FTSE 100 opens firmly higher, aided by bounce-back and Brexit stocks; Dixons Carphone ahead after return to profit

The UK index of blue-chip stocks was 72 points higher at 6,585.12 in early trading

  • FTSE 100 index jumps 72 points
  • Christmas restrictions seen unchanged
  • Fed policy decision eyed

8.40am: Strong early progress

Bounce-back and Brexit stocks dominated the FTSE 100, which opened in the green on Wednesday for the first time this week.

The UK index of blue-chip stocks was 72 points higher at 6,585.12 in early trading.

The mood appeared to be a positive one ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting – though the consensus is that US rate-setters will sit on their hands.

Worries over tighter Christmas coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions have abated, which may have helped lighten the mood in the Square Mile.

Traders, meanwhile, were betting once more on a return to near normality as vaccines are rolled out on both sides of the Atlantic.

The logic follows that international travel may soon become a viable option for millions, which at least in part explains the presence of British Airways and Iberia owner IAG () at the top of the Footsie list of risers with a 2.6% advance.

In IAG’s vapour trail (and up 2.3%) was Melrose (), the engineer and owner of , the technology firm that supports the airlines.

Whitbread nudged 2.1%  higher ‘early doors’ with its Premier Inn chain seen as a beneficiary of an uptick in travel post-restrictions.

The builders, meanwhile, were also well bid. As oft-discussed in this column, they are a proxy for the state of Brexit talks on the assumption that a no-deal exit from the EU will likely act as a bromide for the sector, while an accord could provide an economic tonic.

While the argument is more nuanced than that given above, the outlook for the likes () – up 2.5% – and Barratt () – ahead 2% – appeared a little cheerier.

On the FTSE 250, there was an abundance of Christmas cheer for electronics retailer Dixons Carphone (LON:DC.), which jumped 12.5% after its latest trading update.

“Dixons Carphone has again delivered a blockbusting set of numbers, driven by its agility in negotiating a rapidly changing trading environment,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

Proactive news headlines:

() shares soared in Wednesday’s early deals after the company unveiled what is described as a  “game changing” acquisition, picking up Atomic Oil & Gas LLC. The transaction has a reported deal value of US$54mln – comprising a US$1mln deposit, US$26mln of assumed debt, US$23mln of debt and cash payments, plus US$4mln in shares. It delivers producing assets in the US state of Wyoming, the Barron Flats Shannon Unit (57.7% owned by Atomic) and Cole Creek Unit (66.7% owned by Atomic).

AFC Energy () has signed a strategic partnership with Swiss electrical systems giant ABB to develop products for the electric vehicle charger market. The non-exclusive agreement will see the two companies work together to develop a bespoke high power EV charger that will be sold through ABB’s market channels from the second half of 2021. AFC said it will supply its fuel cell technology with ABB providing the energy storage know-how and market-leading DC high power EV charge points. 

() has told the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) it intends to import and distribute its 96 SARS-CoV-2 kit in the US prior to emergency use authorisation (EUA). The company said it had taken the decision in order to support its collaboration agreement with Beckman Coulter that will see the pair bring to the market a fully automated coronavirus (COVID-19) testing solution. It also wants to “exploit commercial opportunities”. Genedrive pointed out the FDA does not object to the distribution of SARS-CoV-2 test kits without emergency use sign-off under certain defined conditions as coronavirus cases in the US continue to soar.

() has told investors that its 50% owned Algoa-Gamtoos license joint venture, offshore South Africa, will advance the project into the next phase of exploration. Operator New Age Energy, which also has 50% of the project, has formally agreed a second exploration period under the licence, Tower said in a statement. It will run for a two-year period and includes the obligation to shoot 300 square kilometres of 3D seismic data.

(), the financial services specialist in the growing Senior Life Settlement asset class is announced that it has qualified for trading on the OTCQB in the United States operated by Alpha’s ordinary shares of £0.001 each will commence trading today on the OTCQB Market under the ticker symbol “ALPGF”. Alpha’s Ordinary Shares will continue to trade on the London Stock Exchange’s Standard List market under the symbol “ALGW”. Gobind Sahney, CEO of Alpha, commented: “This is another milestone in Alpha’s development as we drive increased awareness in the US of our BlackOak Alpha Growth Fund. We are marketing to over 30,000 Registered Investment Advisors who wish to learn more about the fund’s general partner and follow Alpha’s growth and invest in its shares.”

() said it has invested a total of US$150,000 in return for 15mln tokens in the Lido project. Lido is a liquid Ethereum 2.0 staking solution that allows users to earn Ethereum (ETH) staking rewards with no lock-ups or minimum deposits, while also contributing to the security of the Ethereum 2.0 blockchain. Staking is when cryptocurrency held in a digital wallet are used to support the security and operations of a blockchain network. The tokens are locked in the wallet and in return, the staker receives financial or another form of reward.

Condor Gold () said it has started initial site preparation for the processing plant facility at its Mina La India in Nicaragua, including laying down access roads and ground clearance. The total area being cleared is 11.26 hectares with the work estimated to be completed in 3 to 4 months, Condor added. In a statement, Mark Child, chairman and chief executive, said: “The initiation of site preparation at Mina La India marks a significant landmark in the Company’s development as it transitions from a gold exploration and development company to a gold producer.”

() said it has confirmed an order for 251 bespoke sets from Inveraray Castle in Scotland. The AIM-listed firm said the order has followed a successful tour of its BRICKLIVE Fantasy Kingdom exhibition at the castle earlier this year. The sets, which are of the building itself, are being designed using drone footage and will consist of 1,200 bricks each.

() has updated investors on ongoing exploration drilling at the New Luika gold mine (NLGM) in South Western Tanzania, which it said has unveiled “encouraging results”. The AIM-listed Africa-focused gold explorer said nine diamond core holes have been drilled at the Luika deposit totalling 4,042 metres with further drilling ongoing, while 28 holes have been drilled at the new open pit Porcupine South target totalling 2,466 metres. Highlights of the Luika drilling included 3.58 metres grading at 14.71 grams per tonne (g/t) of gold while drilling at Porcupine South included an intersection of 7 metres grading at 7.26 g/t of gold.

FastForward Innovations Ltd () said it has been issued with £750,000-worth of convertible loan notes in as part of a £15mln fundraiser by the medical cannabis specialist. The investment company said the 12-month notes were acquired at a discount with FastForward paying £705,000 for the freshly issued debt. Remaining conservative, FastForward said it will carry the 2.3% EMMAC stake on the balance sheet at its current valuation of £2.4mln.

() said its chief operating officer, Berry Beumer, has been appointed as an executive director of the company with immediate effect. Beumer initially joined the detection technology specialist as COO in 2015 and has “played an instrumental role in the growth of the business through the expansion of Kromek’s US customer base and operations in both medical imaging and nuclear detection”, the company said. Meanwhile, Kromek said Rakesh Sharma, who joined the group as a non-executive director in October, will become its non-executive chairman after incumbent Sir Peter Williams retires from the board on January 1, 2021.

accesso Technology Group PLC (), the premier technology solutions provider to leisure, entertainment and cultural markets, announced that Jody Madden has been appointed as a non-executive director of the group, effective from January 1, 2021. Madden is an experienced technology leader, and is currently chief executive officer of Foundry, a London-based creative software developer for the Media and Entertainment and Digital Design industries. She has 20 years of experience in Media and Entertainment and held a range of senior roles at Digital Domain, Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic prior to joining Foundry. Bill Russell, non-executive chairman of accesso commented: “Jody’s leadership experience at the intersection of the software and entertainment industries will be a great asset for us. She understands our mission to redefine the guest experience through technology and will provide invaluable stewardship as we drive forward with our long-term growth plan. We are delighted to add Jody’s passion and expertise to the Board and look forward to welcoming her to Accesso.” Madden added: “I’m excited to be joining Accesso at a crucial moment in the Company’s development. The business has shown great resilience and adaptability in managing a challenging year so far and remains well-set to execute a very exciting strategy for the future. I look forward to using my own experience to help support the management team as it executes that plan and builds Accesso back towards growth.”

PLC (), the UK property investment company, has announced that, after nearly seven years of service, Professor Barry Gilbertson will retire as senior independent non-executive director of the company with effect from January 1, 202, as part of its board succession plan. The group’s board said it would like to thank him for his significant contribution to the development of the company since his appointment at IPO in February 2014. Gilbertson will take on the role of executive chairman of Custodian , which is owned by , the company’s discretionary investment manager,  with effect from January 1, 2021.  Custodian REIT added that, with immediate effect, Matthew Thorne, currently a non-executive director has been appointed to the senior independent director role. It said the process to appoint a further non-executive director is underway.

() has provided additional details related to the US$20mln funding arrangement announced on Monday. It noted that the counterparty in the funding agreement is 1798 Volantis Fund Ltd, a fund managed by Lombard Odier Asset Management. The company also detailed that a cash payment back to the fund may be required if any sale of new shares is made by Volantis at a price less than 115% of the subscription price (which would be 2.3p). The payment would make up the difference and the company said the agreement has no capacity for the payment to be made in shares.

(), the AIM-listed mining company, has said the previously announced detailed term sheet from the international banking institution, linked to Vast’s now 100%-owned Baita Plai Polymetallic Mine in Romania, was presented to the bank’s credit committee at its meeting held yesterday, December 15, 2020, and the final decision is being considered by the committee members. The company said it will update the market regarding approval status once confirmed by the bank.

PLC () the AIM-listed metals exploration and development company said it has received notices to exercise warrants over 43,000,000 new ordinary shares of 0.1p each in the company at an exercise price of 0.p each, with subscription monies of £301,000 received by the company. Paul Johnson, chief executive officer of Power Metal Resources commented: “With this announcement today Power Metal has now received over £1.2 million from warrant exercises since August 2020. Today with the exercise monies received, the Company’s working capital of cash and listed investments exceeded £2 million putting Power Metal Resources in a robust financial position as we approach the calendar year-end.  Power Metal is currently on track or ahead of all corporate and exploration programme costs and has no debt.  As we enter 2021 our strong financial position will enable us to keep extensive exploration activities running across the Company. In addition, as announced the Company is working on corporate activities around a number of its projects with a view to providing shareholders with regular news flow in 2021.”

Group PLC () has said its AGM will be held at the company’s offices, 7th floor, 30 Panton Street, London SW1Y 4AJ at 3.0 pm on March 18, 2021. By that time, the company hopes that conditions relating to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will have improved sufficiently such that it can welcome shareholders to the meeting. However, the present situation is evolving and the safety of shareholders is paramount. Nearer the time, the group’s directors will consider whether it is appropriate, and in compliance with government guidelines, to invite shareholders to join the AGM in person. The company will notify shareholders of the arrangements for the AGM through its website at www.impaxam.com

6.50am: Front foot start predicted 

The FTSE 100 is expected to open on the front foot on Wednesday as traders await any commentary from the final meeting for 2020 of the US Federal Reserve.

Spread-better IG expects the FTSE 100 to open up 20 points after ending Tuesday’s session 18 points lower at 6,513.

While the Fed is not expected to make any changes to interest rates today or unveil any new quantitative easing, investors will be looking for any commentary on the central bank’s willingness to take action should the need arise, particularly with recent data showing signs the US economy could be stalling.

“[Fed Chairman Jerome] Powell has always been very insistent that further central bank support can be relied upon the support the US economy, but he has also been insistent on the need for further fiscal support from those on Capitol Hill as well”, said Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

“In the wake of the recent weaker US payrolls number, and the sharp jump in weekly jobless claims, there does appear to have been progress in this, with the discussions over a new economic aid package currently expected to yield some form of outcome by the end of this week”, he added.

Expectations of a higher open followed a positive performance for Wall Street overnight, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 1.13% at 30,199 while the S&P 500 climbed 1.29% to 3,694 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.25% to 12,595 amid optimism over stimulus negotiations and COVID-19 vaccinations.

The optimism continued in Asia this morning with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up 0.26% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.82%.

On currency markets, the pound was trading relatively flat against the dollar at US$1.345, with UK PMI data later today and any developments in Brexit negotiations likely to provide movement catalysts for sterling.

Around the markets:

  • Sterling: US$1.345, down 0.08%
  • Brent crude: US$50.67 a barrel, down 0.18%
  • Gold: US$1,857 an ounce, up 0.21%
  • Bitcoin: US$19,404, up 1.3%

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/ ustralia

Shares in Asia-Pacific were mostly higher on Wednesday following an overnight rebound on Wall Street as optimism grew over the prospect of another US stimulus package.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 0.26% even as Japan’s exports declined 4.2% in November as compared with a year ago.

China’s Shanghai Composite fell 0.03% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 0.75% and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.54%.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.72% higher as banking, mining and tech stocks made significant gains.


Proactive Australia news:

() (OTCQB:ELLXF) (FRA:E8M) has significantly increased the size of its share purchase plan (SPP) from the initial A$2 million target to around A$12.3 million to accommodate strong shareholder demand after it was significantly oversubscribed.

() has received results described by the company as outstanding in new assays from a recently completed 42-hole, multi-rig drilling campaign at the Carlow Castle Gold-Copper Project in WA’s west Pilbara.

() () (FRA:38A) has received approval from the South Australian Government for its Program for Environment Protection and Rehabilitation (PEPR) for the Campoona Graphite Project.

() (FRA:TN6) has completed a share purchase plan (SPP) for proceeds of $742,000 taking total capital raising funds to $8.742 million following a recent placement.

() has completed an oversubscribed $1.2 million placement to new strategic investors with the aim to accelerate the company’s drug development programs.

() () (FRA:4W0) has observed visible gold in drill hole EZ-20-06 at its Blackdome Elizabeth Gold Project in British Columbia, Canada.

() has enhanced the golden bounty of regional resources within proximity to its Tomingley Gold Operations in Central West NSW with infill results of up to 3 metres at 58.3 g/t from 175 metres at the San Antonio inferred resource.

() resource expansion and greenfields exploration drilling at the Cape Ray Gold Project in Newfoundland, Canada, has continued to deliver shallow hiigh-grade gold intersections including 20 metres at 5.08 g/t at the Isle aux Morts target.

Ltd () has identified multiple near-mine exploration target areas, all within a short trucking distance of the Kayelekera Uranium Mine site in Malawi.

‘s () () (FRA:1X8) wholly-owned subsidiary Mernova Medical Inc has secured an agreement with the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), operating as the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), formally recognising Mernova as a supplier.

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