• FTSE 100 index closes up around four points
  • US stocks lower
  • US weekly first-time jobless claims rose by 109,000 to 1.42mln

5.05pm: FTSE 100 closes near flat 

FTSE 100 index managed to post a positive finish on Thursday despite dipping into the red just before the close as markets were muted due to various factors.

Britain’s top share index finished up around four points at 6,211 on the day as investors chewed over the US economy and relations with China, the UK Brexit negotiations and the spread of the pandemic.

“Markets have once again shown indecision as a plethora of risks counterbalance the positivity around ongoing stimulus,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online spreadbetter IG.

Mahony said the rise in US new jobless claims was not all “bad news”, when added to the decline of around 1 million continuing claims, which highlights how new jobless are being counterbalanced by a drop in ongoing unemployment filings.

On this side of the pond, the analyst also noted: “Brexit negotiations have shown precious few signs of improvement after yet another round of talks between the UK and EU. Once again we find ourselves in the unenviable position of seeing those involved in negotiations warn of the need to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.”

Unilever (LON:ULVR), the consumer goods titan, was top Footsie riser, adding 7.95% to 4,674p as it became Britain’s most valuable listed company. The marmite, Dove soap, and Domestos seller posted better-than-expected second-quarter results amid global lockdowns.

US and Canada 4pm/11 EST

US markets were lower in early deals as new jobless claims rose for the first time since late March. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged over 96 points at 26,909. The S&P 500 shed around two points at 3,273. The tech-heavy Nasdaq shed around 11 points at 10,694.In Canada, the S&P/TSX Composite index was off around 14 points at 16,156.

Proactive North America headlines:

Cabral Gold (CVE:CBR) (OTCPINK:CBGZF) pinpoints possible gold source at the Climar target on its Cuiú Cuiú project in Brazil

Pacton Gold (CVE:PAC) (OTCPINK:PACXF) to launch 11,500 meter drill program at Red Lake joint venture in Ontario

Loop Insights Inc (CVE:MTRX) (OCTMKTS:VRZPF) launches contact tracing platform in Las Vegas with global hospitality company

KULR Technology (OTCQB:KULR) to supply NASA-grade cooling material for Drako Motors EV supercar

ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp (NASDAQ: SOLO) expands SOLO EV retail footprint into prominent Portland, Oregon suburb

Mawson Resources (TSE:MAW) (OTCPINK:MWSNF) poised to start drilling at Redcastle in August as it outlines history of the asset in the Victoria goldfields

Gatling Exploration Inc  (CVE:GTR) poised to get going again at Larder project with 13,000m drill program

Global Energy Metals Corp (CVE:GEMC) (OTCQB:GBLEF) to take stake in Electric Royalties via royalty sale of strategic battery metal portfolio

Viscount Mining  (CVE:VML) (OTCMKTS:VLMGF) set to bring in up to C$4M for exploration in the US

Nemaura Medical to Integrate data from third party wearable devices into its proBEAT app

4.00pm: FTSE clinging to meagre gains

Entering the final half-hour of trading, the FTSE 100 was clinging on to meagre gains.

Sterling has bucked its ideas up on the foreign exchange markets, which has not helped sentiment towards the many big-dollar earners in the Footsie constituent list.

The pound, which had slipped earlier to US$1.2675 against the dollar was trading at around US$1.2745, up about one-eighth of a cent against the greenback.

The FTSE 100 was up 14 points (0.2%) at 6,221, with much of that gain down to Unilever PLC (LON:ULVR) and Sage Group PLC (LON:SGE), both of which had trading statements today.

Unilever was up 8.2% at 4,687p as it confirmed plans to sell off its tea interests while accountancy software giant Sage put on 7.4% at 759.2p after it said recurring revenue had grown by 9% year-on-year in the first nine months of its fiscal year.

Stateside, the Dow Jones was down 135 points (0.5%) at 26,871 after weekly jobless claims numbers were released.

“Tough seasonals helped push up claims this week, after 15 straight declines. Unadjusted claims usually drop sharply in mid-July because of the end of the automakers’ annual shutdowns, but most plants didn’t shut down this year; automakers needed to make up for lost production in spring when Covid-19 forced production to stop. That meant unadjusted claims didn’t rise in early June, but it also meant they didn’t fall as much, as usual, this week,” explained Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“The seasonal for this week required a 16.3% drop in unadjusted claims just to keep the headline number steady; in the event, unadjusted claims dropped by 8.8%, so the headline print rose. This effect will repeat next week, when we tentatively expect claims to jump to about 1,550K, where they should level off. Stepping back from the noise, the underlying trend in claims since mid-June, before these distortions, seems to have been about flat but claims are still running at more than twice the worst single week after the crash of 2008 when claims rose by 655K. That would be very welcome right now,” Shepherdson suggested.

Weekly initial claims

Source: Pantheon Macroeconomics

3.00pm: Weekly US jobs claims rise for the first time since late March

US jobless claims put paid to expectations of a firm start on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 80 points (0.3%) at 26,929 and the S&P 500 was off 3 points (0.1%) at 3,274.

The market had become used to the number of first-time jobless claims falling week-on-week but in the week ending July 18, they rose by 109,000 to 1.42mln, a tad above expectations of 1.41mln claims.

It is the first time the gauge has risen since late March.

“A pick-up in jobless claims underlines the economic pain from renewed Covid containment measures in many states. A more pressing issue is what will happen to spending if 31.8mn unemployment benefit recipients see their incomes drop US$600/week from Saturday. We should be braced for a period of worsening economic news,” suggested James Knightley, the chief international economist at ING.

In London, the FTSE 100 had a small wobble following the US jobs data but has regained some poise and is up 24 points (0.4%) at 6,232, pretty much where it was just before the jobs numbers came out.

1.30pm: Another miserable month for UK manufacturing

US indices are expected to take another step forward when trading starts in an hour or so’s time.

The Dow Jones is seen opening at around 27,077, up 71 points on last night’s close.

The S&P 500 is expected to open at 3,282, up 6 points.

In London, sterling’s weakness against the US dollar – attributed to a lack of progress in the Brexit talks and some scary UK manufacturing numbers, has lent some support to equity prices and the FTSE 100 remains in credit, up 21 points (0.4%) at 6,228.

The CBI Industrial Trends Survey for July showed the total orders balance (percentage of respondents showing an increase in order minus those showing a decrease) recovering to -46 from -58 in June; however, economists had expected a stronger recovery, to -38.

Output volumes fell in 14 out of the 17 sub-sectors, the CBI reported, with the motor vehicles & transport, food, drink & tobacco and mechanical engineering sub-sectors the hardest hit.

“The most improvement in the July survey was seen in output expectations which picked up to be clearly back in expansion territory. A balance of +15% of manufacturers expect a rise in output over the next three months, compared to -30% in June, -49% in May and -67% in April. The balances had been -20% in March and +8% in February,” reported Howard Archer at EY ITEM Club.

“A balance of +4% of manufacturers expect to raise prices over the next three months, up from -10% in June, suggesting that manufacturers were modestly more confident about being able to rise prices,” he added.

The business optimism index improved to -1% in July after falling to -83% in April; back in January, the index was +23%, which was the highest level since April 2014.

11.15am: Blue-chips come off the top

The second half of the morning session has seen equities come off the top but the Footsie remains comfortably above the 6,200 level.

London’s index of heavyweight stocks was up 32 points (0.5%) at 6,239, helped by the strength of miners, particularly silver miner Fresnillo Plc (LON:FRES), which is up 5.2% at 1,232p as the price of silver continues to rocket.

“Silver continued its astonishing run. One of the reasons it’s doing so well is because the recent focus on “green recovery” is likely to boost demand for the metal, which is used in electronics and solar panels,” observed Marshall Gittler at BDSwiss.

In contrast, utility companies SSE PLC (LON:SSE) and Pennon PLC (LON:PNN), down 5.0% and 3.6% respectively, were getting the brush-off from investors.

Platinum refiner Johnson Matthey PLC (LON:JMAT) was also failing to participate in the advance after its fiscal first-quarter update, released to coincide with its annual general meeting.

“The bulk of Johnson Matthey’s business is making catalytic converters, and demand for these is tied directly to car manufacturing. When car makers downed tools earlier this year demand for JMAT’s converters fell too. Demand has recovered from a 75% fall in April to 20% in June but is still down heavily on last year. Our biggest worry at the moment is the economy. Car sales tend to be very pro-cyclical so a sustained economic downturn would likely suppress demand for catalytic converters,” said William Ryder, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“There are some other exciting developments at Johnson Matthey, especially in batteries, and it’s good to see progress here but the group is still reliant on its catalytic converters business at the moment, and that will likely go as the economy does,” he added.

The shares were off 0.5% at 2,250p.


9.50am: Sweet start for equities

US-China tensions are bubbling away in the background but investors are choosing to accentuate the positive.

“The US appeared to rachet up its tit-for-tat proxy cold war with China overnight, unexpectedly ordering the closure of China’s Houston Consulate,” reported OANDA’s Jeffrey Halley.

“Overall, the announcement is not a game-changer in the medium to longer-term. Financial markets have for some time, been building up herd immunity to constant quarrels of the two school-yard bullies,” he suggested.

The FTSE 100 was up 35 points (0.6%) at 6,242, with lumbering consumer goods giant Unilever PLC (LON:ULVR) showing an unaccustomed turn of foot to lead the index higher with an 8.2% share price hike to 4,687p.

“Unilever has identified some of the factors which have limited its prospects of late and is taking some large strides towards rectifying the situation,” said Richard Hunter, the head of markets at interactive investor.

“More recently, sales growth has been tepid at Unilever and fell marginally during this period. The need to re-energise sales is not only something which the company has recognised, but is something where Unilever has a historically strong record. The move to a single structure should give the group more flexibility, while the constant evaluation of core products has resulted in a spin-off of the Tea business, as had been expected and which is likely to complete by the end of 2021,” he added.

Unilever without a tea business is a bit like Tate & Lyle PLC (LON:TATE) without a sugar business – unthinkable until it happens.

Talking of Tate, the sugar-free food ingredients mid-cap was up 2.5% at 668.6p after its trading update.

“The fact revenue was actually up in its Food & Beverage Solutions division for the three months to June is a remarkable feat and reflects a desire for comfort food in the form of biscuits, snacks and drinks while people have been stuck indoors – no wonder many people are emerging from the restrictions with lockdown tummies,” said AJ Bell’s no doubt svelte as a whippet investment director, Russ Mould.

8.30am: Upbeat start to the session

The FTSE 100 index bobbed higher in early trade on Thursday as worries of recent days that have seen a flight to safety were put on the backburner.

The index of UK blue-chip stocks opened 15 points to the good at 6,222.36.

That said, concerns over America’s seemingly inept response to the coronavirus outbreak, China-US trade relations and a ‘no-deal’ Brexit continued to bubble under the surface.

Gold, the haven asset in times of crisis, continued its march towards a new record as the price of an ounce of the yellow metal nudged above US$1,875 and close to the all-time high of US$1,920.30 (seen in September 2011).

Silver, meanwhile, has also been a beneficiary from the rush into physical assets as it hit a seven-year high, driving Mexican miner Fresnillo (LON:FRES) a further 4.7% higher.

The movements of gold and silver betray underlying anxiety over the state of the world economy and the general ‘toppiness’ of international markets.

The latest research on the individual shares to avoid reveals Hammerson (LON:HMSO), the shopping centre group, down 1.5%, is the most shorted by professional investors.

Metro Bank (LON:MTRO), Royal Mail (LON:RMG) and Premier Oil (LON:PMO) are also firmly in the cross-hairs of the bears.

On the rise early on, with a 7.1% gain, was Unilever (LON:ULVR), which said it will spin off its tea business, except for the Indian and Indonesian operations. The consumer brands giant also weighed in with a smaller than expected decline in sales, which pleased the City.

So rare are company pay-outs in these austere times that it’s cause for a double-take when a company goes ex-dividend (trades without entitlement to the divi). For SSE (LON:SSE), this was the cause of a 6.6% drop in the share price.

Proactive news headlines:

Symphony Environmental Technologies PLC (LON:SYM) said its antimicrobial technology has been tested as effective against bovine coronavirus (COVID-19). Its d2p product has been designed to be embedded in the plastic so it will not wear off. A masterbatch was assessed by the lab group Eurofins, which detected a virus reduction of 99.84% in 24 hours. Symphony said bovine coronavirus “is a close beta coronavirus surrogate for COVID-19”. In a statement, Symphony chief executive Michael Laurier said: “This is a very exciting and positive development for our global sales team to bring to the market as quickly as possible and we look forward to receiving Eurofins final report in due course.

IronRidge Resources Limited (LON:IRR) has reported additional high-grade drilling results at the Zaranou gold project in Côte d’Ivoire and the sighting of visible gold observed amid deeper reverse circulation (RC) drilling. The visible gold was seen in cuttings from deep RC drilling at the Ehuasso target, in drill hole ZARC0013 which is part of the second phase drilling programme. It comes from an area that’s a further 60 metres below previously reported high-grade gold, measured in the prior ZARC009 hole. The high-grade results, meanwhile, were received from primary samples taken in prior air-core drilling, a 15,000-metre programme that took place on the Ehuasso target.

Learning Technologies Group PLC (LON:LTG) said its performance for the first half of the year has been “robust” and retention rates in its business have held up well despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In a trading update for the six months to June 30, 2020, the digital learning group said it expects to report revenues of at least £64mln, 2% higher year-on-year, with a small decline in its underlying business offset by a contribution from the recently acquired Open LMS business in the second quarter. Learning Technologies also predicted underlying adjusted earnings (EBIT) for the period of £19.9mln, up from £19.5mln the year before.

Greatland Gold PLC (LON:GGP) has released what it described as outstanding new results from drilling at the Havieron deposit in the Paterson region of Western Australia. Extension drilling in the north-west portion of the property has confirmed and unearthed a new zone of higher-grade breccia mineralisation, the group said. Newcrest Mining, Greatland’s partner and project operator, revealed the latest finding and also stated that separate infill drilling had also yielded excellent results, confirming mineral continuity within the project area. Drill results to date support the investigation of both high-grade selective and bulk mining methods, according to Newcrest.

Personal Group PLC (LON:PGH), the employee services provider, said it had a positive first half of 2020 with underlying earnings (EBITDA) ahead of 2019. The company said much of the first half of the year was spent preparing for and dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which happily did not have as big an impact on its business as feared. While half-year revenues were little changed year-on-year at about £30mln, EBITDA of around £5mln was ahead of the company’s expectations at the start of the pandemic.

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) said it has extended its manufacturing, supply and profit-sharing agreement with Agropur MSI to include WellBiome, developed to promote gut health. Agropur already has the rights to weight management range SlimBiome in the US, Canada and Mexico. Dr Fred Narbel, managing director of OptiBiotix’s prebiotics division, said the enhanced deal recognised its partner’s success in building sales of SlimBiome. First deliveries in the territory occurred in the second quarter.

KR1 PLC (LON:KR1) said it has sold 35,128 tokens in the Nexus Mutual project at an average price of US$14.03 each, netting the company US$492,991. The digital asset investment firm said it had acquired the tokens at an average price of US$2.24 each during a seed round for the project, which aims to recreate a mutual insurance company built upon the Ethereum decentralised (DeFi) finance system and smart contracts. KR1 said Nexus has seen “surging demand” over the last few months, with the insurer having written over US$16.39mln worth of cover since launch, adding that it was also expanding its capacities by growing its capital pool to US$7.64mln and signing up more than 1,000 members.

Westminster Group PLC (LON:WSG), the airport security services company, noted that Sierra Leone’s Freetown Airport Lungi has been reopened for commercial flights. “Since the airport was closed in March to all but essential traffic, we have continued to maintain security of the airport, kept all of our staff employed and safe, utilising the time to enhance their training ready for when the airport reopens,” Musayeroh Barrie, Westminster Group’s country director said in a statement released late on Wednesday.

Alien Metals Ltd (LON:UFO) a minerals exploration and development company, has announced the appointment of Mark Culbert as a non-executive director of the company with immediate effect. It noted that Culbert is an experienced litigation lawyer and is the managing director of iLaw Solicitors Limited, a City Legal 500 law firm, which he co-founded in 2006.  His speciality areas are intellectual property, technology and media disputes and he is the chairman of the IT Disputes Group of the Society for Computers & Law, an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys and an Associate Member of the Australian Risk Policy Institute. The group also advised that Chris Gordon has resigned as a director of the company at the same time.

W Resources PLC (LON:WRES) said the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and contractor equipment problems provided challenges for its operations in the second quarter of 2020. In its June quarterly production report, the group said run-of-mine feed into the plant reduced by 7% compared to the first three months of 2020, to total 253,256 tonnes, nonetheless, total contained tungsten and tin production increased by 0.5% to 47.6 tonnes with volumes helped by improved tin recovery. It noted that tin production actually increased by 65% in the three months, with a total of 20 dry tonnes produced. Tungsten volumes meanwhile reduced 17% to 2,756 tonnes with the temporary mine closure during the lockdown and a weaker than expected plant performance.

NQ Minerals PLC (AQSE NQMI) (OTCQB:NQMLF) has announced that the Tasmanian Government has now formally transferred the Mining Lease ML 1767 P/M, that covers the Beaconsfield Gold Mine, to NQ’s 100% subsidiary Pieman Resources Pty Ltd. David Lenigas, NQ’s Chairman, commented: “I’m pleased to announce that the Beaconsfield Mining Lease have now been formally transferred by the Tasmanian Government to NQ Minerals, and work has already commenced on site with respect to the gold treatment plant refurbishment and the deployment of geologists to site to commence a detailed sampling programme of surface stocks potentially available for start-up plant feed.”

Gore Street Energy Storage Fund PLC (LON:GSF), London’s first energy storage fund has said its annual general meeting (AGM) will be held on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, at 09.00am. The company noted that it is holding the AGM virtually in light of the coronavirus pandemic and it will be held by electronic means with the minimum necessary quorum of two shareholders to conduct the business of the meeting. The format of the meeting will be purely functional and will comprise of the formal business. Shareholders are asked to participate by submitting a proxy vote in advance of the meeting and appointing the chair of the meeting as their proxy through the Shareholders’ portal at www.signalshares.com.

88 Energy Limited (LON:88E) (ASX:88E) has said it’s latest corporate presentation is now available on the 88 Energy website at www.88energy.com and via the following link: http://www.rns-pdf.londonstockexchange.com/rns/8797T_1-2020-7-23.pdf

Red Rock Resources PLC (LON:RRR), the natural resource development company with interests in gold, manganese and minerals, has invited interested shareholders to a scheduled Zoom meeting at 5.30pm on Thursday, July 23, 2020: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/76620430710?pwd=dlRlNFl4UHVINnlpOUFjT2VZcXQxQT09; Meeting ID: 766 2043 0710; Passcode: 9QwfRU.

6.50am: Footsie seen edging ahead

The FTSE 100 is set to start Thursday a sliver higher as traders find themselves caught between the latest escalation of tensions between the Trump administration and China, and hopes that a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine could be around the corner.

In London, CFD firm IG Market sees the UK benchmark up just 3 points making the price 6,208 to 6,211 with just over an hour to go until the open following a 55 point drop on Wednesday.

Domestically, attentions are begrudgingly still on Brexit as Boris Johnson’s self-imposed July deal deadline looms with no agreements appearing particularly likely – though, like everywhere else, the vaccine story is taking focus.

The US government yesterday stoked hopes as it ordered 100mln vaccine doses from Pfizer and partner BioNTech as a Phase 2/3 clinical trial is set to kick off in the coming days.

Gentle optimism is evidently becoming the market’s default position amidst macro volatility.

“It is becoming ever clearer that while concerns are rising over the global economic backdrop, as we head into the second half of the year, markets appear to be hedging their bets more and more when it comes to asset allocation,” said Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets.

“Equity investors, while remaining cautious about the outlook, still appear to be happy buying dips, as stock markets continue to trade in a manner that is two steps forward and one back, slowly ratcheting higher, with sharp drops in between.

“On the other hand, traditional safe havens are also doing well with gold and silver prices surging while bond yields also slipped back with the UK 10-year gilt posting a record low of 0.12%, while US 10-year treasury yields closed at a three-month low,” Hewson added.

Wall Street largely overlooked the escalating tensions with China – triggered after the US ordered the closure of China’s consulate in Houston, Texas, and the Chinese reportedly retaliated in kind, closing a US consulate in the city of Chengdu.

US stocks advanced, albeit with a little less vigour than recent sessions. The Dow Jones Industrials Average climbed 165 points or 0.62% to finish Wednesday’s session at 27,005, whilst the S&P 500 added 0.57% to close at 3,276.

The Nasdaq Composite’s tech-led rally was comparatively muted as it edged up 0.24% to meander near its recent record highs, ending the day at 10,706 with results coming from Microsoft and Tesl after the close.

In Asia, it is a public holiday in Japan and equity trading is closed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng moved up 82 points or 0.33% to 25,140 while the Shanghai Composite dipped 34 points or 1.03% to 3,298.

Around the markets:

  • The pound: US$1.2741, up 0.05%
  • Gold: US$1,869 per ounce, down 0.02%
  • Silver: US$22.67 per ounce, down 1.38%
  • Brent crude: US$44.41 per barrel, up 0.2%
  • WTI crude: US$42.06 per barrel, up 0.33%
  • Bitcoin: US$9,493, down 0.26%

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Asia Pacific markets were mixed today with the Shanghai Composite down 1.19% and South Korea’s Kospi falling 0.85% after the country reported a decline in second-quarter GDP, largely due to a steep fall in exports.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 0.37% and India’s Nifty 50 increased by 0.18%.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.25% despite the projection of a budget deficit of $184.5 billion in 2020-21, the biggest since World War II.


Proactive Australia news:

Piedmont Lithium Ltd (ASX:PLL) (NASDAQ:PLL) (FRA:PL4) has passed a key milestone with the production of battery-quality lithium hydroxide from its namesake project in North Carolina, USA.

Kingwest Resources Ltd (ASX:KWR) is higher after an updated resource estimate for Lady Shenton deposit and a maiden estimate for the Stirling deposit increased overall resources at its Menzies Gold Project (MGP) by 37% to 320,000 ounces.

St George Mining Ltd’s (ASX:SGQ) is encouraged by promising signs returned from ongoing diamond drilling at the Investigators prospect of its flagship Mt Alexander Nickel-Copper Sulphide Project in Western Australia.

Pharmaxis Ltd (ASX:PXS) (OTCMKTS:PXSLY) (FRA:UUD) has submitted an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a planned phase 1/2 study of PXS-5505 for the treatment of myelofibrosis

Element 25 Ltd (ASX:E25) has closed its share purchase plan (SPP) announced on July 6 heavily oversubscribed after receiving applications worth more than $3.2 million, more than double the original target.

Bardoc Gold Ltd (ASX:BDC) has intersected further broad zones of gold mineralisation during reverse circulation (RC) drilling at the Mayday North deposit and returned promising results from early exploration drilling outside the main deposit.

Lake Resources NL (ASX:LKE) (CMKTS:LLKKF) will support the global push for cleaner energy using its leading sustainable and scalable direct lithium extraction process as more countries, including those in Europe, unveil ‘cleaner and greener’ strategies incorporating electric vehicles.

Cardinal Resources Ltd (ASX:CDV) (TSE:CDV) (OTCMKTS:CRDNF) has received a revised and improved takeover offer proposal from Shandong Gold Mining (Hong Kong) Co Limited of A$0.70 per share, up from A$0.60.