FTSE 100 ends just above water; Wall Street cools off after hot start

Investors in New York have left markets little changed as they await quarterly results, with Microsoft to kick off the big tech earnings train later today

Bull statue
  • FTSE 100 index gains 15 points
  • US stocks open higher
  • Indivior leads FTSE 250 higher after settling legal spat with Reckitt

5pm: Footsie finds a way to finish in the green

London's leading index closed Tuesday up 15 points, 0.2&, at 6,654, and the FTSE 250 gained 98 points, nearly 0.5%, to hit 20,448.

"Stock markets were already driving higher this morning and the bullish move was given extra help by the IMF, who lifted their expectations for the world growth," CMC Markets UK analyst David Madden wrote Tuesday. "The IMF revised its 2021 global growth forecast to 5.5%, up from the 5.2% prediction in October, but cautioned that new variants of the virus are a concern for 2021’s outlook."

Indivior PLC (LON:INDV) ended the day up 13% at £144.70 after the drugmaker and its former parent company Reckitt Benckiser (LON:RB. agreed to drop all legal cases against each other. Reckitt shares dropped almost 3% to £6,376.

In the US, the traders reversed course after what seemed to be a promising start. The Dow, after being up more than 150, was down 15 points, less than 0.1%, at midday. The Nasdaq Composite slid 15 points, 0.1%, to 13,620, and the S&P 500 declined 5 points, 0.1%, to 3,850.

3.12pm: The Footsie loses steam

The FTSE 100’s gains are ebbing away as sterling makes headway against the US dollar on forex markets.

London’s index of heavyweight shares was up 27 points at 6,666 as sterling gained half a cent against the greenback at US$1.3727.

The FTSE 250, whose constituents are generally regarded to benefit more from a stronger exchange rate, was fareing better with a rise of 113 points (0.7%) at 20,484, with drugs company Indivior PLC (LON:INDV) leading the way with a 10.3% rise to 141.1p after it reached a settlement with its former parent company, Reckitt Benckiser PLC (LON:RB.) over a liability indemnity agreement.

Indivior will pay Reckitt US$50mln spread over five years and both parties have agreed to drop all liabilities against each other.

3.05pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Heritage Cannabis Holdings Corp (CSE:CANN) (OTCQX:HERTF) (FRA:2UE) closes its acquisition of Canadian cannabis company Premium 5

Talon Metals Corp (TSE:TLO) (OTCMKTS:TLOFF) (FRA:TAO) intersects longest mixed massive sulphide nickel mineralization to date at Tamarack project.

DRDGOLD Limited (NYSE:DRD) (JSE:DRD) says independent non-executive chairman, Geoffrey Campbell will leave its board on December 1, 2021

NexTech AR Solutions Corp (OTCQB:NEXCF) (NEO:NTAR) (FRA:N29) inks six-figure deal to deliver augmented reality video conferencing to National Association of Medicaid Directors

Q BioMed Inc (OTCQB:QBIO) secures further international protection for its liver cancer chemotherapy candidate

Loop Insightss Inc (CVE:MTRX) (OTCQB:RACMF) and Empower Clinics partner to establish Re-open Vancouver coalition to obtain COVID-19 mitigation solutionhttps://www.proactiveinvestors.com/CNSX:TTT/Trutrace-Technologies-Inc./

Mandalay Resources Corporation (TSE:MND) (OTCQB:MNDJF) (FRA:R7X2) posts more encouraging drill assays from Youle deposit at its Australia mine

First Cobalt Corp Corp (CVE:FCC) (OTCQX:FTSSF) begins important preparation work ahead of refinery construction

TruTrace Technologies Inc (CSE:TTT) (OCTQB:TTTSF) and Applied DNA Sciences join forces to deliver complete cannabis product validation and authentication platform

BetterLife Pharma Inc (CSE:BETR) (OTCQB:BETRF) (FRA:NPAU) inhaled coronavirus treatment passes six months of cold temperature tests

2.45pm: Wall Street starts higher

The main Wall Street indices opened higher across the board on Tuesday as investors looked ahead to the coming deluge of corporate earnings later this week.

In the first minutes of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.47% at 31,104 while the S&P 500 climbed 0.35% to 3,868 and the Nasdaq rose 0.38% to 13,688.

Positive results from large firms such as General Electric and Johnson & Johnson may have helped boost optimism for the rest of the earnings season, especially with tech giant Microsoft set to report later today followed by Apple, Facebook and Tesla on Wednesday.

Speaking Tesla, one of the early winners of the session was e-commerce platform Etsy Inc (NASDAQ:ETSY), which jumped 4.5% to US$218.26 following a complimentary Tweet from Tesla boss Elon Musk after he purchased a “hand knit wool Marvin the Martian helm” for his dog through the site.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 has lost some steam into late afternoon but was still up 27 points at 6,665 at around 2.45pm.

2.15pm: Trainline heading in the wrong direction after broker downgrade

The FTSE 100 did briefly rise above 6,700 but like a nervous bather dipping a toe into a chilly sea, it has since retreated.

London’s index of leading shares is up 48 points (0.7%) at 6,687 with educational publisher Pearson PLC (LON:PSON), up 5.1% at 754.54p, leading the advance.

Utility SSE PLC (LON:SSE), up 0.1% at 1,526.5p, was underperforming the index despite the stock being upgraded by Investec to ‘buy’ from ‘hold’, with the target price staying at 1,670p.

In other broker action, online travel ticket outfit Trainline PLC (LON:TRN) reversed 4.3% to 387.6p after JPMorgan switched to a neutral stance from an ‘overweight’ recommendation with an unchanged target price of 382p.

READ Trainline to face unavoidable earnings cuts, says JP Morgan

The top riser in London was Marechale Capital PLC (LON:MAC) after it raised£250,000 through the issue od shares at 1.25p a pop.

The shares shot up 184% to 4.05p after it was revealed that chief executive Patrick Booth-Clibborn bought 1.6mln shares at the knockdown price, raising his stake to 12.7%.

Chris Akers, who also bought some shares, lifted his stake to 9.9% of the company’s enlarged share capital.

1.15pm: IMF raises outlook for the world economy 

Some good news from the World Economic Outlook at the virtual Davos meeting, The International Monetary Fund the iMFhas upgraded the outlook for the global economy.

The bad news is that the IMF has downgraded its forecasts for the UK economy in 2021.

The UK economy is tipped to grow by 4.5% this year after contracting by around 10% in 2020. Previously (in October) the IMF had forecast the UK economy would bounce back 5.9%.

The world economy is forecast to grow by 5.5% this year, which represents an improvement on the IMF’s previous forecast of a 5.2% improvement.

The IMF reckons the outlook for the global economy has been boosted by “expectations of a vaccine-powered strengthening of activity later in the year and additional policy support in a few large economies”.

In the London stock market, the FTSE 100 is knocking on the door of 6,700; in fact, it is just point short of it, up 60 points (0.9%) on the day.

12.10pm: Dow Jones and S&P 500 to open higher

With the results season in full swing, US indices are set to open broadly firmer, although an earnings beat/miss here or there could change that.

Spread betting quotes indicate that the Dow Jones industrial average, which lost ground yesterday, will open 105 points higher at 31,065 while the Nasdaq Composite, which advanced yesterday, is set to open 139 points lower at 13,497.

The S&P 500 is tipped to add 7 points to yesterday’s gains at 3,862.

We’ve already had several heavy hitters weigh in with earnings updates; industrial holding companies General Electric and 3M went their separate ways, with the former missing forecasts with its earnings per share while the latter topped expectations.

Drugs maker Johnson & Johnson reported better than expected earnings, as did defence and aerospace giant Raytheon, although the latter’s results also included a cautious outlook statement that prompted the shares to be marked lower in pre-market trading.

For those who ignore earnings and just trade on momentum, there is always glamour stock Tesla but it is currently having its thunder stolen (or hype purloined, if you prefer) by Game Stop, an old school video games retailer that is on the proverbial roller-coaster (tycoon) ride.

Market commentators appear to be relishing a battle between the Masters of the Universe, aka hedge funds, and spotty nerds on Reddit who are pumping the price of Game Stop, which some hedge funds have heavily “shorted” (sold stock they don’t own in the hope of buying it back cheaper later).

The shares were up 18% in screen-based trading ahead of the opening bell.

Well, punting shares makes a change from playing “Stock Market Bubble Mania” …

“It’s been a decidedly odd 24 hours as while global sentiment suddenly dipped in the US morning session, we simultaneously saw some astonishing moves higher in names that are currently the darlings of the Robinhood/Reddit world. Both then normalised into the close but what a round trip,” said Jim Reid of Deutsche Bank in his “Early Morning Reid” missive.

“Round trip” is American for “return journey” but enough about returns.

Reid confesses to being an erstwhile BlackBerry fan and fearing the worst for the Canadian technology company behind it (Research in Motion, as it once was) once Apple and Samsung ate its lunch.

“However, BlackBerry shares have surged +301% since the end of October and are up +172% YTD and +28.4% yesterday (+48.4% at the days highs and at levels not seen since October 2011). It seems this has been a popular stock with online stock chat rooms (on Reddit). Another stock that is getting attention for similar reasons is GameStop. Since the end of October it’s up +633%, +308% YTD and +146% at the peak yesterday before closing +18.1%. So a wild ride and the retail day traders seem to be targeting and battling institutional shorts at the moment with the former generally winning in recent days and weeks,” Reid said.

It’s just as well we have a busy results schedule today as there is not much to get excited about on the macroeconomic front.

The Conference Board consumer confidence reading for January is expected to edge up to 89.0 from 88.6 in December while the Richmond Fed manufacturing survey is tipped to be unchanged from December’s 19.0 reading.

In London, the CBI has released its distributive trades survey and in the words of Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, it looks like January’s lockdown was a lot tougher for retailers than November’s.

Retail sales volumes fell in the year to January, having been broadly stable in December, according to the latest monthly CBI Distributive Trades Survey.

The survey of 133 firms, including 66 retailers, took place between 22 December and 14 January, a period in which restrictions across the UK gradually tightened, with the whole country in a full lockdown by January 5.

“The CBI’s survey is broadly consistent with our assumption that retail sales volumes will fall by about 5% month-to-month in January, in response to the imposition of the current lockdown. The reported sales balance fell to its lowest level since May, though as it does not reflect the magnitude of any changes in sales being experienced by retailers, it would be overly pessimistic to assume that sales will decline to May’s level, which was 15% below December’s,” Tombs said.

“The list of retailers that still can open is broader than in Q2, and non-essential retailers are able to provide click-and-collect services. Even so, all available evidence currently suggests that sales in January will fall well below the level during the second, half-hearted lockdown in November,” Tombs predicted.

The FTSE 100 has perked up in the last hour and the assault on 6,700 is back on with the index up 55 points (0.8%) at 6,694.

10.50am: Miners slow the Footsie's progress

Weak miners are sapping some of the buoyancy from the FTSE 100 this morning.

The Footsie was up 35 points (0.5%) at 6,674 having earlier looked like it was making a serious assault on the 6,700 level.

That assault has fallen short largely because the likes of Glencore PLC (LON:GLEN), Polymetal International PLC (LON:POLY) and Fresnillo PLC (LON:FRES) are down by more than 1% as miners fall out of favour.

Joining the miners in the doghouse are travel-related stocks, such as Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.), which is the worst blue-chip performer, down 5.4% at 92.76p.

“Travel stocks remain in retreat, with variants of Covid-19 unsettling investors, as the possibility of a rapid return to some kind of normality is brought into question,” said Richard Hunter at interactive investor.

“For the likes of Rolls-Royce, heavily dependent on the return of air travel, the ongoing cash burn remains an issue. The company has strengthened its balance sheet and has access to ample liquidity, but the immediate strategy is nonetheless based on a relatively rapid resumption of flying hours,” he added.

Saga PLC (LON:SAGA), the company that targets its products and services at the over-fifty market, was down 3.4% at 268.4p after it revealed it has started talks with its lenders due to the continued suspension of its travel arm as a result of lockdown restrictions.

“In its trading update, Saga confirmed that the insurance business continues to do most of the heavy lifting as travel restrictions remain. The financial position remains secure, although the monthly cash burn is a clear headwind. Even so, the company is projecting an underlying pre-tax profit for the year, despite the challenges,” Hunter reported.

9.45am: Early gains lengthened despite unemployment rate hitting 5%

The FTSE 100 has added to early gains after UK unemployment figures that were not as grisly as they might have been.

London’s top-shares index was up 50 points (0.8%) at 6,689.

The unemployment rate in the three months to November 2020 was estimated at 5.0%, 1.2 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.6 percentage points higher than the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

In the same period, the redundancy rate hit a record high of 14.2 per thousand.

The claimant count increased slightly in December 2020 to 2.6 million; this includes both those working with low income or hours and those who are not working.

Year-on-year growth in average total pay (including bonuses) among employees for the three months September to November 2020 increased to 3.6%, and growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) also increased to 3.6%.

“The UK jobs market stabilised towards the end of 2020 after months of turbulence but with the furlough scheme due to end in April, there's a risk we see the jobless rate rise towards the 6-7% region if support is removed before all sectors are fully reopened. Higher costs/trade barriers that have arisen from the new UK-EU deal will also add pressure on hiring,” said James Smith, the economist covering developed markets at ING.

Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the “employment horror show” that was expected to play out in November was cut short by the extension of the furlough scheme.

“The impact of the pandemic has been brutal, despite government support. The employment rate saw its biggest annual drop in over ten years – with employment down 398,000 in a year. This was driven by self-employed people throwing in the towel (down 71,000 to 3.12 million) and part-time workers (down 182,000 to 6.56 million),” Coles said.

“While furlough will keep some employers from having to make difficult decisions about jobs, the longer this goes on, the more risk there is that other costs will push them over the edge. When employers go to the wall, there’s no protection for their employees, so there’s every chance we’re set for more job losses in 2021,” she warned.


8.25am: Small recovery for Footsie

The FTSE 100 made a marginally better than expected start to proceedings on Tuesday as it managed to pull itself into positive territory in the early exchanges.

The index of UK blue-chips rose 16 points to 6,654.69.

The mini-bounce came in the face of tighter travel restrictions that weren’t quite as draconian as had been mooted, which possibly explained the index’s early rise.

“Travel stocks remain in retreat, with variants of COVID-19 unsettling investors, as the possibility of a rapid return to some kind of normality is brought into question,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

“For the likes of Rolls-Royce, heavily dependent on the return of air travel, the ongoing cash burn remains an issue. The company has strengthened its balance sheet and has access to ample liquidity, but the immediate strategy is nonetheless based on a relatively rapid resumption of flying hours.”

Rolls-Royce (LON:RR.) shares fell 7% in the early exchanges after a surprise (but familiarly depressing) update to trading in which it said cash burn would be higher than anticipated in 2021.

On the FTSE 250, drugmaker Indivior’s (LON:INDV) shares soared 13% after reaching a settlement with Reckitt Benckiser (LON:RB.) over a long-running legal dispute.

CMC Markets (LON:CMC), the financial trading firm, was up 6.6% after moving its servers to Amazon Web Services.

Ticketing firm Trainline (LON:TRN) lost 6% after being downgraded by JP Morgan.

Finally, the latest economic data showed the UK unemployment rate crept up to 5% in the three months to November from 4.9% the previous year with the hospitality sector bearing the brunt of the job losses.

Proactive news headlines:

Jersey Oil and Gas PLC (LON:JOG) has released new and upgraded contingent resource estimates for the Buchan oil project in the North Sea Following dynamic reservoir work conducted by Schlumberger the company has set P50 contingent technically recoverable resources of 126mln barrels of oil for the Buchan oil field, which will be the central part of the Greater Buchan Area (GBA) hub project. It marks an improvement from a prior estimate of around 82mln barrels, and lifts the whole GBA inventory to 162mln barrels.

Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy (LON:FARN) (First North:FARON) said the US Food & Durg Administration (FDA) has approved the phase II/III trial of a drug being deployed to combat the acute symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Traumakine, an intravenous interferon beta-1a drug, will be given to people who have been hospitalised but who do not yet need ventilation. It will be administered before corticosteroids are given. The aim is to prevent systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) – and by extension improve sufferers’ condition and reduce the death rate among patients.

Ergomed PLC (LON:ERGO) shares pushed higher after the provider of services to the pharmaceutical sector said 2020 earnings would be ahead of expectations. The company said it expects revenue for 2020 will be around £86.4mln, up 26.5% on 2019’s £68.3mln and in line with current market expectations. The positive trading performance seen in both Ergomed's pharmacovigilance (PV) and clinical research organisation (CRO) businesses during the first six months of the year continued through to the year-end and resulted in a strong order book at the start of 2021.

Eco Atlantic Oil and Gas Ltd (LON:ECO) said it has launched plans that will see it become a “diversified, growth-oriented energy company”. The firm has set up a new company, Eco Atlantic Renewables, which will seek to source, acquire, and develop exclusive renewable solar energy projects. "We are not a management team that likes to sit and wait for outcomes,” said Gil Holzman, Eco chief executive in a statement. “Following several months of extensive strategic work and identification of multiple projects by the management team and Board of Directors, this exciting opportunity has crystalised. 

XLMedia PLC (LON:XLM) has reiterated a “multi-track approach to recovering the casino vertical” alongside what it said is a fundamental rationalisation of its asset portfolio. In a trading update for the year to December 31, 2020, the digital marketing specialist said the portfolio rationalisation involved “significantly reducing the overall number of sites and upgrading the quality of those remaining, with a concentration on highly-engaging content and enhanced functionality to drive increased traffic and build consumer loyalty”.

City Pub Group Plc (LON:CPG) said its cash burn has been “significantly reduced” to cope with the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, while also outlining actions that it said will allow it to “rapidly take advantage of pent-up consumer demand and opportunities that will undoubtedly emerge” once restrictions are lifted. In an update for the year to December 27, 2020, the AIM-listed publican said cash burn has been reduced to £300,000 per month following a number of cost-saving measures including furloughing almost all of its staff, reducing director salaries and negotiating with its landlords.

Sativa Wellness Group Inc (LON:SWEL) has said it is aiming to achieve a UK FSA novel foods accreditation on or before the deadline of March 31 as the cannabidiol (CBD) specialist laid out its plans for the coming year. In a business update, the company said it is aiming to drive sales of its Goodbody brand of CBD wellness products in the UK and launch them in Europe. The firm said it will commence online sales on its Goodbody store websites as well as expanding its product range to focus on lower price point products as well as adding more cosmetic products to deliver increased consumer and trade sales.

Personal Group Holdings PLC (LON:PGH), the employee benefits and services provider, believes it is well-placed to capitalise on an increased focus on employee well being. Protecting employees' health and wellbeing became a key focus for all employers in 2020 and with 72% of UK managers naming wellbeing as a top priority in 2021, the company said its three divisions stand ready to help them deliver on this. In a trading update covering the whole of 2020, the group said that after a solid first-half performance, it continued to trade robustly in the second half of the year during what it described as “a most challenging period”.

SDX Energy PLC (LON:SDX) has set its 2021 production guidance at 5,620 to 5,920 barrels oil equivalent and said it plans to spend some US$25mln to US$26.5mln of capex. The Egpyt and Morocco focused firm noted that the production guidance range is slightly lower than the like-for-like run-rate last year. “I am pleased to provide our production and capex guidance for 2021, where after a very solid year of production in 2020, we continue on a similar profile, albeit with some contingency worked in for maintenance in Egypt,” said Mark Reid, chief executive in a statement.

ADES International Holding PLC (LON:ADES), a leading oil & gas drilling and production services provider in the Middle East and North Africa, said it has secured a new contract in the Gulf of Suez. The contract, secured with a top-tier client, covers a firm six-month period, with the option to extend for an additional six months. The daily rate for the contract will be similar to a previous contract held by the company. The contract further strengthens ADES's position and revenue visibility in Egypt. The new contract is expected to commence in February 2021.

CMC Markets PLC (LON:CMCX), the online trading platform operator, has selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) to speed up the next phase of its digital transformation. The adoption of AWS will provide the agility, security, and resilience for CMC Markets to deliver on its ambitious product development pipeline, the company said. By outsourcing the management of network servers, CMC Markets will free up valuable development hours, taking its delivery time for new product innovations from six months to six weeks, it told investors.

Supermarket Income REIT PLC (LON:SUPR) said it has bought a Morrison’s store in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, from Aberdeen Standard Investments for £30mln. The total amount paid (excluding acquisition costs) represents a combined net initial yield of 5.0%. Built in the 1980s, the supermarket was refurbished and extended in 2011 to cover 37,000 square feet.

Anglo Asian Mining PLC (LON:AAZ), the gold producer focussed on Azerbaijan, is to pay a special dividend of US$0.015 per share in respect of the year ended December 31, 2020. The dividend will be paid on March 11, 2021.

BB Healthcare Trust PLC (LON:BBH) announced that it has renewed and amended its multi-currency revolving credit facility (RCF). The lender has been novated from Scotiabank (Ireland) Designated Activity Company to The Bank of Nova Scotia, London Branch. The company's borrowing policy is unchanged. Under the terms of the amended RCF, the company may draw down loans up to an aggregate value of US$150mln. The new facility will expire in January 2022.

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC (LON:BPC) has said that, following its announcement on January 12, 2021, regarding the exercise of the Company Put option with an institutional investment fund managed by Lombard Odier Asset Management, the company has issued 9,375,000 warrants to advisors in settlement of certain fees for this transaction.  The warrants are exercisable for a period of 3 years at an exercise price of 2p per share.

Remote Monitored Systems plc (LON:RMS) said it has been notified that Paul Ryan, previous non-executive chairman of the Company, has exercised a further 7,142,857 options at a price of 1.4p each. The consideration received by the company will be £100,000.

Condor Gold PLC (LON:CNR) (TSX:COG) said that after receiving notice for the exercise of warrants, it is issuing 83,333 new ordinary shares with a nominal value of 20p each in the capital of the company at a subscription price of 31p per share, for which the company has received gross proceeds of £25,833.

Alpha Financial Markets Consulting PLC (LON:AFM), a leading global provider of specialist consultancy services to the Asset and Wealth Management industry, has announced that Investec Bank has been appointed as its Nominated Adviser, in addition to its existing role as joint broker alongside Berenberg, with immediate effect.

Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (NASDAQ:TLSA) (LON:TILS), a biotechnology company focused on innovative therapeutics for oncology, inflammation, and infectious diseases has published an updated presentation to its website at https://ir.tizianalifesciences.com/presentation. The presentation contains no new material information but gives an overview of all of the company's current and active development pipeline, consolidating information the subject of previous announcements, including the potential of Foralumab as a lymphodepletion agent in CAR-T therapies for cancer. The company's budgeted expenditure for the full year 2021 remains $30mmln and budgeted expenditure for 2022 remains $28mln; in both cases the expenditure totals include all clinical and general and administrative expenditure. Cash and cash equivalents as of December 31, 2020, stood at US$62mln.

Sareum Holdings PLC (LON:SAR), the specialist drug development company delivering targeted small molecule therapeutics to improve the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases, has said its chief executive officer, Dr Tim Mitchell, is participating in a virtual interview at the Edison Open House: Global Healthcare 2021 event, taking place online between 26 and 28 January 2021. Dr Mitchell's session will take place between 2.00pm and 3.00pm GMT today, Tuesday, January 26, 2021. The following link can be used to register: https://www.lsegissuerservices.com/spark/edison-open-house-global-healthcare-2021 

6:50am: Flat start predicted 

The FTSE 100 is set to make a very hesitant start on Tuesday ahead of UK unemployment numbers due out later this morning.

London’s blue-chip equity index has been tipped to open just 2 points lower by spread-betters in the City, after closing down 56 points or 0.8%at 6,638.85 on Monday.

Overnight, Wall Street had a mixed time, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average index falling 37 points or 0.1% to close at 30,960, but the S&P 500 rising 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite climbing 0.7% to reach another record close.

The tech-fueled US index was boosted by trader optimism over the start of earnings season for big tech, starting this evening with Microsoft and tomorrow with Apple, Tesla and Facebook.

“The resilience of US markets appears to be being driven by the exuberance of retail investors or Robinhood traders, who appear to be operating in a swarm-like manner helping to drive significant amounts of volatility in a range of US stocks,” said market analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

Back home in Blighty, labour market data is due at 7am, with the headline unemployment rate expected to rise above 5% in the three months to November for the first time since early 2016, before the Brexit referendum.

Ongoing job cuts are also likely to be reflected in a further monthly drop in payrolls and a rise in the more timely December claimant count rate, having increased to 7.4% in November.

“With an economic reopening now put back even further, probably into Q2 of this year at the earliest, it is quite likely that further job losses will come in the weeks and months ahead, even if the government does come up with some extra help in any March budget,” said Hewson.

Around the markets:

  • Pound: down 0.2% to US$1.3642
  • Gold: flat at US$1,855.56
  • Oil: down 0.7% to US$55.50
  • Bitcoin: down 4% at US$31,902

6.45am: Early Markets - Asia / Australia

Asian markets were lower on Tuesday even as major indices on Wall Street saw fresh closing highs overnight.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong led losses among the region’s major markets by falling 2.19%, closely followed by South Korea’s Kospi which dropped 2.14%.

Mainland Chinese stocks were also lower, with the Shanghai composite slipping 1.27% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.96%.

Australian markets were closed on Tuesday for the Australia Day holiday.

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