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FTSE 100 pulls ahead at the close; Wall Street sees gains ahead of Fed decision

The index of UK blue-chip stocks was flat at 6,129 before close

City of London
  • FTSE 100 finishes the day flat at 6,131 points
  • Barclays slips on profit plunge
  • Wall Street continued to trade in the green

5.00pm: FTSE 100 tread water to close at 6,131 points

The FTSE 100 index closed a modest 2 points higher at 6,131 points on Wednesday as markets balance economic recovery optimism with fears over continued outbreaks in Europe.

"The recent spike in Spanish cases serves to highlight how the forthcoming months could see a trend of constant outbreaks and subsequent economic tightening," IG's Josh Mahoney wrote Wedensday.

"While the push for a vaccine remains on track, the fear that financial support will be removed before one is ready raises questions over the recovery path. The multi-month recovery that has been playing out is thanks to huge government funding, and that means the economic and market recovery is also entirely reliant upon further financial support to avoid another March-style crash."

US and Canada 5pm/12EST

Stateside, Wall Street was trading in the green across all of the major indices. The Dow Jones was ahead 83 points at 26,462, while the S&P 500 was up 27 points at 3,245. The tech-laden Nasdaq market was also in positive territory, lifting 110 points at 10,512 while over in Canada, the S&P/TSX index was up 108 points at 16,226.

The US central bank will announce its interest rate decision at 7pm (UK time) and the press conference will begin at 7.30pm (UK time).

"Rates are expected to remain on hold, and there has been a lot of speculation that Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, will hammer home the point that rates will stay ultra-low for years to come," said David Madden of CMC Markets.

"The US central bank is expected to maintain an extremely loose monetary policy in an effort to assist the economic recovery, anything less than that in terms of promises, could spark a bearish move."

Proactive North America headlines:

Byrna Technologies Inc (OTCQB:BYRN)(CSE:BYRN) to expand manufacturing and distribution operations on rising demand for Byrna HD self-defense device

Metalla Royalty & Streaming Ltd (NYSEAMERICAN:MTA) (CVE:MTA) increases loan facility to over C$32M to fund future acquisitions

Steppe Gold Ltd (TSE:STGO) says Bankable Feasibility Study underway for the expansion of the ATO Gold Mine into fresh rock ores

Essex Minerals Inc (CVE:ESX) starts drilling at promising Cumberland project in Australia

Willow Biosciences Inc (TSE:WLLW) (OTCQX:CANSF) kicks off pilot production run of high-purity CBG, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound

Silver Range Resources Ltd (CVE:SNG) options historic Gold District properties in Nevada to GGL Resources

GlobeX Data Ltd (OTCQB:SWISF) (CSE:SWIS) embraces Goldman Sachs report recommending US tech stocks with foreign exposure

American Battery Metals Corporation (OTCQB:ABML) secures industrial land in northern Nevada for its lithium-ion battery recycling facility

Ximen Mining Corp (CVE:XIM) (OTCQB:XXMMF) makes progress on 257 portal installation, gets closer to production of first gold Dore bar from its Kenville project

Altamira Gold Corp (CVE:ALTA) (OTCPINK:EQTRF) uncovers new mineralized structures at its Cajueiro gold project in Brazil

3.25pm: Barclays among top fallers with 77% profit plunge

FTSE 100 hit the flatline ahead of close, sitting at 6,129.

Barclays plc (LON:BARC) was one of the top fallers in the blue-chip index, sliding 5% to 106.17p.

The bank posted a 77% profit plunge in the first half of 2020 as weakness in credit cards and other lending in the coronavirus crisis offset a thriving investment arm.

In the second quarter to end-June the UK business and credit cards arms both sank into losses as bad loan provisions were increased by £1.6bn to £3.7bn.

The investment bank was the main engine of growth in the period, with income surging 31% to £6.9bn as the markets business made hay.

“With the banks being popularly regarded as the culprits of the Great Financial Crisis over a decade ago, the current economic and market downturn has provided the opportunity for the banks to be at the vanguard of helping the recovery,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

“Indeed, in a theme likely to be repeated throughout this half-yearly reporting season, Barclays has provided Covid-19 related support of around £22bn for UK businesses, with 600,000 payment holidays and access to credit and finance where necessary for individuals and large corporates alike."

2.35pm: Wall Street opens in green territory

FTSE 100 stayed put as trading commenced in New York, adding 8 points to 6,137.

The Dow Jones opened 25 points higher at 26,404, while the S&P500 advanced 14 points to 3,232.

“The Fed is unlikely to announce any new policy actions and reiterate they are not ready to commit to yield curve control or locking in future rate hikes to overshooting their inflation target,” said OANDA’s Edward Moya. 

“The economy is worse off since the last meeting and the Fed should signal they will do more until the uncertainties to the outlook improve.”

In corporate news, General Electric pleased investors with better than expected revenue, while Boeing announced it will cut the 787 production to six per month in 2021, much lower than the 10 per month done this year. 

1.55pm: Rolls-Royce rumoured to plan £1.5bn rights issue

FTSE 100 was hovering above the flatline, adding 12 points to 6,141.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.) is reportedly planning a £1.5bn fundraise to shore up its balance sheet amid a deep crisis in the aviation industry.

The engine maker is expected to pursue a rights issue for existing investors at a discount to market price, according to Reuters.

The company is in discussions with BNP Paribas, Morgan Stanley and Jefferies and may carry it out in September.

Rolls-Royce has been battered by the pandemic, factoring in a US$1.5bn cash hit from reducing a hedging position on future business by US$10bn to US$27bn.

Earlier this month it announced 9,000 jobs will be lost worldwide, of which 8,000 are at its aerospace arm.

1pm: US traders to hold fire

The Footsie was barely in the green after lunch, rising only 8 points to 6,137.

Wall Street’s open is expected to be as lukewarm ahead of the Federal Reserve’s announcement later today, where it may be announced that rates will stay very low for another while.

“The central bank has already been extremely aggressive with regards its stimulus packages, and there is a view they will do what it takes to cushion the blow of the health crisis,” noted David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets.

“The bickering between Republicans and Democrats over the proposed $1 trillion stimulus package will be in focus again today. Both sides know full well the US economy needs financial assistance but the politicians are likely to keep arguing over the finer details of the package.”

“The health emergency is still circulating as higher case numbers and tighter restrictions from some governments continues to concern dealers,” Madden concluded.

11.50am: Supermarkets challenged by free Amazon Fresh delivery

The Footsie was little changed from earlier gains, advancing 22 points to 6,151 before lunch.

Britain’s supermarkets were challenged by online shopping behemoth Amazon Inc launching a free delivery service for groceries.

Prime customers ordering over £40 of food will receive it free of charge, against the usual £2.99 fee.

The free Amazon Fresh delivery is being piloted in 300 postcodes in Greater London and the southeast but will be expanded to other main cities by the end of the year, including Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Orders under £40 will cost £3.99 for a two-hour delivery slot or £6.99 for one hour, for a minimum spend of £15. The Prime membership comes at £79 per year.

“In some ways Amazon will be very disruptive because they are ambitious in groceries and they have all sorts of technological expertise,” Waitrose’s James Bailey told The Times.

“It is more proof they are committed to this market and while this doesn’t feel like a large leap forward, it is a signal of their intent.”

Online grocery shop Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO) shed 1% to 2,053p while J Sainsbury PLC (LON:SBRY) and Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO) both advanced 1%.

Marks and Spencer Group PLC (LON:MKS) also lost 1% to 99.44p, perhaps after obesity campaign National Food Strategy slammed its Percy Pig sweets for misleading customers into believing they are a healthy choice.

“I single out Marks & Spencer here, not because it is the biggest sinner, but because it is such a well-trusted company,” the report said.

“A British institution, M&S has the pledge ‘we always strive to do the right thing’ as one of its guiding principles. If M&S – which is a great deal more scrupulous than many food companies – is guilty of such trickery, you can be sure the practice is ubiquitous.”

10.40am: UK buys 60mln doses of vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi 

FTSE 100 trimmed some gains in late morning, rising 14 points to 6,143, while sterling added 0.3% to US$1.2973.

GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK) advanced 1% to 1,628p after inking a £500mln deal with the British government for 60mln doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with French giant Sanofi.

Last week, Westminster secured 90mln of the jab produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, while AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) and the University of Oxford are expected to make 30mln doses of their fledgling treatment available as early as September if trials go well.

The UK did not join a EU scheme to secure vaccines but to form its own deals instead.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said it was important the UK secured early access to “a diverse range of promising vaccine candidates, like GSK and Sanofi, to increase our chances of finding one that works so we can protect the public and save lives”.

Work on the GSK-Sanofi product is being led by the French. The drug, which will move into the clinic in September and onto a phase III trial by the end of the year, could, if the data are supportive, be approved by the first half of 2021.

9.45am: Three European countries potentially on quarantine list

FTSE 100 turned green in mid-morning, adding 22 points to 6,151 despite the general malaise.

England may be about to enforce a mandatory quarantine for travellers from Belgium, Luxembourg and Croatia as the government fears a second wave in Europe.

“Among some of our European friends, I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic,” Boris Johnson was quoted as saying by The Times.

“It’s vital that when people are coming back from abroad, if they are coming back from a place where I’m afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine. That’s why we have taken the action that we have and we will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary.”

Spanish politicians have been contesting the new rules for travellers coming from Spain announced over the weekend, claiming they were unjust.

Prime minister Pedro Sánchez said England has made an error as 64.5% of the new cases, which were over 1,800 on Tuesday, were coming from only two territories.

In fact, Germany advises against travel to only three regions, Aragón, Catalonia and Navarra.

Travel stocks remained under pressure, with Ryanair Holdings plc (LON:RYA) losing 3% to €10.82 and International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (LON:IAG) and easyJet plc (LON:EZJ) shedding 2% to 186.32p and 536.6p respectively.

Wizz Air Holdings PLC (LON:WIZZ) was the odd one out, rising 4% to 3,534p on the back of strong quarterly results.

8.50am: Dull early progress

The FTSE 100 index made a slow start to proceedings on Wednesday with traders holding fire ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s monthly meeting later.

The index of UK blue-chip stocks made a low-key start as it drifted 11.5 points lower to 6,117.79.

The focus will be on how and when the Fed increases its support for an ailing US economy and just what damage has been done by the coronavirus.

However, the only firm expectation from Wednesday’s meeting is the reinforcement of the central bank’s stance on ultra-easy monetary policy stance.

In Asia, the markets were mainly lower, driven by worries over a second wave coronavirus outbreak, with pockets of infection starting to emerge in the region and in Europe. America, meanwhile, is still trying and failing to get to grips with the first wave.

The morning’s big mover was Next (LON:NXT), which jumped 10% higher after the retailer said it would now post a profit after previously saying it would struggle to break even.

On a busy day for corporate news, Taylor Wimpey (LON:TW.) was the biggest casualty as it swung to a loss, said it wouldn’t resume dividend payments until 2021 and added that it was reviewing special pay-outs scheduled for next year and the year after. The stock fell 5.4%.

Also on the decline was Barclays, down 3.4% after results. Richard Hunter, Interactive Investors’ stockpicker-in-chief, said: “Barclays has mirrored the experiences of its US counterparts, with a sharp spike in investment banking income crimped by further provisions for bad loans, especially with the pandemic in mind.”

Proactive news headlines:

Immotion Group PLC (LON:IMMO) has said it is seeing “encouraging levels of revenue being generated” from a number of its recently reopened partner sites. The out-of-home virtual reality (VR) entertainment specialist said a number of its sites were showing “very high levels of utilisation” following their reopening, with two new installations completed post lockdown, at the Oklahoma Aquarium and Mystic Aquarium, operating at almost full capacity. Immotion also said it has seen “brisk trade” at its own ImmotionVR centres in the UK, with booking and revenues “very encouraging”.

Sunrise Resources PLC (LON:SRES) told investors it has received a mine permit for the CS perlite-pozzolan project in Nevada, USA. It means the project can move into the trial mining stage, along with advancing detailed engineering work, financial modelling and mine finance evaluation. Chairman Patrick Cheetham described it as “a major value-adding milestone” for the company which puts the project on the map as just one of few permitted deposits of perlite and high-quality natural pozzolan in the United States.

LoopUp Group PLC (LON:LOOP) said it has extended its flagship solution, LoopUp, to include global cloud voice services via direct route integration with Microsoft Teams alongside its premium remote meetings capability. The conference call and remote meeting specialist said the new capability will allow users to make and receive voice calls directly from their Teams interface on any device irrespective of location. The extension also officially launches a new scope of LoopUp, which has to date been available on a limited geographic basis.

Oracle Power PLC (LON:ORCP) has inked an agreement with the private office of Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum which will see them potentially partner and collaborate to explore potential mining opportunities in Africa. Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum - a prominent Emirati - via the HH Private Office vehicle, currently develops and owns various projects across the natural resources sector in Africa. Dubai-based HH Private Office is also Oracle’s largest shareholder, with a 15.1% stake, and is notably supportive of the group’s plans at the Thar Block VI project in Pakistan.

Directa Plus PLC (LON:DCTA) announced that it has signed a technical and commercial agreement with Italdesign S.p.A, a global leader in automotive design and engineering. The leading producer and supplier of graphene nanoplatelets based products for use in consumer and industrial markets said the partnership between has been signed for an initial nine years to explore, test, and build automotive components that are enhanced by the properties of the company's proprietary graphene technology. Applications could include car interiors, paints, and mechanical components.

Remote Monitored Systems PLC (LON:RMS) said its security and risk management subsidiary, Cloudveil, has formed a strategic partnership with integrated security solutions firm Axis Security Services Limited. The AIM-listed firm said the partnership will be launched with the delivery of a range of specialist consultancy services at “one of Axis’s more prestigious accounts”, with Cloudveil to provide its management information platform, IRIS, at the City of London headquarters of a well-renowned professional services firm.

Primary Health Properties PLC (LON:PHP) has said it is seeing strong demand for extra space created at all levels by the coronavirus pandemic. The company, which operates 490 facilities such as GP and dentists’ surgeries and pharmacies in the UK and Ireland, provided the update alongside its interim results. They showed a business in rude health with an occupancy rate the envy of the sector at 99.5% and only 2.3% of its rent due to expire in the next three years. The group posted adjusted earnings of £36mln for the six months ended June 30, up 29%. Net rental income was £64.8mln, ahead by a fifth on the same period last year.

Plexus Holdings Plc (LON:POS) told investors it has received a new order for its POS-GRIP surface production wellhead system, with Centrica PLC (LON:CNA) backed Spirit Energy taking the equipment for a new gas well in the UK North Sea. Spirit will receive the 5,000psi leak proof metal-to-metal sealing surface production wellhead and associated spares and equipment for the new gas well. It is slated for delivery in February 2021 It is the second order received from Spirit and notably, it is the company’s first new business win since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck.

Brunner Investment Trust PLC (LON:BUT) has increased its interim dividend and said it will use its reserves to maintain payments while payouts from its portfolio recover after the coronavirus (COVID-19) disruption. The trust's net asset value in the half-year to May declined by 5.9% to 890p due to the volatility caused by the pandemic, though there was a 33% drop in earnings as companies in the portfolio reduced dividends to preserve cash. Brunner said it had revenue reserves equivalent to 27.6p at the end of May to continue to pay the dividend and sees payment expectations improving though recovery to former levels will take time.

Integumen PLC (LON:SKIN) announced that it has secured a £3mln three year loan facility with Riverfort Global Opportunities PCC Limited and YA II PN, Ltd that requires no loan repayments until calendar year 2021. Initial drawdown of £1.5mln provides the company with working capital to allow it to achieve the board's 2020/2021 objectives relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) AI product development and Labskin expansion of support services into the US and Asia. Gerard Brandon, CEO of Integumen, commented: "Integumen has built multiple revenue streams, guided £4m in revenue for 2020 and continues to expand product and service development programmes.  This comprehensive loan facility has been designed to align with the Company's guided revenue projection and provide sufficient working capital to maintain and build on that growth well into 2021.  Our objectives for the next year see further opportunities to support the fight against COVID-19 and expansion of our Labskin services business into new regions and these funds will support that progress. "

Premier African Minerals Limited (LON:PREM) has confirmed the completion of the sale and purchase agreement to acquire a portfolio of hard-rock lithium assets located in Zimbabwe and Mozambique from Lithium Consolidated Ltd (Li3). As announced on June 10, 2020, the company has satisfied both the purchase consideration of UA$150,000 (approximately £83,079.48) plus the payment of inspection fees for the claims in Zimbabwe until 2021 (approximately £9,557.97 in the form of 124,512,702 new ordinary Premier shares issued at an issue price of 0.0744p. George Roach, chief executive of Premier African commented that "the additional tenements in Zimbabwe complement our existing exploration projects and add potential for further discovery as well as the possibility of consolidating existing artisanal exploitation already prevalent in some of these additional areas.” He added: “The tenement acquired in Mozambique has reports of extensive illegal artisanal gold mining and Premier will immediately arrange a site presence and in conjunction with the Mines Department, plans to bring this under control while we understand the resource and the extent of the opportunity."

Metal Tiger (LON:MTR), the AIM-listed investor in natural resources opportunities, announced that it has received a warrant conversion notice for 68,965 new shares at a price of 20p each for a total of £13,793.00. The 68,965 new ordinary shares are expected to be admitted to trading on AIM on or around August 3, 2020.

Amryt Pharma PLC (LON:AMYT) (NASDAQ:AMYT), a global, commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing and commercializing novel therapeutics to treat patients suffering from serious and life-threatening rare diseases, has announced that it will host a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) call on Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) disease on Monday, August 3, 2020, at 10.00am ET (3.00pm BST). The call will feature a presentation by KOLs Harper Price, MD (Phoenix Children's Hospital) and Brett Kopelan (debra of America) who will discuss the current disease landscape and unmet medical need in treating patients with EB and will be available for questions at the conclusion of the event. To register for the call, please click: https://lifescipartners.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_3eEcjcknRnSbgHyxF3KKRA

Chariot Oil & Gas Limited (LON:CHAR) the Atlantic margins focused oil and gas company, has said its annual general meeting will be held on September 8, 2020, at 10.00am. In light of UK government instructions, the AGM will be convened with the minimum necessary quorum of two shareholders - which will be facilitated by Chariot – and shareholders must not attend the in-person. Given the restrictions in place, the company intends to host a conference call for investors at 12.00pm BST on September 8, where management will provide an update on operations and there will be a question and answer session at the end, details of which will be provided in a later announcement. The result of the AGM will be announced shortly after its conclusion and published on the company's website.

Aminex PLC (LON:AEX) said that, as previously announced, this year's annual general meeting, to be held at 2 pm on Wednesday 29 July 2020, will be a closed meeting.  In order to listen to the proceedings of the meeting remotely by teleconference, please use the updated dial-in details: United Kingdom (local) - 020 8322 2500; Ireland (local) - 01 4360958; All other locations - +44 (0) 20 8322 2500; Listen-Only Access Code - 4333698#

6.50am: Weak start seen on Wednesday

The FTSE 100 index is expected to open lower on Wednesday as markets seem to be keeping their powder dry ahead of the Fed meeting later.

Spread-better IG expects the FTSE 100 to open around 31 points lower after ending Tuesday’s session up 24 points at 6,129.

The Fed’s meeting will likely be eyed for its outlook amid a gloomier backdrop than its previous gathering, with coronavirus cases surging across the US and others parts of the world including China and Spain and lockdown relaxation measures having been re-imposed in several American states to counter the spread ahead of flu season in the Autumn.

Aside from the Federal Reserve, traders will also be awaiting any signs of progress in the US Congress over a new package of stimulus measures as confidence in the economic recovery begins to wobble amid signs the American economy may be stalling and signs of fresh cases of coronavirus across the world. Other issues could arise as tech giants Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google parent Alphabet face Congress in antitrust hearings over their dominance in the market.

This nervousness helped US markets close lower overnight, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average falling 0.77% to 26,379 while the S&P 500 dropped 0.65% to 3,218 and the Nasdaq Composite sank 1.27% to 10,402.

Negative sentiment also made for a lower session in the Asian markets on Wednesday, with Japan's Nikkei 225 down 1.2% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.16%.

On currency markets, the pound was 0.1% lower at US$1.2916 against the dollar, although upcoming UK mortgage lending data could provide some catalysts for movement as it paints a clearer picture of the state of the British economy.

Around the markets:

  • Sterling: US$1.2916, down 0.1%
  • Brent crude: US$43.20 a barrel, down 0.05%
  • Gold: US$1,952.67 an ounce, down 0.28%
  • Bitcoin: US$10,988, down 0.01%

6.45am: Early Markets - Asia/Australia

Stocks in the Asia Pacific region were mixed Wednesday as investors await the US Federal Reserve’s latest US interest rate decision.

Chinese stocks led gains with the Shanghai composite up 1.05% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index edged 0.12% higher.

Japanese stocks lagged their Asian peers with the Nikkei 225 falling 1% and in South Korea, the Kospi was 0.2% higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia dropped 0.23% after the country’s Consumer Price Index fell 1.9% in the June 2020 quarter, which is the largest quarterly fall in the 72-year history of the index.

READ OUR ASX REPORT FOR MORE INFORMATION

Proactive Australia news:

Apollo Minerals Limited (ASX:AON) (FRA:4AP) has selected a preferred contractor and is finalising the drill contract after a competitive tendering process for its Kroussou Zinc-Lead Project in Gabon.

Graphex Mining Ltd (ASX:GPX) has taken a new strategic direction via the acquisition of two gold exploration projects in Mali - Tabakorole and Lakanfla.

Alto Metals Ltd (ASX:AME) has received further high-grade gold results from infill and step-out reverse circulation (RC) drilling beneath Lord Nelson open pit within the Sandstone Gold Project in Western Australia.

Galena Mining Ltd (ASX:G1A) has mandated Taurus Funds Management Pty Ltd to provide US$110 million in project financing debt facilities to take the Abra Base Metals Project in Western Australia closer to production.

Great Southern Mining Ltd (ASX:GSN) has hit 5.65 metres at 80 g/t gold from 160.5 metres including 1.1 metres at 404 g/t in its first diamond drilling at the Cox’s Find Gold Project in the Laverton district of Western Australia.

Tietto Minerals Ltd (ASX:TIE) has received high-grade gold results which have extended the Abujar-Gludehi (AG) deposit at depth and are expected to expand the existing 2.2 million-ounce resource at Abujar Gold Project in Côte d’Ivoire.

Macarthur Minerals Ltd (ASX:MIO) (CVE:MMS) has engaged RCR Mining Technologies, a subsidiary of NRW Holdings Limited (ASX:NWH), to provide a conceptual rail wagon and rail unloading solution for its flagship Moonshine magnetite deposits at Lake Giles Iron Project in Western Australia.

SUDA Pharmaceuticals Ltd (ASX:SUD) has received Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) approval for registration of its lead product ZolpiMist for the treatment of short-term insomnia in adults.

Alice Queen Ltd (ASX:AQX) has started drilling Boda East target as it steps up exploration in the Molong Volcanic Belt of Central West NSW which is within the Lachlan Fold Belt, Australia's premier porphyry gold-copper province.

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