Shortly after the opening bell in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.17% while the S&P 500 sank 0.13% and the Nasdaq fell 0.29%

  • FTSE 100 slides 11 points
  • Footfall higher than expected as shops reopen in England
  • Slow start for US stocks

2.40pm: Wall Street starts in the red

The main indices on Wall Street opened in the red on Monday morning as coronavirus infections left investors feeling cautious.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.17% to 33,742 while the S&P 500 sank 0.13% to 4,123 and the Nasdaq fell 0.29% to 13,859.

Traders seem to be awaiting the start of US earnings season, with the major American banks to begin the results cycle this week.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 was slightly lower into later afternoon, down 11 points at 6,904 at around 2.40pm.

1.50pm: FTSE 100 recovers to the doorstep of 6,900

Shoppers are back on the High Street today in England, with footfall reportedly about double the level it was a week ago.

Numbers issued by Springboard, the market research group, indicated that footfall was up by almost 350% on the same Monday of last year, during the first lockdown but down by 36% on the corresponding Monday in 2019 (the pre-lockdown era).

Central London shops are suffering even more than the national average, with footfall down more than 70% compared to April 15, 2019.

The New West End Company which represents some 600 businesses in London’s West End, did not seem overly fazed, reporting that footfall was running at around 55% of the usual number of April visitors, with domestic shoppers out in force.

The area relies heavily on the tourist trade, however, and “the West End businesses will continue to need extra government support,” according to Jace Tyrrell, the chief executive officer of the New West End Company.

“This is why we have written to the government to ask for an extension of Sunday trading hours in Britain’s two international centres – London’s West End and Knightsbridge. Greater flexibility on Sundays is vital to attract customers back into the capital, giving them the opportunity to spend what they want, when they want, all the while boosting the wider economy and crucially protecting jobs,” Tyrrell added.

For most of England, however, the return of the dubious delights of trudging along in the freezing cold to nose around the shops has gone better than expected. Springboard had previously predicted that footfall would be up 128.5% today compared to a year ago and 61.8% below the 2019 level.

Having said that, DIY retailer (), which has done well during the lockdown as bodgers across the land took to doing a few household repairs, was down 2.5% at 335.3p while (), the seller of the sort of stuff you used to get in Woolworth’s and which somehow was allowed to stay open during the lockdown on account of its shops selling a few packets of Corn Flakes and a tin of soup now and again, was down 1.8% at 537.2p.

(), the fashion chain, was down 2.0% at 8,132p.

The FTSE 100 was down 17 points (0.2%) at 6,899.

12.05pm: US indices to falter as coronavirus fears return

Fears over rising coronavirus (COVD-19) infection rates are weighing on sentiment on both sides of the Atlantic on Monday.

Spread betting quoted indicate the Dow Jones industrial average will open 67 points lower to 33,733, the S&P 500 will shed 9 points at 4,120 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 will slide 56 points to 13,789.

“The earnings season is kicking off this week with major banks announcing first-quarter results, a year after the Covid-19 pandemic halted the global economy. As analysts have become more optimistic, earnings expectations for S&P 500 companies have been rising over the past two months and are anticipated to grow 25% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a year ago,” observed Hussein Sayed at FXTM.

“With bond yields continuing to move gradually higher, forward earnings need to be brought a little lower. So, either shares prices need to correct to the downside or earnings have to beat markets expectations. Given that most technical indicators are reflecting overbought signals on the S&P 500, it seems like earnings will need to beat expectations by a significant margin to justify another leg higher.

“JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and will all be announcing results on Wednesday morning, followed by and Citigroup on Thursday. Financials have been the second-best performing sector so far this year rising 19%, with the energy sector topping that with gains of 27% so far this year,” the analyst added.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell gave a US telly interview yesterday in which he said the US economy is at an inflexion point. Well, it makes a change from being at an infection point …

“We feel like we’re at a place where the economy’s about to start growing much more quickly and job creation coming in much more quickly”, Powell told .

“There are something like 8.5, 9 million people, maybe even more than that depending on how you count it, who were working in February of last year before the pandemic and have lost their jobs”, Powell admitted.

“Turning to the week ahead now, the pandemic will remain in focus as the new case count is still moving higher at the global level. In the week ending last Friday April 9, the numbers recorded by John Hopkins University showed a 4.45mln increase in cases globally, which compares with increases of 4.11mln, 3.78mln and 3.29mln in the three weeks before that, so we’ve definitely seen an acceleration in the past month, although the rate of increase is still shy of the peaks in December and January,” said Jim Reid & co at .

In London, the public is less concerned with COVID-19 and more concerned with the chances of catching a chill as people venture out to the hairdressers or the pub (or the pub in Liverpool that has a haircutting salon on the premises).

“The presence of snow in parts of the country was a nasty surprise as retailers and leisure operators opened their doors for the first time in months. They will be hoping the white stuff doesn’t settle and that sunshine quickly brightens the public’s mood,” said Russ Mould, the investment director at AJ Bell.

“Reports on social media would suggest that hairdressers and barbers needn’t worry as demand is sky-high. A lot of pubs have also seen strong bookings, which means all eyes are on the retail sector to see if people are happy to get back in the shops or whether they’ve become addicted to the online channel.

“The jury is still out judging by Monday’s early share price reactions,” Mould said, alluding to morning declines for Primark owner (), tabletop miniatures wargames flogger Games Workshop PLC (), newsagent () and sportswear pedlar ().

The FTSE 100 was down 25 points (0.4%) at 6,891.

10.50am: Tepid rally

London’s blue-chips have rallied a little but the FTSE 100 remains in negative territory.

The Footsie was down 26 points (0.4%) to 6,889.

“The UK markets appear to be showing signs of ‘sell the fact’ move today, with high-street names weakening on reopening day,” said ’s Josh Mahony.

“The reopening of non-essential stores, pubs, gyms, and hairdressers provide hope that the worst is now behind us. Certainly, Boris Johnson will be desperate to ensure that there are no more lockdowns from here on in. Certainly, with the UK now having over 70% of the population protected through vaccination or having caught and recovered from Covid, the basis is there for the UK to finally enter a new pathway towards normality,” he added.

PLC () defied the trend, rising 0.3% t0 43.4p after upgraded the stock to ‘buy’ from ‘hold’, although the target price remains unchanged at 50p.

In other broker action, upgraded fund manager () to ‘equal-weight’ from ‘underweight’; the target price remains at 240p, 22p above the current share price, which remains unchanged on the day at 218p.

9.40am: Few reasons to celebrate

The pubs may be open today but the stock market is giving investors few reasons to celebrate.

The FTSE 100 was down 56 points (0.8%) at 6,861, with mining stocks responsible for much of the damage.

In contrast, on what is clearly a “risk-off” day, defensive favourites such as utility companies PLC () and United Utilities PLC () were among the best blue-chip performers, although rises of 0.8% and 0.5% (respectively) were not much to write home about.

Let’s face it, if you are writing home about the share price movements of utility companies even on a good day then you probably need to get down the pub garden, but remember to take your overcoat and scarf.

“Falling commodity stocks put an end to the FTSE’s 13-month peak. A 0.9% decline from Brent Crude, and a sharper 1.4% slide from copper, sent the index’s weighty oil and mining stocks lower, and left the FTSE itself down close to 50 points,” said Connor Campbell at .

“By contrast – and almost certainly contributing to the FTSE’s losses – the pound rose 0.1% against the dollar and 0.3% against the euro. This as sterling tries to reset after a rough set of sessions last week.

“The lacklustre showing in the UK comes despite the second big step in the country’s re-opening efforts, and news that business optimism has hit a record high in the UK as firms anticipate a post-covid comeback,” he added.

Never mind UK firms looking for a “post-COVID comeback”, Spanish outfit Ferrovial Group must be desperate for an end to travel restrictions, based on Heathrow Airport’s traffic numbers for March.

The airport’s passenger numbers were down 82.6% from March 2020 – Mother Nature sends her thanks – but cargo volumes were 21.4% higher.

PLC () is a company that is hardly ever in the news <cough> and it made a bid for the spotlight today with an update on the Farxiga COVID-19 DARE-19 phase III trial.

The trial did not achieve statistical significance for the primary endpoint of prevention measuring organ dysfunction and all-cause mortality, and the primary endpoint of recovery measuring a change in clinical status (from early recovery to death), at 30 days.

The shares were barely changed on the news.

8.40am: Lacklustre start to the week/day/drinking session

The FTSE 100 made a dull start to proceedings amid niggling worries over inflation and continued concerns about the economic impact of lockdown.

While the UK is at stage two in its phased emergence from restrictions with 40mln vaccination jabs thus far administered, other western countries are playing catch-up.

Indeed, in mainland Europe, France and Italy have been stricken by coronavirus third waves.

On the market, the miners, sensitive to the economic growth outlook, were down early on. Glencore () and Anglo American () were each off 1.1%.

China’s US$2.8bn fine for Alibaba caused shockwaves locally as shares in tech rivals such as Tencent and and Baidu fell.

Here in London shares in Hong Kong-headquartered () fell 1.4% as the tremors were felt outside Beijing and Shanghai.

The receding prospects for international travel over the summer left easyJet () and Wizz () grounded. The shares were off 2.5% and 1.8% respectively.

On the up was CX4 Discovery (LON:CX4D), which advanced 19% after it inked a licensing deal worth almost £370mln with international drugs giant Sanofi.

Proactive headlines:

() has inked a worldwide licensing deal with international drug giant Sanofi worth up to €414mln for its oral IL-17A inhibitor programme.

() has delineated seven high priority targets at the Elizabeth Hill silver project in Australia, following the completion of a litho-structural interpretation and target-generation study. The project area includes the Mining Lease containing the historic Elizabeth Hill silver mine and the Munni Munni North exploration Lease that surrounds it.

() is advancing a metallurgical testing programme designed to investigate the potential production of tantalum and lithium as by-products from its producing tin project at Uis. The Uis tin mine is already known to contain an estimated 6,091 tonnes of tantalum and 450,265 tonnes of lithium oxide (Li2 O).

() said it is well-positioned to take advantage of the expected upturn in the sector in the second half of 2021, particularly in the UK and the US.

() has updated investors with further details around the launch of a cryptocurrency postage stamp by the government of Gibraltar and a non-fungible token (NFT) counterpart exclusively produced by the firm in collaboration with Vietnam-based RedFOX Labs.

PLC (LON:CMRS) announced better-than-expected results from preliminary drilling on the PR Ploutonic Resources Ltd licences in Cyprus, ahead of a vote by its shareholders on the acquisition of privately held PRL towards the end of this month.

(LON:INST) saw underlying earnings (EBITDA) rise in 2020 while it said it has “good visibility” for the current year with growing recurring revenues.

() announced it is about to complete fundraising plans proposed in January.

said promising data highlighting the potential of its liquid biopsy in breast and lung cancers will be released in two posters at virtual meetings taking place this week and next month.

() said first-quarter trading in its current year has been “ahead of management expectations” as the firm reported a profit surge in 2020 driven by changes to its business caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

() has said despite its previous announcement on March 19 that its shares would be cancelled on the London Stock Exchange on April 21, the company has now postponed the formal cancellation date to a date, yet to be determined, that will coincide with the re-admission of the shares on the LSE. Subject to regulatory approval, the firm now expects the re-admission of its shares to occur towards the end of May or in June and it is now intended that the cancellation and re-admission will occur simultaneously at such time.

PLC () () said the broker option granted to Peterhouse in connection with its placing and subscription announced on April 8 closed on April 9 and was “significantly oversubscribed”. The cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp product supplier said the broker option has been exercised in respect of around 57.7mln shares, an increase of around 100% on the original number in the option, which on exercise will raise a further £2.02mln for the company, taking its total fundraise to £7.04mln.

(LON:THR, ASX:THR, OTCQB: THORF) said field work has started at its Ragged Range gold project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

() has reinstated the dividend and said that trading in the year to date has been encouraging and in line with management expectations.

(LON:TXP, ) shares advanced more than 20% after the company told investors that flowback testing of the Cascadura Deep-1 well, in Trinidad, confirmed a ‘liquids rich’ discovery.

() inked a non-binding agreement with Eunisell Limited, a Nigerian owned oil and gas production solutions company, to potentially develop the Barracuda oil field in OML 141, in Nigeria.

(LON:88E, ) reported further evidence of oil in the Merlin-1 well, in Alaska.

6.50 am: Dull start predicted 

The FTSE 100 looks set to open the new trading week in the red – taking its cue from Asia’s main markets.

They were held back by nagging inflation concerns and continued worries over the economic impact of the global pandemic.

Here at home, pub gardens are opening, and the population can go for haircuts and spray-on tans, while Covid deaths have slowed to a trickle thanks to the vaccination roll-out.

However, with near neighbours on the continent in the grip of a third wave of infections, the reality of the long-tail nature of the coronavirus outbreak – more than a year on from the lockdown – has begun to set in.

Overnight, the big news came from China where the authorities levied an eyewatering US$2.8bn fine on Alibaba for alleged anticompetitive practices.

Its shares stage a relief rally, while stock in rivals such as Tencent, and Baidu went into reverse amid worries about where else the regulatory sights were being trained.

“Perversely, Alibaba’s stock has rallied as the fine wasn’t as bad as it could have been (a roughly 4% of sales),” noted Jeffrey Halley, an analyst at OANDA.

“However, it is the thought that counts and investors seem concerned that Alibaba will not be the last China tech giant in the fine firing line.”

Back here in the UK, this week will see scheduled corporate updates from Tesco (), JD Sport () and newly-listed ().

Across the Atlantic, we have the kick-off for bank earnings season.

Around the markets

  • Pound US$1.3676 (-0.23%)
  • Bitcoin US$60,165.64 (+0.62%)
  • Gold US$1,737.50  (-0.42%)
  • Brent crude US$62.98 (flat)

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were lower as Alibaba’s shares in Hong Kong jumped after the company was fined US$2.8 billion by Chinese regulators as a result of an anti-monopoly investigation.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong slipped 0.78% while the Shanghai Composite in China fell 0.71%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 declined 0.57% and South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.02%.

Shares in Australia were weaker, with the S&P/ASX 200 trading 0.33% lower.


Proactive Australia news:

Pantoro Limited () (FRA:RKN) has completed its $50 million sole funding expenditure obligation at the Norseman Gold Project and has now formed an unincorporated joint venture.

() () highlighted new data during presentations on the HER-Vaxx cancer immunotherapy program and the CF33 oncolytic virus program during the prestigious American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2021 Annual Meeting at the weekend.

() (FRA:U9V) has launched a partially-underwritten pro-rata renounceable rights issue at $0.005 per share to raise up to $2.65 million before costs.

() welcomes a A$10.7 million expansion of the 2021 exploration budget to A$24.5 million at the Citadel Gold-Copper Joint Venture Project with Rio Tinto Exploration Pty Limited (ASX:RIO).

() (OTCMKTS:AZZVF) (FRA:3A2) has received more strong results from mineral resource drilling at Manono Lithium and Tin Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including 80 metres at 1.80% lithium and 1,119 parts per million tin from 2 metres.

’s () diamond drilling at an 8-Mile target at the 80-% owned Gidji JV Project in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia has intersected visible gold while also extending the Runway porphyry deposit.

Silver Mines Limited () (OTCMKTS:SLVMF) (FRA:SWQ) is on the path to production at its Bowdens Silver Project pending approval of its Environmental Impact Statement from the New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE).

Capital Ltd () enjoyed strong revenue growth in 2020, during a turbulent year when most peers recorded none or declining revenue.

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