and family offices in the Middle East. The AIM-listed company said the result represented the second close of its corporate bond issuance programme of up to a combined total of US$10mln, through which it has raised around US$3.6mln to date.

Premier African Minerals Ltd has completed its US$290,000 investment agreement with D-Beta One EQ, YA II PN and Riverfort Global Opportunities PCC at an annual interest rate of 10%. “This agreement provides a further cash buffer as we approach finality in regard to both our EPO application at Zulu Lithium Pvt Limited and the ongoing negotiations at RHA Tungsten Private Limited (“RHA”) in Zimbabwe,” Premier African’s chief executive George Roach said in a statement. He added that he was also “deeply grateful” for the provision of US$106,000 in funding from Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

KRM22 PLC (LON:KRM) confirmed it has received a firm commitment to undertake a £1mln equity investment at 30p per share, a 27.7% premium to its closing price last Thursday, exceeding its initial fundraising target. The software firm said it remains in dialogue with other existing and new potential investors regarding addition investment to add to the total, with a further announcement to be made once the investor roadshow and fundraising is completed around May 14. KRM22 said the proceeds will help strengthen its working capital facilities and accelerate growth, adding that it has also reached an agreement with its debt provider that it may draw down a further £500,000, conditional on completion of the fundraise.

KRM22 also unveiled a brief trading update for the year ended December 31, 2019, ahead of its final results, due to be announced next week, reporting that its adjusted (EBITDA) loss had narrowed to £3.07mln from £3.32mln in 2018 while revenues climbed to £4.1mln from £1.29mln.

NQ Minerals PLC (LON:NQMI) (OTCQB:NQMLF), the Aquis Exchange-listed base and precious metals producer from its Hellyer Gold Mine in Tasmania Australia, announced that it has raised £150,694 gross from an issue of 2,620,766 new ordinary shares at 5.75p per share to a UK based institutional investor and a group of private investors for general working capital purposes.

Afarak Group PLC (LON:AFRK) has placed its South African subsidiaries Afarak South Africa and Afarak Mogale into voluntary business rescue, following financial distress caused by coronavirus-related lock-downs. In a statement, Afarak’s board of directors said there is a reasonable prospect of rescuing both. They added that Afarak Mogale Ltd and Afarak South Africa Ltd being placed into business rescue does not and will not affect the remaining mining assets and businesses held by the Afarak Group.

Ashley House PLC ((LON:ASH) said late last Thursday that it has raised £850,000 from the sale of its interests in Partnering Health and Infracare LIFT to its main lender Invescare. The disposals reduce Ashley House’s outstanding loan with Invescare to £320,000. Ashley House said it is continuing to look for funding for its ongoing affordable housing strategy, without which it will not be able to trade.

CentralNic Group PLC (LON:CNIC), the global internet platform that derives revenue from the subscription sales of domain names and web services, announced late on Thursday that Mike Turner has resigned as a non-executive director of the company with immediate effect having recently accepted a new full-time role as a partner with an international law firm. A stipulation of Turner’s engagement is that he resign any non-executive director roles he currently holds and, as such, he is stepping down from his position at CentralNic. Ben Crawford, CentralNic CEO, commented: “Mike’s experience and guidance has proven invaluable to CentralNic since he joined our board in 2015. We are sorry to see him leave, and we wish him every success in his new role.”

Iconic Labs PLC (LON:ICON), a multi-divisional new media and technology business, said after the market close on Thursday that it has received a notice of exercise from the European High Growth Opportunities Securitization Fund in respect of conversion rights under the Convertible Bonds issued in respect of the first tranche drawn down under the Financing and Settlement Agreement entered into by the company on February 7, 2020, for the aggregate principal amount of £100,000 resulting in the issue to the investor of 500,000,000 new ordinary shares in the company.

6.30am: Footsie set to nudge higher 

The FTSE 100 is expected to nudge tentatively higher Monday amid preparations to restart the world economy after the coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown.

Exerting a pull in the opposite direction was the niggling worry we could be in for a second wave of infections with South Korea and Germany reporting spikes in COVID-19 deaths.

“This is something that traders should be mindful of as it might curtail the reopening of other economies for fear of a second wave of cases,” said David Madden of CMC Markets.   

In the US on Friday, the monthly non-farm payroll numbers were dire – just not as dire as predicted, which left Wall Street in positive territory.

Looking ahead, it is expected to be a reasonably busy week for economic and corporate news.

On Wednesday Jerome Powell’s set-piece address is likely to be heavily scrutinised. The chair of the US Federal Reserve expected to rule out pushing interest rates into negative territory – for now.

Closer to home, the leaders of the Eurozone are being urged to quickly agree on a financial bail-out deal.

“A big point of contention is how many grants will be dished out versus how many loans will be issued,” said CMC’s Madden. “Broadly speaking, southern economies like Italy would prefer a higher portion of grants, while northern countries like The Netherlands would favour the issuance of loans. While the internal divisions remain, the bloc and the euro are likely to remain under strain.”

Here in the UK, it looks set to be a busy week for corporate news with Vodafone (LON:VOD) and Morrisons (LON:MRW) leading the charge. TUI (LON:TUI) will lay bare the scars of the corona outbreak on the travel sector when it reports on Wednesday.

Significant events expected on Monday:

Finals: Amryt Pharma PLC (LON:AMYT)

Interims: Diploma PLC (LON:DPLM), Victrex plc (LON:VCT), RDI REIT PLC (LON:RDI)

Around the markets:

  • Pound worth US$1.2417, flat

  • Gold worth US$1,705.10 an ounce, down US$8.10
  • Brent crude US$30.48 a barrel, off 49 cents

City headlines:

Financial Times

  • SFO struggles to process evidence during pandemic
  • Brussels turns up the heat on Brexit talks
  • WeWork’s woes cause mortgage-backed bonds to tumble

Times

  • Virgin seeks investors in bid to stave off collapse
  • Abandoning stress tests for insurers ‘is a mistake’, says City grandee
  • Rent deals will be linked to turnover, say landlords

Telegraph

  • Job retention scheme set to be extended to September
  • Next eyes lucrative future as online host of other brands
  • Burger King to begin takeaway trials as early as this week

Guardian

  • Gambling firms’ social messages are ‘thinly veiled’ adverts, say MPs
  • Pubs fear disaster after being left out of plans to ease lockdown
  • Trump is culpable in deaths of Americans, says Noam Chomsky