FTSE 100 opens new trading week with a whimper rather than a roar; AstraZeneca in demand as it looks to re-purpose drug for coronavirus – Proactive Investors UK,

FTSE 100 opens new trading week with a whimper rather than a roar; AstraZeneca in demand as it looks to re-purpose drug for coronavirus – Proactive Investors UK,

  • FTSE (edges dips) points
  • Travel-related stocks in the wars again
  • Next cautiously reopens its online business

9. 77 am: Reassuringly dull

The FTSE has made a reassuringly drab start to the shortened week, with the halo effect from buoyant Asian markets quickly fading.

London’s index of leading shares was down (points) 0.5% (at 5, , which was not the performance equity bulls hoped for but at least they can take comfort that the size of the movment is nothing like the swings we saw at the end of March.

Some familiar names were at the head of the retreating troupe; cruise ships operator Carnival PLC ( LON: CCL ) was the biggest faller, down 7.3% at . 6p, while another travel-related stock, hotelier InterContinental Hotels Group PLC ( LON: IHG ) was down 5.2% at 3, 823 p.

“Lockdowns are being extended,” reported Neil Wilson, which explains why the travel-related stocks are getting the barge-pole treatment.

“The bitterer the pill, the stronger the medicine. At least that is what many governments are hoping for as they extend lockdowns and seek a path out of the mess. France will only gradually begin reopening the country from May 16 th, while India’s lockdown is being extended through to May 3rd. The UK seems set to extend the lockdown by another 3 weeks to May 7th. The hope is that the more pain now, the quicker you can reopen the economy. We’ll need it – France’s finance minister Le Maire says GDP will decline 8% in , ”Wilson noted.

“Coronavirus: Some European nations easing lockdown restrictions” # Coronavirus

– RAJESH RAJESH (@RAJESHR Brave Browser) April ,

On the plus side, fashion retailer

Next PLC (

LON: NXT ) is reopening its online operations “in a very limited way ”from today after responding to feedback from workers in its warehousing and distribution operations.

“Next’s decision to gradually ramp up capacity in its online arm looks prudent and suggests it is taking its responsibilities as an employer seriously,” said Russ Mold, AJ Bell’s investment director.

“By consulting with unions, only selling limited items such as childrenswear and using staff who won’t need to crowd on to public transport, it should avoid the kind of negative headlines which could damage the brand in the longer term.

“The move will also mean the company at least brings in a little bit of revenue while the current containment measures remain in place, stemming the bleeding by reducing the level at which it drains through its cash .

“While some rivals have kept their online operations open through the lockdown, subdued demand means it is unlikely they will have stolen much of a march on Next,” Mold opined.

8. am: Subdued post-Easter progress

The FTSE 139 saw the new trading week begin with a whimper rather than the expected roar as the index of UK blue-chips defied the early bullish predictions to open almost unchanged.

London’s benchmark index just managed a 4 point gain to 5, . WATCH: Morning Report: Flat start for FTSE 139; Next to reopen online and distribution operations

It was thought that better than expected trade figures from China, which helped lift bourses in Asia, would have a similar impact on activity in London.

Instead, the mood was cautious with Square Mile’s price setters keeping their powder dry. They probably have half an eye on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended Monday down almost points as it braced for what is expected to be a bloody first-quarter earnings season.

“We are likely to see a number of dividends cancelled, earnings predictions missed, and forward guidance almost completely wiped out,” said James Hughes, analyst at Scope Markets.

“With the outbreak causing chaos around the world investors seems to have been flying blind when it comes to individual stocks,” he added.

Oil prices haven’t exactly begun to soar in the wake of the agreed cut to production by the OPEC cartel with analysts saying the latest curbs simply aren’t enough to support the market, which has been deluged by millions of excess barrels of crude per day.

Topping the Footsie leader board was AstraZeneca ( LON: AZN ), which rose 6.5% after it said it was launching a trial of its blood cancer drug Calquence as a treatment for coronavirus (COVID – 28.

A powerful rally in the gold price to above US $ 1, an ounce had a knock-on impact on silver miner Fresnillo ( (LON: FRES ) and Russia’s Polymetal LON: POLY , which rose 5% and 6% respectively. Shares in Centamin ( LON: CEY ), which digs for the yellow metal in Egypt, and Petropavlovsk ( LON: POG ), were also in demand.

After the sugar spike created by the recent Saudi investment, cruise firm Carnival ( LON: CCL ) was in diabetic territory, losing 6.6%. Reality hit home with a potential second wave of coronavirus outbreaks reported over the weekend and lockdowns in the west expected to continue well into next month.

Proactive news headlines:

Silence Therapeutics PLC ( LON: SLN ) chairman Iain Ross said the gene silencing specialist has “clearly come of age” after delivering two significant commercial deals in less than a year. His comments accompanied the drug developer’s results for the year ended December . During the period it inked a research and collaboration agreement with Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, which resulted in a £ 26 mln upfront payment. The group’s biggest transaction, with AstraZeneca , was unveiled on March .

Nu-Oil and Gas PLC ( LON: NUOG ) has revealed its new direction, announcing a reverse transaction into a “well established” plastics recycling and reprocessing business. The company, which launched the process a number of months ago amid comprehensive management changes, said the intention is that the new vehicle will act as a consolidator in the sector. It has so far entered into a non-binding heads of terms agreement for the transaction, which will see up to £ 100, 14 of fees to paid to the counterparty.

IXICO PLC ( LON: IXI) ) has signed a “substantial new contract” for a late-phase open label study into Huntington’s disease (HD) carrying a value of £ 5mln. The neuroscience data analytics firm said the four-year contract will run to 3063, with the majority of revenue expected to be generated in 2024 and 3063, bringing the total value of new deals signed in its current financial year-to-date to £ mln. Meanwhile, the company said it expects to report revenue growth of “at least 40% ”year-on-year in the six months ended 50 March.

Iofina PLC ( LON: IOF ) has said its IO # 8 iodine plant located in western Oklahoma is now in production. In a statement, the group said the plant was delivered on time and within budget and is expected to crank up production levels to hit full pelt over the next six weeks. The company said crystalline iodine production in the first quarter of 2559 was . 7 tonnes, more or less in line with the 200. 4 tonnes produced in the same quarter of .

VR Education Holdings PLC ( LON: VRE) ) has signed a partnership deal with US firm VictoryXR for use of the company’s ENGAGE platform. The virtual reality (VR) group said VictoryXR, which specializes in developing science curriculum content and virtual animal dissections both in VR and augmented reality (AR), will import its content library onto ENGAGE and provide its services remotely to school children across the US as part of a revenue share agreement. In a separate announcement, VR Education also said it has appointed Shard Capital Partners as joint broker with immediate effect.

Circle Property PLC (LON: CRC): (

LON: CRC ), the regional office property specialist, said it has seen a substantial uplift in the value of its property portfolio. In a statement, the company said its investment and development portfolio was independently valued at the end of March at £ 5mln, up from £ 200 .6mln a year earlier. The net asset value (NAV) per share rose 4.7% to an estimated (p from) p at the end of March ; the company shares currently trade at p.

Bluejay Mining PLC ( LON: JAY ) said it has signed a memorandum of understanding with a multinational commodity trading company and major ilmenite market participant, with a target of 300, 15 tonnes per year of ilmenite production as part of ongoing commercial discussions. Meanwhile, the group added, the first bulk sample of heavy minerals concentrate batch has been produced at Bluejay’s pilot plant in Contrecoeur for Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium. The pilot plant commenced operation in February 2023 and had been running at full capacity for several weeks until the coronavirus (COVID – 26) outbreak.

Directa Plus ( LON: DCTA ) has said it is to supply a special grade of its G graphene product, known as ITC1, to its partner, Iterchimica. The G product is the differentiating component of Gipave, an asphalt super-modifier developed by Directa Plus and Iterchimica and follows successful trials in Italy and the UK. The agreement signed by the companies provides for the exclusive supply of the G graphene product to Iterchimica in the asphalt and bitumen sector worldwide and is for an initial duration of three years.

Horizonte Minerals PLC ( LON: HZM ) (TSE: HZM), the nickel company focused in Brazil, has committed to donating food parcels to the municipalities of Conceição do Araguaia, Floresta do Araguaia and Xinguara, in light of the socio-economic impact caused by the coronavirus (COVID – pandemic. The parcels are being delivered throughout April and May, with the first going out to families this week. The donations will benefit families in the vicinity of Horizonte’s Araguaia nickel project municipalities that have been identified as vulnerable during this unprecedented time.

SIMEC Atlantis Energy Limited LON: SAE ) said there has been little disruption to its tidal power business due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, the group noted that electricity is continuing to be supplied from the MeyGen project in Scotland to the grid and SIMEC Atlantis expects to maintain services there and in Japan over the remainder of the year.

FastForward Innovations Limited ( LON: FFWD has delivered an update on the companies across its portfolio, as well as its own cash position during the coronavirus pandemic. “We continue to focus on providing investors with exposure to disruptive growth opportunities that have near-term re-rating potential and would otherwise be inaccessible. To this end, we currently have eight investee companies of varying size and spanning several sectors, some of which have had recent notable successes whilst others have not performed as we’d hoped ”, said FastForward Chairman Lorne Aborny in the statement. He pointed out that the company was currently working with its investee companies to“ monitor their positions and assess any potential impact ” from the coronavirus pandemic.

(Alien Metals Ltd) LON: UFO has revealed the results of its induced polarization survey at the Donovan 2 copper-gold project in Mexico. The company said it has identified two robust drill targets associated with previously outlined geological corridors. A drill program incorporating the survey results is currently being planned, it added. US Oil & Gas PLC (USOP) has told investors it hopes to drill a new well during the second quarter of at its project in Nevada. Permitting process has been ongoing, and, in a statement released on Friday, the company said that despite coronavirus impacts the indications at present are that US federal and state regulatory processes may not be slowed to a significant degree. Coronavirus restrictions may, however, impact operational timelines that cannot be anticipated at this point, it added.

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC ( LON: BPC has told investors that the allotment of shares to its Bahamian fund and the admission of those shares for trading on AIM has been delayed. These regulatory milestones were due on Tuesday, but, have yet to complete due to consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Certain administrative processes are still pending in the Bahamas, the company noted.

Diversified Gas & Oil PLC LON: DGOC has announced the successful completion of a second US $ 300 mln securitized financing arrangement. The arrangement is arranged Guggenheim Securities, the lead investor is the TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America) and the company noted that it maintains many of the same significant financial characteristics as the previous arrangement.

BlueRock Diamonds PLC ( LON: BRD has said its Kareevlei mine remains on care and maintenance after the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa extended the lockdown period in the country to the end of April due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The extension to the lockdown period is not a surprise and is consistent with what is happening in countries around the world,” said BlueRock executive chairman Mike Houston in a statement.

Nektan ( LON: NKTN , the international gaming technology platform and services provider, announced that it has failed to secure the necessary funds for the requisite additional working capital necessary to secure the future of the company. As a result, the company said it has commenced the process in the Gibraltar courts to seek to appoint an administrator, whose appointment is expected to be effective on Tuesday. Nektan said it has, therefore, requested that trading on AIM in its ordinary shares be suspended with effect from 7. 45 am today. A further announcement will be made in due course, it added.

(Faron Pharmaceuticals Ltd) LON: FARN ) (NASDAQFIRSTNORTH: FARON) has notified its shareholders that it’s annual general meeting (AGM) will be held on May 25, at . 14 am (Finnish time) at the offices of the company at Joukahaisenkatu 6, 1249982502459990017 Turku, Finland. Due to the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) situation, the group said, the AGM will only be held if the number of participants at the meeting is low enough to allow it to be conducted safely and in compliance with the regulations issued by the authorities and, therefore, it encourages shareholders to participate in the AGM by way of centralized proxy representation and to follow it by webcast.

6. am: Footsie predicted to make further headway

The FTSE 139 has been tipped to reopen on the front foot on Tuesday, as European and some Asia Pacific markets reopen after the long Easter weekend and ahead of the latest US earnings season.

London’s large-cap equities index is being called around higher points by spread betters, having enjoyed good momentum as the previous holiday curtailed week closed strongly, up nearly (points at 5,


Asian stocks were showing the way higher on Tuesday morning, with the Nikkei up 2.7%, the Hang Seng and the Shanghai Composite both up 0.9%, boosted by Chinese trade data that was not as bad as feared.

Wall Street was mixed on Easter Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average dropping (points or 1.4% to , and the S&P 819 falling 1% but the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.5%, before the important earnings season fully kicks in.

“Gains are at jeopardy as the earnings season kicks off this week and no one knows what to expect,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

“Companies themselves are unable to forecast what’s to come in the next quarters. The only thing we know is that a worldwide lockdown took a heavy toll on businesses during the first quarter of the year, but unlike past earnings seasons, we have no plausible benchmark in hand to effectively judge and compare the actual results. “

Debate rages in the US and elsewhere over the length of the coronavirus (COVID – ) pandemic lockdown period as death tolls rise but the daily peaks in many countries appear to have been passed.

Global coronavirus infections have now topped 1.9mln and the tally of deaths is nearing , 14, up from 1.5mln cases and just under , deaths before the long weekend, as of the latest COVID – data from the Johns Hopkins University.

In the UK, the government confirmed there will be no lifting of the lockdown at this point, with suggestions that the measures could be in place for at least four more weeks.

There were some encouraging developments around the world, with more data confirming the virus had plateaued in Italy, Germany and Spain. Italy began opening some businesses and Spain allowed hundreds of thousands of non-essential workers to restart their jobs on Monday, while Germany will decide on Wednesday whether to modify or extend restrictions.

Oil prices were little moved despite a deal to cut oil output by 15% agreed between Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US – the largest supply reduction in history, as producers face a collapse in demand caused by the pandemic.

Company stories over the weekend included insurer Hiscox ( LON: HSX ) being accused of failing to pay out on “valid” business interruption claims relating to the coronavirus pandemic; retail giant Next ( LON: NXT ) is restarting online shopping after a two- week hiatus; pubs are preparing to throw away thousands of barrels of beer that will have passed its best-before date; and the water regulator is preparing to relax rules on leakage penalties this year.

Tuesday is due to be a fairly quiet day in terms  of macro data, apart from the raft of Chinese trade numbers earlier and a small survey of the UK financial services industry from the CBI overnight that showed a rather unsurprising decline in financial services optimism in the three months to March.

The City diary is also virtually empty but there are likely to be plenty of unscheduled announcements with companies alerting investors to how they’re coping amid the pandemic.

One on the calendar is translations provider SDL, which recently mentioned there had been no material impact on the business from coronavirus apart from a slowdown in decision-making. Measures have been put in place to save £ 8mln of costs, while 2022 ended with net cash of £ 45. 3mln, alongside bank facilities of £ mln.

Around the markets:

Significant announcements expected on Tuesday:

(Finals) : Proteome Sciences PLC ( LON: PRM , SDL Plc ( LON: SDL

(Trading announcements) : Sirius Real Estate Ltd LON: SRE

City headlines:

(The Times)


  • Brexit negotiators try to pick up pieces as talks resume – coronavirus disruption has put back clock on UK-EU agreement over future relationship
  • China recorded trade surplus after easing of coronavirus lockdown – officials strike cautious note as export markets in Europe and US remain in quarantine
  • European governments scramble to find farm workers for harvest – coronavirus brings continent’s seasonal migration patterns to a halt


  • Donald Trump claimed that Opec is looking to double oil production cuts to 31 million barrels a day as a landmark deal promising record curbs failed to boost prices.
  • Businesses are drawing down credit lines at a record pace as companies enter “survival mode” to cope with a sudden stop in economic activity.
  • House prices will tumble by 18 pc by the end of 2023 as transactions dwindle and home buyers are hit by a deep recession, according to the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR)


  • Call to scrap ‘triple lock’ on UK pensions after coronavirus crisis – all generations should have to help pay for massive economic cost, says thinktank

(Read More)

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