• FTSE 100 index closes 39 points higher
  • US indices mixed
  • BT firmer after reassuring shareholders it has no plan to sell a stake in Openreach

5.10pm: FTSE 100 closes ahead

FTSE 100 index managed a positive finish on Friday amid a quiet end to the trading week across markets.

Britain’s top share index closed the day up over 39 points, or 0.63%, at 6,290. But over the week as a whole the index gained around 3.2%.

There were not many US earnings to drive direction and the mood was muted in Europe as an EU summit to discuss the rescue fund began today.

“It has not been a marvellous week for risk, but hopes of vaccine progress have provided the main catalyst for the limited gains in stock markets,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG,

“Earnings season is still in its early stages, but we already have a taste of how things might go, with Wells Fargo seeing a hit because of its dependence on Main Street as opposed to investment banking, and high-flyer Netflix coming partway back down to Earth after it issued a cautious outlook in its latest results,” he added.

Among top FTSE gainers was Homeserve PLC (LON:HSV), which added 3.61% to stand at 1,350p as the home improvements and emergency repairs business, which saw demand rise during lockdown, repeated a positive outlook. The stock hit a record high today.

US and Canada 4pm/11 EST

Wall Street shares started mixed with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 43 points at 26,691. The S&P 500 benchmark was up around three points at 3,218, while the Nasdaq added around 12 points at 10,486. Over in Canada, the S&P/TSX Composite index was up over 63 points at 16,088.

Proactive North America headlines

Energy Fuels Inc (TSE:EFR) (NYSEMKT:UUUU) the USA’s largest uranium miner, is paying off debt and growing inventories

Silvercorp Metals (NSYEAMERICAN:SVM) (TSX:SVM) on track to meet fiscal 2021 output guidance as it reports solid first quarter numbers

NexTech AR (CSE:NTAR) (OTCQB:NEXCF) launches new immersive video conferencing software ScreenAR to run on InfernoAR virtual events platform

Duos Technologies Group Inc (NASDAQ:DUOT)  founder and CEO Gianni Arcaini retires after 30 years

Loop Insights (CVE:MTRX) (OCTMKTS:VRZPF) sees strong international interest for its contact tracing solution which supports coronavirus government mandates

KULR Technology (OTCQB:KULR) adds former Pentagon strategy chief to its advisory board in partnership with The Outpost

Tiziana Life Sciences’ (LON:TILS, NASDAQ:TLSA) move into CAR-T therapy has “intriguing implications”, says influential Wall Street analyst.

3.00pm: US indices edge higher

US stocks limped into positive territory at the outset.

The Dow Jones rose 32 points (0.1%) to 26,767 and the S&P 500 climbed 6 points (0.2%) to 3,221.

Focus was on Netflix Inc (NASDAQ:NFLX), down 7.0% at US$490.60 after yesterday’s update that was delivered after the close of trading.

The group’s second-quarter performance saw it beat expectations on subscriber and revenue growth but it wanted subscriber additions in the third quarter are expected to be lower than they were in the same quarter of last year.

“Subscriber growth is set to decelerate from next quarter, after all if you haven’t subscribed to Netflix during the lockdown, the chances are you never will. While Netflix is still the biggest fish in the tank, if it wants to keep it that way, there is work to be done,” suggested Sophie Lund-Yates, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“One of the biggest tools in its armoury is local-language content in emerging markets. These regions have a lot more growth potential than the mature US market. As it stands Netflix offers three times the number of local language productions of rival Amazon, and it would be good to keep that lead.

“That means spending. Spending is something Netflix does very well, with US$14bn splashed on content last year. Lockdowns and the halting of production activity is helping Netflix keep costs down for now, and Netflix’s content cupboard does seem to be reasonably well stocked; however, we’re all burning through shows much faster than usual and making sure subscribers don’t swap to Amazon or Apple requires continuous investment in swanky original shows,” she declared.

In London, traders’ screens were not providing many alternatives to the thousandth re-run of “Friends”, with the FTSE 100 up 37 points (0.6%) at 6,289.

Drugs giant AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) was leading the advance with a 4.6% rise at 9,249p.

Telecoms mammoth BT Group PLC (LON:BT.A) climbed 2.5% to 118p after it protested that it has no plans to sell off part of its infrastructure business, Openreach.

2.10pm: Housing starts provides a lift to US sentiment

US housing starts In the US rose by 17.3% to an annualised total of 1.19mln in June from 1.01mln in May, in line with expectations.

The number of new permits granted for new homes rose by 2.1% to 1.24mln after surging 14.1% in May, which was below expectations of 1.29mln.

“The housing market is the brightest spot in the economy, probably because most of the people who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 are younger renters; the median age of US homebuyers is about 47,” said Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“The surge in starts in June was spread evenly across the single- and multi-family sectors, but the headline permits number was held back by a 13.4% drop in the multi-family component, which is very erratic month-to-month. Single-family permits jumped 11.8%, the second straight double-digit gain, but at 834K in June they remain well below February’s 994K peak. The surge in homebuilder confidence captured in the NAHB survey released yesterday, however, signals clear scope for further big increases in permits over the next few months, with starts to follow,” he added.

US indices are now expected to open higher, with the Dow Jones tipped to advance 50 points to 27,785 and the S&P 500 set for a 6 point gain.

An hour or so again the expectation was that indices would be little changed; the improvement in US sentiment has not had a lot of impact on the FTSE 100, which remains encased in concrete around the 6,280 level, up 29 points (0.5%).

12.40pm: US indices set to open little changed

US indices are expected to open little changed this afternoon.

Spread betting quotes currently have the Dow Jones at around 26,725, down 10 points on last night’s close. The S&P 500 is trading at around 3,215, down a point.

Traders continue to watch closely the number of new coronavirus cases in the US.

The Johns Hopkins database reported there were 77,300 new cases in the US yesterday, up 22.1% from 63,200 seven days earlier.

“The jump is in line with the seven-day average but a bit disappointing after two days of increases averaging only 13.6%,” said Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“The number of tests rose by only 8.7% compared to a week ago but the share of positive tests rose slightly. It remains within the recent range, though, and the national trend is flat at 8½%m” said Shepherdson.

“More encouragingly, deaths look to have stabilised, and the downward trend in the rate of increase of hospitalisations continues. Hospitalisations are unaffected by noise in the test data, and hospital capacity is the real constraint on policymakers considering restrictions in order to keep the disease in check,” Shepherdson added.

In London, the FTSE 100 was up 29 points (0.5%) at 6,280.

12.10pm: The Footsie makes an effort

The Footsie has experienced something that could justifiably be called a surge, rising 33 points (0.5%) to 6,283.

Banks are missing out, however, with Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) the FTSE 100’s wooden spoon holder with a 2.0% fall to 116.18p. Sector peers HSBC Holdings PLC (LON:HSBA) and Standard Chartered PLC (LON:STAN) are off 1.2% and 0.9% respectively.

10.45am: More life in a tramp’s vest

For what it is worth – not a lot to be honest – the FTSE 100 has crept back into positive territory.

In keeping with the “don’t go far” mood of today, however, the rise is just 9 points (0.1%) at 6,259.

Russ Mould at AJ Bell has decided the day is as good as done already, having published his review of the week at 9.25am.

Speaking about the somnambulant performance of stocks, he said it is down to a “continuation of the push-pull factors”.

“On one hand there is ongoing nervousness about the pandemic and localised flare-ups. On the other hand, there is the hope of more stimulus measures until there is firm evidence that the pandemic is under control and economies are getting back on track,” Mould said.

If it is share price excitement you want, you’ll need to go fishing among the tiddlers.

Pennant International Group PLC (LON:PEN) shot up by 25% after it unveiled a training contract win worth an initial £1.5mln.

Investors checking up on ClearStar Inc (LON:CLSU) saw the shares have risen 16% to 37p after the medical screening provider said it had not lost a single customer during the coronavirus pandemic.

9.30am: Brussels tussles the only vaguely interesting game in town

There is a whole clutch of nothing happening in London as traders turn their eyes towards Brussels and the meeting of European Union leaders.

The FTSE 100 was down 5 points (0.1%) at 6,245.

“Market performance this week suggests, yet again, that investors have serious misgivings about adding significantly to equities’ Q2 gains, as suspicions over the bullish outlook could be gaining critical mass,” suggested Han Tan, a market analyst at FXTM.

“Yet, salvation may be just around the corner.

“Further fiscal stimulus could give the bull market fresh legs, with equities having already priced in the current unprecedented monetary policy support. EU leaders are meeting in Brussels today to hold two days of talks over the proposed EUR750 billion recovery fund and a growing consensus at the negotiating table could spur more risk-taking activities over the near-term,” Tan added.

“Investors are also monitoring what else US Congress has to offer to support the world’s largest economy, with the opening bid for the next stimulus package potentially being tabled as soon as next week. This next round of US fiscal stimulus is estimated to total around $1 trillion.

“Should fiscal policymakers disappoint and deny stock bulls the fuel they desire, we could see the rapid erosion of gains from recent months,” Tan warned.

German chancellor Angela Merkel did not seem overly optimistic about today’s big conflab.

“We are all going into the talks with a lot of vigour but I must say that the differences are still very, very big and so I can’t yet say whether we will get a solution this time already,” she told reporters.

“I expect very, very difficult negotiations,” she added.

On the corporate news side, DCC PLC (LON:DCC) shares ebbed 0.9% to 7,002p despite the sales, marketing and support services group boasting of a resilient performance in its fiscal first quarter.

8.40am: Slow start to Friday

The FTSE 100 made a quiet start to proceedings with traders keeping their powder dry ahead of a key meeting of EU leaders who are coming together to discuss the  €750bn coronavirus pandemic rescue fund.

The index of UK shares opened 15 points higher at 6,266.00.

With a hard day of horse-trading ahead it may be some time before the market is clear just what is contained in the EU bail-out package and the split between grants and loans.

Closer to home, the NHS has been given £3bn to prepare for a coronavirus second wave, which is designed to ease winter pressure on hospitals.

On the market, IAG flew to the top of the Footsie losers’ list after it’s British Airways business announced plans to remove its fleet of iconic but fuel-guzzling Boeing 747 jumbo jets from service. The stock dropped 2.3%.

“It is unlikely our magnificent ‘queen of the skies’ will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic,” a spokesman told the BBC.

The repairs specialist Homeserve (LON:HSV) saw its shares jump 5.5% after telling investors COVID-19 had made zero impact on its business. In fact, its customer acquisition programme is currently doing better than expected.

Among the small-caps, Verona Pharma (LON:VRP) was the standout gainer with a 44% rise after it said it had completed an oversubscribed £159mln fundraiser.

The cash will be used to develop the company’s phase III treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Proactive news headlines:

Verona Pharma PLC (LON:VRP, NASDAQ:VRNA) has raised US$200mln from new and existing investors, which it will use to fund the clinical development of its breakthrough treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The private placement and subscription, which was open to US and UK shareholders, was oversubscribed. It received backing from companies such as RA Capital, one of America’s leading biotech investors, along with several other highly regarded industry names. The cash will be used to fund Verona’s phase III ENHANCE clinical programme for the inhaled nebulised drug, ensifentrine.

ClearStar Inc (LON:CLSU) said it is “encouraged by the strong recovery in revenue” since the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, adding that it has not lost a single customer during the crisis. In a trading update for the six months ended June 30, 2020, the background check and medical screening provider said while the pandemic had impacted its business in the period due to widespread job losses and recruitment freezes, its revenue run rate experienced “a significant uptick” from the end of May which continued throughout June and into July. As a result, ClearStar said revenue for its first half was US$8.9mln compared to US$11.6mln in the prior year, while revenues in June were 74% higher than April and returned to the same levels seen in February.

Xpediator PLC (LON:XPD), the freight management services company, has said transportation volumes are moving back towards pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis levels. Having made a solid start to the year before the pandemic hit Europe, the group’s performance over the first half of the year was only marginally behind expectations management had before the massive disruption to travel conditions. The group said it has performed robustly during the pandemic with a steady recovery since April. Activity in the logistics division has remained broadly stable while transportation services, after a period of reduced sales, are gathering momentum.

Remote Monitored Systems PLC (LON:RMS) has said it is running the rule over the potential acquisition of a company operating in the medtech and biosecurity sectors. In a brief statement, the company said that if it pulls the trigger on the acquisition, it is likely that the consideration would be satisfied through the issue of new shares. Both parties are currently performing due diligence on the proposed deal, it added.

Metal Tiger PLC (LON:MTR) told investors it has subscribed for A$500,000 of shares in Artemis Resources Limited, taking up 7.14mln new shares at 7 Australian cents per share. The investment is part of a larger A$5.6mln fundraise being undertaken by Artemis. Metal Tiger’s shareholding in Artemis will amount to 0.6% of the company. “We are pleased to make this investment in Artemis as it progresses its aggressive exploration plans at Paterson and Carlow Castle,” Michael McNeilly, Metal Tiger chief executive said in a statement.

Inspired Energy PLC (LON:INSE) said it has now completed its acquisition of the outstanding 60% of associate Ignite Energy. The AIM-quoted energy utilisation firm is taking up the portion of Ignite that it didn’t already own. It is paying £11mln in an upfront payment, split as £5.5mln of cash and £5.5mln of shares, supported by the group’s recent £35mln fundraise.

Adamas Finance Asia Limited (LON: ADAM), the pan-Asian small-cap investment group, is to raise £3.13mln from a placing and open offer and change its name to Jade Road Investments Limited. Adamas said that its portfolio has transformed over the last few years and it is seeking to establish an identity that more fully represents its pan-Asian small and medium-sized enterprise focus. Adamas said it is pursuing the open offer fundraise, at an issue price of 25p per share, to enhance further its balance sheet and to enable it to pursue a wide range of investment prospects.

Power Metal Resources Plc (LON:POW) told investors that it has now converted its loan notes in Kavango Resources PLC (LON:KAV). The company converted its entire £38,000 loan note holding into 4.75mln shares priced at 0.8p each. It realises a 2.46% shareholding in Kavango. The move follows a deal agreed in April that saw Power Metal Resources acquire a controlling 51% stake in Kavango’s Ditau rare earths project in Botswana. Under the terms of the prior loan note agreement, Power Metal Resources will be issued with warrants for a further 4.75mln Kavango shares with an exercise price of 1p.

MaxCyte Inc. (LON:MXCT) (LON:MXCS), the global cell-based medicines and life sciences company, has announced that Doug Doerfler, chief executive officer and founder of the company and Ron Holtz, its chief financial officer, have in aggregate exercised options over 575,000 shares of common stock of $0.01 of the company which were then sold at a price of 220p each. The sold shares represent approximately 11.0% and 11.2%  of Doerfler’s and Holtz’s total equity and option holdings in the company’s equity, respectively. This share sale is the first sale of any of Doerfler’s or Holtz’s equity in the company since its founding in 1999 and both have no current intention of making further sales of MaxCyte shares, the group said. Following the options exercise and sale, Doerfler’s holding in the company remains unchanged at a total of 433,197 common stock and Holtz’s holding of remains unchanged at a total of 150,251 common stock, representing 0.57% and 0.20%, respectively, of the enlarged issued share capital of the company and following the exercise, Doerfler and Holtz hold a further 2,813,480 and 1,239,892 options over common stock.

Honye Financial Services Ltd (LON:HOYE) said it has received notification from Fush Financial Investment Co that on July 16, 2020, it sold, an aggregate of 5,627,000 ordinary shares in the company at a price of 35p per share for a total consideration of approximately £1.97mln. Following the transaction, it added, Fush will hold 6,193,590 ordinary shares in Honye which is equivalent to a 25.1% shareholding. Xu WanBao, a director of Honye, holds 70% of the issued share capital of Fush and the balance is held by Shao Zhi Ying.

ADM Energy PLC (LON:ADME), a natural resources investing company, said it has received notification for the exercise of warrants from one of the participants in the £200,000 loan facility announced on April 27, 2020. The exercise of warrants is over 2,083,333 ordinary shares in the company at a price of 2.4p each. The proceeds of the warrant exercise amount to £50,000 and have been applied against the original loan amount from the lender which it redeems in full. The company has also issued an additional 208,333 ordinary shares at a price of 2.4p each to the lender to settle the £5,000 interest accrued on the lender’s original loan.

Catenae Innovation PLC (LON:CTEA), the AIM-quoted provider of digital media and technology, has announced the transfer of 3,750,000 warrants from Brian Thompson, a director of the company to Guy Meyer and John Farthing, also directors of the company, and the subsequent exercise of the warrants and issue of equity. It said Thompson has transferred warrants over 2,500,000 new ordinary shares to Meyer and warrants to Farthing over 1,250,000 new ordinary shares, with all the warrants exercisable at 0.4p per new ordinary share. Following the warrant transfer, the group added, Thompson holds warrants over 26,931,818 new ordinary shares in the company, exercisable at 0.4p per share, which may be exercised at any time before May 14, 2022. The company also said it has received notification of the exercise of the warrants over 3,750,000 ordinary shares, providing the company with proceeds of £15,000.

European Metals Holdings Limited (LON:EMH) (ASX:EMH) said it has issued 1,049,825 new ordinary shares, represented by depository interests (DI’s) in the company at a price of 13.176p per DIs in relation to the first drawdown of the fund facility agreement between 6466 Investments Pty Ltd and the company as announced on July 14, 2020.  The issue of new DIs is in respect of the first advance of A$250,000. The funds will be used to assist in funding new initiatives and ongoing operations.

Oracle Power PLC (LON:ORCP) announced that at its annual general meeting (AGM) held on Thursday and all resolutions put to shareholders were duly passed. It said questions submitted to the board before the AGM will be answered by way of a written summary, which will be posted on the company’s website at www.oraclepower.co.uk.

6.35am: Brighter start predicted

The FTSE 100 index is expected to claw back half of yesterday’s losses in early trade on Friday as an EU leader meeting to discuss a €750bn coronavirus pandemic rescue fund gets underway.

Spread betting quotes point to the UK blue-chip index opening 21 points higher at 6,272, having shed 42 points yesterday,

“The revised EC [European Commission] proposal put on the table is broadly similar to the proposal tabled in late May with the important exception of the distribution of 30% of the Recovery and Resilience Facility only being set in 2022,” Danske Bank said, in reference to the EU’s fund for those member states hardest hit by the pandemic.

“The grants versus loans discussion, distribution key as well as the overall size of the recovery fund will be major discussion points. The current proposal of EUR750bn is split between EUR500bn in grants and EUR250bn in loans. We are not confident that an agreement will be reached this weekend, but we expect it to be reached before the European commission starts its summer holidays in August,” the bank added.

US indices had a drab day yesterday with the Dow Jones Industrials Average falling 135 points to 26,735 and the S&P 500 slipping 11 points to 3,216.

Trading in Asia this morning was mixed with Japan’s Nikkei 225 off 104 points at 22,666 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose153 points to 25,124.

In London today, the results schedule is light, as it usually is on a Friday but there are updates on the slate for mining giant Rio Tinto PLC (LON:RIO) and Irish distribution group DCC PLC (LON:DCC).

In recent weeks, analysts have been upping their forecasts for the major miners for second-quarter realised prices and updated commodity price assumptions.

Looking forward to this new reporting season, JPMorgan Cazenove upped its share price targets for Rio and fellow iron ore giant BHP due to higher iron ore and base metal prices.

DCC will release a statement ahead of its annual general meeting, having last updated the market in May, when it said it had seen “significant demand increases in some areas, with significant declines in others” since the COVID-19 lockdowns had come into force in the countries where it operates.

Trading in April and May was said to have remained “significantly profitable, although behind the prior year” and with demand continuing to change in its markets, leading management to curtail all non-essential spending but still completing two bolt-on acquisitions.

Around the markets:

  • Sterling: US$1.2566, up 0.12 cents
  • 10-year gilt: yielding 0.141%, down 2.63 basis points
  • Gold: US$1,797.80 an ounce, down US$2.50
  • Brent crude: US$43.25 a barrel, down 12 cents
  • Bitcoin: US$9,117, up US$14

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Stocks in Asia Pacific were mostly in the red today following Thursday’s drop that saw shares in China falling more than 4%.

Mainland Chinese stocks struggled to recover from their drop and the Nikkei 225 in Japan slipped 0.32% in afternoon trade.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.07% after Victoria reported a record daily high of 428 new COVID-19 cases.

READ OUR ASX REPORT FOR MORE INFORMATION

Proactive Australia news:

Artemis Resources Ltd (ASX:ARV) has received firm commitments to raise $5.6 million after strong participation in its placement from new institutional investors from Australia and the UK, as well as existing shareholders.

Predictive Discovery Ltd’s (ASX:PDI) first batch of assay results from ongoing reverse circulation (RC) drilling at the Kaninko Project in Guinea have further widened and confirmed the NE Bankan gold mineralised zone.

Horizon Minerals Ltd (ASX:HRZ) has processed first ore from the Boorara Gold Mine in Western Australia with first gold expected to be poured next week.

Australian Vanadium Ltd (ASX:AVL) has extended its footprint for the Australian Vanadium Project at Gabanintha in WA’s Mid-West with a mining licence application covering southern mineral resource fault blocks.

White Rock Minerals Ltd (ASX:WRM) is making every effort possible to progress its Last Chance gold target at Red Mountain project in the prolific gold-rich Tintina region of Alaska by staking an additional 375 mining claims covering 240 square kilometres.

King River Resources Ltd (ASX:KRR) has received firm commitments from professional and sophisticated investors for a placement of more than 66.666 million shares to raise $2 million.

Euro Manganese Inc (ASX:EMN) (CVE:EMN) has increased its private placement to 66,202,210 common shares for total gross proceeds of C$4.04 million (A$4.27 million).

SenSen Networks Ltd (ASX:SNS) recorded two of its best-ever cash flow quarters in the 2020 financial year and is robustly moving towards being cashflow positive and profitable in FY21 as it continues to see strong software sales despite COVID-19.