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FTSE 100 ends little changed as UK lines up on Brexit grid

The druggies and miners were on offer early on – although the movements were barely perceptible on a lacklustre Monday morning.
picture of Theresa May
PM May has named 29 March as Brexit day
  • FTSE 100 closes 0.06% up 

  • Theresa May confirms 29 March as Article 50 trigger

  • Dixons Carphone top gainer

 

Britain's top share index closed little changed on Monday -  the day Theresa May said she would trigger Article 50 next week on March 29.

The FTSE 100 closed up 0.06% at 7.429 as Sterling weakened in the wake of the date set.

The more UK- focused FTSE 250 closed up over 56 points at 19,151.

Hikma Pharmaceuticals (LON:HIK) finished 1.7% lower at 2,134p  as  investment bank Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock to a 'neutral' stance.

Top riser was Dixons Carphone (LON:DC.) which added 2.62% to 309.6p.

May always said she would trigger the process at the end  of March despite skepticism in some quarters and she has delivered amid renewed talk that her  Conservative government might call a snap election for  May 4.

1.30pm - FTSE100 dial barely moved

The dial has barely moved on the FTSE 100 today and a sluggish start on Wall Street kept the lid firmly on in London.

Confirmation that Article 50 would be triggered on Wednesday week, signalling the official start of the UK’s departure from the EU, had a minimal impact.

Shortly after the US opened the blue chip index was six points lower at 7,419

Associated British Foods (LON:ABF), owner of the discount chain Primark, and J Sainsbury (LON:SBRY) were the best of the risers, but gains were modest at 1.7% to 2,660p and 1.3% to 273.2p respectively.

ABF was helped by a bullish note from US heavyweight Goldman Sachs. Analysts at the bank raised their target price for the stock to £30 from £27.50, saying strong growth at Primark should help to drive profits.

Aside from Brexit, the other big headline of the day was also a retail story, but did not involve trading news, rather it was Marks & Spencer PLC (LON:MKS) pulling its  advertising from Google due to the proximity to extremist content.

High street banks HSBC, Lloyds and RBS did the same over the weekend following an investigation by the Times.

Marks & Spencer shares shed 1.7p to 327.6p.

Dollar earners were under pressure as hawkish signs at the Bank of England last week boosted the pound for a third day running, while the stripping out of an anti-protectionism at the latest summit of G20 finance ministers at the weekend unsettled the oil price.

Both BP and Shell eased slightly.

AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) meanwhile hailed the latest data from a “real world” trial of its Farxiga diabetes drug, which showed the treatment had a “striking” positive impact on sufferers.

The study of more than 300,000 people in six different countries revealed that treatment with Farixga reduced the rate of hospitalisation for heart failure by 39% and death from any cause by 51%, compared to other type-2 diabetes drugs. Shares were flat at 4,893p.

US  shares were heading higher at the open as oil lagged and biotech stocks were doing well.

The Dow Jones was up around 30 points at 20,943; the S&P500 gained over 36 points to 2,379, while the Nasdaq added 12 points to 5,913.

The top gainer on S&P500 was Esperion Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ESPR), which surged around 50% to $35.60 as it received postive feedback from the Fed on its drug program.

11.00...FTSE 100 drops as rally runs out of steam

London meandered on a quiet day for company news.

FTSE 100 was 14 points lower at 7,411 though the exception was the retail sector ahead of some big name results later in the week.

Associated British Foods (LON:ABF), owner of the discount chain Primark, Dixons Carphone (LON:DC.) and J Sainsbury (LON:SBRY) were all modestly higher.

Next Plc (LON:NXT) was down. It will reveal the full impact of competition on the High Street on Thursday, while the day before B&Q owner Kingfisher (LON:KGF) updates on progress.

The big headline of the day was a retail story, of did not involve trading news, rather it was Marks & Spencer PLC (LON:MKS) pulling its  advertising from Google due to the proximity to extremist content.

High street banks HSBC, Lloyds and RBS did the same over the weekend following an investigation by the Times.

Marks & Spencer shares shed 1.7p to 327.6p.

Dollar earners were under pressure as hawkish signs at the Bank of England last week boosted the pound for a third day running, while the stripping out of an anti-protectionism at the latest summit of G20 finance ministers at the weekend unsettled the oil price.

AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) meanwhile hailed the latest data from a “real world” trial of its Farxiga diabetes drug, which showed the treatment had a “striking” positive impact on sufferers.

The study of more than 300,000 people in six different countries revealed that treatment with Farixga reduced the rate of hospitalisation for heart failure by 39% and death from any cause by 51%, compared to other type-2 diabetes drugs. Shares eased lower to 4,888p nonetheless.

There was life among the small caps where office productivity group BOS Global (LON:BOS) surged 25% early on after taking a major stake in an Australian software firm Call Design, though gains were subsequently trimmed to 6.5% at 13.44p.

South Africa-focused miner Bushveld Minerals  Limited (LON:BMN) leapt 19% higher to 5.30p in early morning trading on news it has agreed a deal with Wogen Resources that will provide the funds needed to buy Strategic Minerals Corporation.

Wogen will provide US$3.0mln in financing. Bushveld Vametco agreed to buy Strategic Minerals from Evraz last year for US$17.2mln.

Virtual reality content provider EVR Holdings (LON:EVRH) also jumped higher, up almost 8% to 11.95p after it unveiled a tie-up with renowned record label, Universal Music Group.

Under the “worldwide, multi-year” deal, EVR is licensed to create and distribute VR content featuring Universal artists, which include the likes of Kanye West and U2.

Meanwhile, EKF Diagnostics (LON:EKF) saw its shares advance nearly 7% to 19.25p after it revealed it is evaluating plans that would split the company into two separate companies which could see it delist from AIM and list on another market, and may lead the firm to make a share buy-back offer pitched at 21.5p a share.

 

8.45am...FTSE 100 hits reverse gear; retail sector in focus ahead of busy week for shopkeepers

After a rather pedestrian start, retail stocks were in demand early on with the FTSE 100 topped by Associated British Foods (LON:ABF), owner of the discount chain Primark.

Dixons Carphone (LON:DC.) and Sainsbury (LON:SBRY) were not far behind at the start of what promises to be a busy week for the sector.

On Thursday Next (LON:NXT) will reveal the full impact of competition on the High Street, while the day before B&Q owner Kingfisher (LON:KGF) updates on progress.

ABF mustered a 2.5% gain, while the Footsie wasn’t in quite so good form as it opened 9 points to the good before hitting reverse gear to trade down 12 points lower at 7,412.96.

The druggies and miners were on offer early on – although the movements were barely perceptible on a lacklustre Monday morning.

The mid-caps were similarly subdued, while the small-caps provided one pocket rocket in office productivity group BOS Global (LON:BOS).

It surged 25% after taking a major stake in an Australian software firm Call Design.

South Africa-focused miner Bushveld Minerals (LON:BMN) leapt 25% higher to 5.58p in early morning trading on news it has agreed a deal with Wogen Resources that will provide the funds needed to buy Strategic Minerals Corporation.

Bushveld said Wogen will provide US$3.0mln in financing to its subsidiary Bushveld Vametco Group, which will support the acquisition of its 78.8% interest in Strategic Minerals from Evraz Group.

Bushveld Vametco agreed to buy Strategic Minerals from Evraz last year US$17.2mln.

Virtual reality content provider EVR Holdings (LON:EVRH) also jumped higher, up almost 15% to 12.75p after it unveiled a tie-up with renowned record label, Universal Music Group.

Under the “worldwide, multi-year” deal, EVR is licensed to create and distribute VR content featuring Universal artists, which include the likes of Kanye West and U2.

Meanwhile, EKF Diagnostics (LON:EKF) saw its shares advance nearly 7% to 19.25p after it revealed it is evaluating plans that would split the company into two separate companies which could see it delist from AIM and list on another market, and may lead the firm to make a share buy-back offer pitched at 21.5p a share.

Proactive new headlines

Ergomed (LON:ERGO) has begun recruiting for a phase IIb proof-of-concept study on Peprostat to treat a surgical complication called intraoperative bleeding. A total of 120 people will be enrolled to the trial at 30 centres across in seven European countries. 

PowerHouse Energy Group PLC’s (LON:PHE) new non-executive director has changed roles to become the waste gasification specialist’s executive director of programme development. Shares rose 13% to 1.07p.

Strong forward order commitments and a growing cash pile at debt-free specialist brick manufacturer Michelmersh Bricks Holdings PLC (LON:MBH) paved the way for a surprise doubling of the dividend.

SDX Energy Inc (LON:SDX) told investors it has now started drilling the potentially high impact SD-1X well on the South Disouq concession, in the Nile Delta area of Egypt. The SD-1X well is targeting both oil and gas reservoirs.

Clean fuel company ITM Power plc (LON:ITM) has welcomed the UK government’s Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) announcement at the weekend of a £23mln boost for hydrogen-powered vehicles and infrastructure.

Metals explorer Greatland Gold PLC (LON:GGP) told investors this morning that it has started drilling at its Bromus gold and nickel project in Western Australia.
The drill programme consists of two holes that will test two “highly conductive targets” which were identified by downhole electromagnetic (EM) surveys back in November. Sahres rose 5% to 0.278p

Cell-based medicines group MaxCyte Inc (LON:MXCT) has made significant progress operationally and financially in the year since its stock market debut here in London. The highlights included an agreement earlier this month with a Bayer joint venture to help develop gene-edited drugs that will generate an upfront and milestone payments.

6.45am...drab start predicted 

The FTSE 100 looks set to open the trading week in positive territory – though only just – ignoring the downward movements of Asia’s main stock markets.

The index of blue-chip shares will nudge up 8 points to 7,432.96, according to the leading spread betting firms.

Worries over protectionism came to the fore as the finance ministers of the world’s 20 largest economies met in Germany.

However the final communique from the spa town of Baden-Baden was carefully constructed so as not to isolate new Trump trade secretary Steven Mnuchin before the detail of the new administration’s international strategy had been fully formed.

“The question now is, if Mr Mnuchin could not be persuaded to adopt a more conciliatory tone on trade, then what chance do they have with his boss, Donald Trump?” asked the Financial Times.

The worries over trade rattled all the major Asian indexes, with some additional caution in the region ahead of the two-day China Development Forum.

Back here in the UK, it looks set to be busy week for corporate news, with full-year results from Next (LON:NXT) on Thursday possibly setting the tone for the major High Street retailers.

Before that we have figures from B&Q owner Kingfisher (LON:KGF) on Wednesday and the stock market phenomenon that is drinks maker Fevertree (LON:FEVR) on Tuesday.

  • Brent crude U$51.39, down 37 cents a barrel.
  • Gold up US$3.80 an ounce at US$1,234.00
  • Pound worth US$1.2395

Business Headlines

  • Rival oilfield service companies are circling Wood Group and Amec Foster Wheeler with the aim of picking up assets and contracts likely to be shed by the UK pair as a result of their £2.2bn merger – FT.
  • Concern rises over StanLife-Aberdeen co-CEO structureStandard Life’s move this month to acquire Scottish rival Aberdeen Asset Management raised eyebrows among shareholders, analysts and competitors – FT.
  • AstraZeneca’s Farxiga diabetes drug sharply reduced the chance of both hospitalisation and death for sufferers from the type 2 variety of the disease in the world’s first global “real world” trial of this kind of medication – FT.
  • The housebuilder Crest Nicholson is facing an embarrassing investor backlash over generous share awards for its top executives as the government weighs radical reforms to rein in excessive pay – Telegraph.
  • Billions of pounds’ worth of water contracts will be awarded to utilities in the coming weeks ahead of the opening of the business supply market – Telegraph.
  • Ministers from the world’s leading economies have agreed to review banking regulations in a move that could start to unpick reforms made since the financial crisis – Times.
  • Unilever is drawing up plans to heal a rift among shareholders triggered by its rejection of a $143bn bid from Kraft Heinz, amid a warning that Britain could become home to “a garage sale” unless there is protection for domestic companies from foreign takeovers – Guardian.
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