• FTSE 100 index closes 135 points up
  • Financial stocks among top Footsie gainers
  • Senior slumps after sharp drop in adjusted profits

5.05pm: FTSE closes firmly ahead

FTSE 100 index started the new week with gusto, advancing over 135 points to close at 6,032 as traders appeared to be more upbeat on the state of the global economy.

“It has been a solid day for European equities, and US markets are moving higher as well, helped along by better PMIs from China and the US,” noted Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online spreadbetter IG.

“Earnings season has seen a healthy majority of companies beat forecasts, with the fears of Armageddon proved unfounded once more.”

The analyst added: “Investors are clearing shifting back to a more optimistic view on the global economy, and the rebound in oil provides proof of this.

Brent crude added 1.77% to US$44.29 a barrel while the US benchmark (West Texas Intermediate) gained 2.33% to US$41.21 a barrel.

On Footsie, beleaguered banks were among top gainers. Lloyds (LON:LLOY) added 6.03% to 27.87p, while Natwest Group plc (LON:NWG), formerly the Royal Bank of Scotland, added 4.76% to 111.05p.

FTSE 250 added over 225 points, or 1.33%, to 17,158 on the day.

US and Canada 4pm/11 EST

Wall Street stocks were in buoyant mood in opening deals. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added over 180 points at 26,609, while the S&P 500 added over 21 points at 3,292. The Nasdaq was up over 140 at 10,885. In Canada, markets were closed due to the Civic Holiday.

Proactive North America headlines:

Energy Fuels Inc (TSE:EFR) (NYSEMKT:UUUU) building up uranium stocks and eyeing cash flow from rare earths within 12 months

Biocept (NASDAQ:BIOC) says lab has processed 6,500 COVID-19 specimens as demand rises for its specimen collection kits

Co-Diagnostics (NASDAQ:CODX) technology to be used in FDA-authorized self-collected COVID-19 saliva test

Humanigen (OTCQB:HGEN) taps biotech veteran Timothy Morris to dual CFO/COO role

NQ Minerals PLC (AQSE:NQMI)(OTCQB:NQMLF)(OTCQB:NQMIY) plans listing on senior stock exchange

Bushveld Minerals (LON:BMN) (OTCMKTS: BSHVF) secures greater interest in Enerox

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) continues TikTok takeover talks after Trump’s thumbs-up

Virgin Galactic and Rolls-Royce team up to join race for first supersonic jet since Concorde

3.55pm: Bright finish 

Rather like the weather in the Home Counties, London’s equity market turned brighter as the day wore on.

Led by Irish packaging group Smurfit Kappa Group plc (LON:SKG) – up 5.4% at 2,678p – the FTSE 100 rose 121 points to 6,019.

There was even some love for lender Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LON:LLOY), which took a bit of a hammering last Thursday after its half-year results.

The shares were up 5.8% at 27.8p, just 0.72p below the level they were at before it published its interims.

Away from the big-caps, engineer Senior PLC (LON:SNOR) took a few dents after it posted its half-year results.

The company boasted of “a robust cash performance” in the first half of 2020 but the market focused more on the loss before tax of £136.3mln, versus a profit in the same period of 2019 of £26.5mln. Stripping out exceptional items made the numbers look a bit better; the adjusted profit before tax was £3.6mln but that was still a big fall from £40.7mln the year before.

The shares tumbled 12% to 45.9p.

Going the other way was San Leon Energy PLC (LON:SLE), up 7.3% at 24.24p after the company said it is investing US$15mln in Energy Link Infrastructure (Malta) Limited, the company that owns the Alternative Crude Oil Evacuation System, a Nigerian oil export system.


2.50pm: Footsie racing towards a triple-digit gain

US indices started the week on the front foot, with the NASDAQ Composite hitting another high.

The Dpw Jones industrial average was up 130 points (0.5%) at 26,558, the S&P 500 was 18 points (0.5%) higher at 3,289 and the NASDAQ Composite was 133 points (1.2%) to the good at 10,874.

In London, after a hesitant start, the FTSE 100 was powering towards a triple-digit gain; the index was 93 points (1.6%) firmer at 5,991, with just 11 index constituents in the red.

Building materials firm CRH PLC (LON:CRH) was the top-performing blue-chip ahead of its results later this month. The shares were up 4% at 2,876p.

Rio Tinto PLC (LON:RIO) was the next best performer on the Footsie, climbing 3.9% to 4,794.5p as iron ore prices strengthen.

READ Iron ore hits a one-year high, and share prices follow

The price strength comes as China posted strong purchasing managers’ index (PMI) numbers for July, showing significant growth in its manufacturing sector, and reflecting also a willingness on the part of the government to spend on big projects as part of a general effort towards economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

2.00pm: US indices to open higher

US indices are expected to start the week with a bit of a bounce in their step.

Spread betting quotes suggest the Dow Jones average will open at around 26,563, up 136 points on Friday’s close; the S&P 500 is tipped to open 20 points firmer at 3,291.

Sentiment has been boosted by a reduction in the number of new coronavirus cases reported yesterday. According to the Johns Hopkins University database, there were 47,500 new cases reported in the US yesterday, some 13.5% lower on the previous Sunday’s 55,000 cases.

“The downturn in cases in recent days, however, probably is significantly overstated because testing has fallen at the same pace; the share of positive tests has dipped only marginally,” noted Pantheon Macroeconomics’s Ian Shepherdson.

“The decline in testing is concentrated in some of the hard-hit second wave states, including Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Utah and Kansas. Testing is nudging down in Texas too,” he noted.

“Still, falling hospitalisations are good evidence that at least some of the decline in reported cases is real, though it’s not definitive. If the number of cases is unchanged but the median age declines, hospitalisations will fall but hospital capacity is the ultimate constraint on policymakers, and a sustained decline in hospitalizations will be followed by loosening restrictions. If a disease doesn’t make people sick enough to put them in the hospital, it doesn’t require most people to stay home, provided the most vulnerable people are protected,” Shepherdson noted.

In London, the FTSE 100 has added to earlier gains and is now up 78 points (1.3%) at 5,976, as sterling loses almost two-thirds of a cent against the US dollar.

12.30pm: Mining stocks lift Footsie into profit

London’s blue-chips are firmer on balance after an indifferent start.

The FTSE 100, with a bit of help from mining stocks, has moved into positive territory and is up 33 points (0.6%) at 5,930.

Precious metals miner Fresnillo Plc (LON:FRES), up 3.5% at 1,275.5p, is one of the better performers as the price of gold nudges higher and silver rises a bit more swiftly, by 20 cents to US$24.19 an ounce (front-month futures contract).

“Silver (c.+35%) had its best month since December 1979 and the dollar the worse for a decade,” noted Deutsche Bank’ Jim Reid in a review of the performance of markets in July.

Non-Standard Finance PLC (LON:NSF) was a big loser after the Financial Conduct Authority raised a number of concerns regarding certain aspects of the operating procedures and processes at NSF’s guarantor loans division.

The shares lost a quarter of their value at 3.96p.

10.50am: Rolls-Royce and IAG among the heavy blue-chip fallers

The FTSE 100 is out of step with most European indices, falling back despite sterling losing ground against the US dollar on forex markets.

The Footsie is down 16 points (0.3%) at 5,882, with aeroplane engines maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.), down 7.7% at 213.8p, leading the retreat as fears of a second spike in coronavirus cases further sours sentiment towards aerospace stocks.

British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (LON:IAG) is down 4.3% at 157.65p for much the same reason.

“The admission that the UK has reached the limit of its reopening process has raised fears for investors in companies such as Cineworld that are yet to recommence operations. We are also seeing the likes of Mitchells & Butlers on the back foot, after recent warnings that school reopening may have to come at the expense of a second wave of pub shutdowns,” commented Joshua Mahony at IG.

Cineworld Group PLC (LON:CINE) is off 3.5% at 36.88p while Mitchells & Butlers PLC (LONL:MAB) is down 6.9% at 142.4p.

The UK manufacturing PMI for July released earlier today does not seem to be having much effect on sentiment.

“The purchasing managers survey pointed to manufacturing expansion accelerating to a 16-month high in July, after the sector eked out marginal growth in June for the first time since February (although hard data from the ONS show that manufacturing output grew 8.4% month-on-month in May after falling 24.4% in April),” reported Howard Archer, the chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club.

“Specifically, the PMI rose to 53.3 in July (revised down slightly from the ‘flash’ reading of 53.6) from 50.1 in June, 40.7 in May and a record low of 32.6 in April. It had previously fallen to April’s low from 48.0 in March and 51.7 in February, which had indicated the first expansion since April 2019,” he added.

The EY ITEM Club suspects growth is likely to slow in the fourth quarter as unemployment rises; it is predicting gross domestic product will contract by 11.5% in 2020 from 2019.

9.45am: July manufacturing PMI reading revised down

The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit/CIPS Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a 16-month high of 53.3 in July, up from 50.1 in June.

The reading was a downward revision of the flash estimate of 53.6.

The headline PMI – calculated as a weighted average of five sub-indices – has posted above the neutral 50.0 mark that marks the crossover pointed between improvement and deterioration in each of the past two months.

New orders expanded for the first time since February, mainly reflecting a strengthening of domestic demand, IHS/Markit said.

Manufacturing production was raised for the second successive month and to the greatest extent since November 2017.

Confidence rose to its highest since March 2018, with 62% of companies expecting production to be higher one year from now. Only 12% of firms forecast a contraction.

Manufacturing employment fell for the sixth month running in July, albeit to the least marked extent since March.

“The recovery strengthened as a loosening of lockdown restrictions allowed manufacturers to restart or raise production. July also saw signs of furloughed employees returning to work and customers resuming spending. Business optimism also rose to its highest for over two years as companies grew more hopeful that the future has brightened,” said IHS/Markit director, Rob Dobson.

“Despite the solid start to the recovery, the road left to travel remains long and precarious. An extended period of growth is still needed to fully recoup the ground lost in recent months. This is also the case for the labour market, where job losses are continuing despite businesses reopening. There is a significant risk of further redundancies and of furloughed workers not returning unless demand and confidence stage more substantial and long-lasting rebounds in the months ahead,” Dobson warned.

Duncan Brock, the group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), said “the makers were on the march again” in July, although the employment situation “remained bleak”.

“Driven largely by demand from the domestic market, clients looked towards building more localised supplier bases as opportunities for trade were unblocked with the end of the UK’s lockdown; however, overseas customers failed to deliver any positive news. Export orders fell for the ninth month in a row, exposing the ongoing fragility of the broken global marketplace due to the pandemic,” Brock said.

The FTSE 100 was virtually unchanged when the PMI was released; it is now down 17 points (0.3%) at 5,881.

8.45am: Poor start to the week

Haunted by trade worries and coronavirus (COVID-19) second wave fears, the FTSE 100 was given a further shove lower by the performance of shares of index heavyweight HSBC (LON:HSBA), which fell almost 5% after the release of its latest results.

The index of UK blue-chip shares fell a worse-than-predicted 37 points to 5,860.89.

The Asia-focused bank saw its first-half profits slump 65% as COVID-19 wrought havoc on its usually robust finances. The performance was far worse than analysts feared as the group said it would be setting aside up to US$13bn to cover bad debts.

HSBC has done little to lift investors’ spirits as it brings the curtain down on what has been a costly half-year reporting season for banks in general,” said Richard Hunter, an analyst at Interactive Investor.

Battered Rolls Royce (LON:RR.) continued to take a pasting as it headed the Footsie’s list of losers. A recent debt rating downgrade and the poor outlook for international travel continued to dog the stock market fortunes of the jet engine maker.

Jitters set in among the investors of ITV (LON:ITV) ahead of results later this week that are expected to bear the scars of the current economic turmoil.

The day’s star was IP Group (LON:IPO), the intellectual property group, which owns a near 16% stake in Oxford Nanopore, the maker of the new generation of COVID-19 tests being rolled out by the government. IP’s shares soared almost 13%.

Proactive news headlines:

Applied Graphene Materials (LON:AGM) said it has signed an exclusive agreement with Ohio-based Maroon Group to distribute its graphene coatings in the US and Canada. The agreement also gives it a direct route into the coatings and polymers sectors in North America, Applied Graphene added. Maroon Group has distributed speciality chemicals and ingredients across both countries since it was formed in 1977.

Seeing Machines Ltd (LON:SEE) saw its revenue, profit and cash all come in ahead of target for the year to end-June, 2020, and it is looking forward to the launch of two new vehicles featuring its technology in the coming months. Annual revenue is expected to be A$39.7mln, versus guidance of A$36.6mln and up around 24% on the previous year despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic on its core markets, while total income is expected to be A$42.6mln, up 30% on the previous period, the provider of driver monitoring systems said in a trading statement.

NQ Minerals PLC (AQSE:NQMI) (OTCQB:NQMLF) (OTCQB:NQMIY) said it has appointed international legal firm Hill Dickinson in London to prepare the necessary prospectus and documentation to have its shares traded on a tier-1 stock exchange. “Now that the company’s annual accounts have been published, showing solid year on year revenue growth, the board of the company has determined that the company has reached a size and stage of development that it is appropriate to consider what other platforms and exchanges exist to position the company to take maximum advantage of the company’s maturing operating status,” said executive chairman David Lenigas in a statement.

Crossword Cybersecurity PLC (LON:CCS) has said it is cautiously optimistic of hitting full-year targets after a first half that saw revenues rise 43% year-on-year. The cyber-security company acknowledged there is a lot of uncertainty over the outlook for the rest of the year, particularly with the probable ending of employee furlough schemes, but said full-year results should be in line with market expectations if it can get a few major product bids over the line in the next few months and continue to convert its healthy prospects pipeline into sales. For the first six months of 2020, the company expects to report revenues of £674,000, up 18% on the first half of 2019.

Union Jack Oil PLC (LON:UJO) said the Oil and Gas Authority has given the green light to its acquisition of a 12.5% additional stake in the onshore licences that host the Wressle operation in Lincolnshire. It takes UJO’s holding to 40%, providing 200 barrels of additional daily output if Wressle comes on stream at an initial rate of 500 barrels a day. Break-even at US$17.62 a barrel, Wressle will be a significant money-spinner with oil trading at around US$40 a barrel.

Europa Oil & Gas Holdings PLC  (LON:EOG) has welcomed the commencement of site works at the Wressle onshore oil field in Lincolnshire, which will usher in first production on schedule in the second half of the year. Operator Egdon Resources Plc (LON:EDG) is currently overseeing the construction, which includes the installation of items such as a high-density polyethelene impermeable membrane, a French drain system and a surface water interceptor. Europa holds a 30% interest in the licences that host the operation, alongside Egdon (30%) and Union Jack Oil & Gas (40%).

San Leon Energy PLC (LON:SLE) has revealed that it is investing US$15mln in Energy Link Infrastructure (Malta) Ltd, the company which owns the Alternative Crude Oil Evacuation System project. The ACOES is being constructed to provide a dedicated oil export route from the OML 18 asset, comprising a new pipeline from OML 18 and a floating storage and offloading vessel. Once commissioned, the system is expected to reduce the downtime and allocated pipeline losses currently associated with the Nembe Creek Trunk Line to below 10%.

Ncondezi Energy Ltd (LON:NCCL) has submitted the Transmission Integration Study for the integrated 300MW coal-fired power project and coal mine that it plans to build in Tete, Mozambique to Electricidad de Moçambique  The study evaluated many transmission connection options for the project, taking into account current and planned changes to the network since the completion of the last study with EDM. “It’s a fantastic step forward that we have submitted the final draft of the Transmission Integration Study to EDM for review,” said Ncondezi chief executive Hanno Pengilly in a statement.

Bushveld Minerals Limited (LON:BMN), the integrated primary vanadium producer and energy storage provider, has revealed that its 84%-owned Enerox Holdings Ltd has acquired a further 65.1% of the share capital of Enerox GmbH. The investment is in line with the company’s strategy of establishing a vanadium redux flow battery investment platform to lead investments in VRFB original equipment manufacturers with attractive upside potential. The Enerox battery product is one of the most widely deployed over the past 10 years, offering a unique value proposition in the industry.

Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (LON:TILS, NASDAQ:TLSA) said it plans to raise a gross US$57.25mln from US investors to fund work on three separate drug programmes. Just over 11mln new American depositary shares are being issued at US$5.20 each as part of the fundraiser, organised by ThinkEquity. The proceeds will be used “advance the clinical development” of Foralumab, its promising fully-human anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody.

Blue Star Capital PLC (LON:BLU) said it has raised £550,000 via a share placing. In a statement, the technology investor said part of the proceeds will be deployed to maintain its 13% stake in Dynasty eSports, which, separately, is about to embark on a £1.5mln (US$2mln) funding round. Cash will also be set aside “additional working capital”. The new shares, issued at 0.15p, come with a warrant attached, exercisable at 0.25p.

Metal Tiger PLC (LON:MTR), the London Stock Exchange AIM listed investor in natural resource opportunities, has noted that Southern Gold Ltd (ASX:SAU), in which Metal Tiger owns an approximate 17.1% equity interest, has published an update about its Gubong and Kochang joint venture projects with Bluebird Merchant Ventures PLC (LON:BMV). Southern Gold said it is seeking to realise value from its 50% equity interests in the Gubong and Kochang projects in the Republic of Korea by offering them to joint venture partner Bluebird Merchant Ventures Ltd (LON:BMV).

Argentex Group PLC (LON:AGFX), a provider of foreign exchange services, saw a significant increase in underlying earnings in its first year as a listed company. Profit before tax in the year to the end of March 2020, shot up to £10.2mln from £2.1mln the previous year on revenue that rose to £29.0mln from £21.9mln the year before as foreign exchange passing through the Argentex system topped £12bn – up 32.3% year-on-year. Argentex revealed 380 new corporate clients traded during the period, lifting the number of active corporate clients to 1,212, up 12% on the previous year.

Zoetic International PLC (LSE: ZOE), the London-listed vertically integrated CBD and natural resources company, has provided a further update on the sale of DTU and its Kansas nitrogen assets to Path Investments PLC as previously announced on May 27, 2020, and July 8, 2020. The group said the transaction has not yet completed due to matters beyond the company’s and Path’s control, but its board remains hopeful that matters will be concluded shortly.  The company and Path have agreed to an extension to allow the transaction to complete., it added, and the delay has no material impact on the financial performance of the company.

Verona Pharma PLC (LON:VRP) (NASDAQ:VRNA), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on respiratory diseases, has announced that David Zaccardelli, its chief executive officer and president, and Mark Hahn, its chief financial officer, will present a company overview at the following virtual investor conferences in August: BTIG Virtual Biotechnology Conference on Monday, August 10, 2020, at 2.30pm ET; Wedbush PacGrow Healthcare Virtual Conference on Wednesday, August 12, 2020, at 11.30am ET; and the 40th Annual Canaccord Genuity Growth Conference on Thursday, August 13, 2020, at 4.30pm ET. A live webcast of each event will be available on the Events and Presentations link on the Investors page of the company’s website – www.veronapharma.com – and an audio replay will be available there for 30 days.

OKYO Pharma LTD (LON:OKYO), the life sciences and biotechnology company, focused on the discovery and development of novel molecules to treat inflammatory dry eye diseases and chronic pain, announced that its CEO, Kunwar Shailubhai shared insight into the company’s development pipeline and upcoming milestones during an investor webinar, hosted by RedChip Companies, on Sunday, August 2, 2020. The investor webinar can be viewed at https://youtu.be/l8onUtOvSqQ.

6.50am: Caution to prevail

The FTSE 100 looks set to open the new trading week in negative territory as coronavirus second wave fears and simmering Sino-American trade tensions continue to weigh on sentiment.

The index of UK blue-chip shares is expected to open its weekly account 13 points in deficit at 5,887.76.

Traders are unwilling to be swayed by the economic performance of China after the Caixin purchasing managers’ index revealed the manufacturing sector to be firmly in growth mode. The reading of 52.8 was well ahead of the 51.3 consensus number and above 50, which denotes expansion.

While encouraging, the world’s second-largest economy appears to be staging a v-shaped recovery, traders appeared fixated on America’s seeming inability to control the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and flare-ups in previously only marginally affected areas, such as Victoria in Australia.

Washington, meanwhile, seems intent on reining in the influence of Chinese software firms.

“Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, claimed the US government will clamp down on an ‘array’ of Chinese state-controlled software companies,” explained David Madden of CMC Markets. “It is believed the move is motivated by concerns about national security.”

Whether this will aid or hinder Microsoft’s potential acquisition of TikTok from ByteDance remains to be seen.

Closer to home, another busy week is in store on the corporate news front with updates expected from ITV (LON:ITV), HSBC (LON:HSBA) and BP (LON:BP.).

Weekend reports suggested the UK oil major’s dividend may be headed for the chop with the company set to post a second-quarter loss of around £5.2bn.

Around the markets:

  • Pound US$1.3087, unchanged
  • Gold US$1,933.10 an ounce, up US$7.10
  • Brent crude US$43.35 a barrel, down 17 cents

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Stocks in the Asia Pacific region are trading mixed today as US-China tensions continue to worry investors.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 surged 2.16% higher and in China, the Shanghai Composite was up 1.08%.

But the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong dropped 0.95% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1% after the second-most populous state of Victoria declared a state of disaster on Sunday and imposed a nightly curfew for the capital Melbourne.


Proactive Australia news:

Cirralto Ltd (ASX:CRO) is targeting around $225 million per month in existing business-to-business payments volume from its customer network for conversion to its new Spenda platform.

SUDA Pharmaceuticals Ltd (ASX:SUD) (FRA:E4N) has closed its non-renounceable pro-rata entitlement offer heavily oversubscribed, with the $3.56 million raised demonstrating strong support from the company’s shareholders and endorsing the company’s oro-mucosal drug delivery strategy.

Zelira Therapeutics Ltd’s (ASX:ZLD) (OTCMKTS:ZLDAF) placement of 175 million shares at A$0.05 per share has been strongly oversubscribed by new and existing investors, raising A$8.75 million.

engage:BDR Ltd (ASX:EN1) is trading higher after recording a 36% increase in year-to-date revenue as of July 31, 2020.

Archer Materials Ltd (ASX:AXE) is advancing its Republic of Korea patent application for 12CQ quantum computing chip technology IP with the bid now undergoing substantive examination procedures.

FYI Resources Ltd (ASX:FYI) has been as much as 28% higher after completing stage two production of high purity alumina (HPA) from its pilot plant facility in Welshpool, Western Australia.

Brookside Energy Ltd (ASX:BRK) has embarked on a capital raising exercise and intends to raise up to approximately $1,255,625 in a non-renounceable pro-rata entitlement offer and up to $300,000 in an options offer.

Element 25 Ltd (ASX:E25) has completed pump testing of a water production bore within a shallow (6-16 metre depth) aquifer at the Butcherbird Manganese Project in WA, confirming sufficient process water supply for planned production.

Emerald Clinics Ltd (ASX:EMD) continued to make progress against its IPO goals, finishing its June 2020 quarter with record appointment volumes and the expansion of its Real World Evidence technology platform beyond cannabinoids.

Matador Mining Ltd (ASX:MZZ) is focused on expanding the resource base and life-of-mine at its Cape Ray Gold Project in Newfoundland, Canada as the June quarter comes to a close.