• FTSE 100 closes up 11 points
  • Wall Street in record territory
  • M&S to host rival brands

5pm: FTSE closes slightly ahead

FTSE 100 closed in positive territory on Thursday, while US benchmarks forged higher again.

Britain’s blue-chip benchmark finished up around 11 points at 6,736, with miners among the top gainers.

“US markets are leading the way higher today, as fears over rising inflation and yields have been put on the backburner for now,” said Joshua Mahony, analyst at IG index, in a note.

“The recent cooling in Treasury yields has evidently had a welcome impact upon tech valuations, with the Nasdaq once again ahead of the pack. Rising yields are clearly a central issue given recent concerns, with the ECB taking action to drive down yields across the region.”

The European Central Bank (ECB), as had been expected, left interest rates and the pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) on hold.

In the US, the mood was also buoyed by a weekly report showed that Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level since early November last year.

On Wall Street, stocks were in record territory with the Dow Jones Industrial Average adding over 335 points, while the S&P 500 gained nearly 66 points. The tech heavy Nasdaq rocketed  over 326 points higher, or 2.5%, at 13,396.

3.55pm: Marks and Spencer to sell rival brands on online platform

FTSE 100 swung back in the green before close, adding 16 points to 6,741.

Marks and Spencer Group PLC (LON:MKS) was flat at 156.35p despite announcing plans to “turbocharge” online growth by selling rival brands on its platform.

The retailer will feature products from Hobbs, Jack & Jones, Phase Eight, Sloggi and Triumph.

Among the listed clothiers, Sosandar PLC (LON:SOS) jumped 8% to 18.95p and Joules Ltd (LON:JOUL) rose 1% to 194.4p after it was revealed they will also be added to the roster.

It is a huge change for the FTSE 250 group, which has always relied on its own brand to attract customers.

Last October it unveiled its first partnership with an outside brand, Nobody’s Child, and said that nearly 10% of customers who have purchased from the independent label were new to M&S womenswear.

3.40pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Plurilock Security Inc (CVE:PLUR) (OTCQB:PLCKF) successfully completes second milestone in contract with US Department of Homeland Security

BMEX Gold Inc (CVE:BMEX) posts promising drill results from inaugural drilling at King Tut project in Quebec

Ready Set Gold Corp (CSE:RDY) (FRA:0MZ) identifies significant structural trend at Hemlo Eastern Flanks North

Adastra Labs Holdings Ltd (CVE:XTRX) appoints J. Scott Munro as its president, chief executive officer and chairman with effect from March 1, 2021

Vox Royalty Corp (CVE:VOX) (OTCMKTS:VOXCF) expects newsflow from royalty operating partners to increase as it updates on recent activity

TechX Technologies Inc (CSE: ECX) (OTCMKTS:TECXF) (FRA:C0B1) names new CFO, says portfolio company, Catalyx Exchange has launched platform offering fastest Bitcoin purchase and withdrawal in Canada

CytoDyn Inc (OTCQB:CYDY) says 20 patients enrolled and dosed so far in Vyrologix trial in coronavirus long-haulers

Phunware Inc (NASDAQ:PHUN) partners with Vizzia Technologies to offer its digital front door solution on mobile to leading healthcare organizations

Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc (CSE:AGN) (FR:AGW) (OTCQB:AGNPF) updates on timing of topline results for Ifenprodil trial

Renforth Resources Inc (CSE:RFR) (OTCPINK:RFHRF) (FRA:9RR) reveals high-grade gold intercepts at its Parbec open pit deposit in Quebec’s Cadillac Break

Great Bear Resources Ltd (CVE:GBR) (OTCMKTS:GTBAF) (FRA:0G6A) reports more high-grade drill results from LP Fault at Dixie

Recruiter.com Group Inc (OTCQB:RCRT) partners with National Retail Solutions to promote video interview capabilities

Electric Royalties Ltd (CVE:ELEC) (OTCMKTS:ELECF) acquires its first cash-flowing royalty from Globex Mining

CO2 GRO Inc (CVE:GROW) (OTCQB:BLONF) (FRA:4021) says its participation in Canadian Government Ag Tech program is accelerating its Mexico connections

Orgenesis Inc (NASDAQ:ORGS) (FRA:45O) collaboration with Madrid hospital to develop solid tumor treatment Celyvir enters second phase

Codebase Ventures Inc (CSE:COD) (OTCQB:BKLLF) says Arcology has optimized the popular CryptoKitties blockchain game with faster speeds

PyroGenesis Canada Inc (TSX:PYR) (NASDAQ:PYR) (FRA:8PY) says European Patent Office has issued an intent to grant it a patent based on its “Plasma Apparatus for the Production of High-Quality Powders at High Capacity”

Esports Entertainment Group Inc (NASDAQ:GMBL) (FRA:40Y1) expands its VIE.bet esports betting brand into Latin America with two new sponsorships deals

BetterLife Pharma Inc (CSE:BETR) (OTCQB:BETRF) (FRA:NPAU) says subsidiary Altum Pharmaceuticals to conduct coronavirus trial in Chile using its AP-003

VR Resources Ltd (CVE:VRR) (OTCQB:VRRCF) (FRA:5VR) discovers lithium and rare earth mineralization at its Hecla-Kilmer copper-gold project, Ontario

Hill Street Beverage Company Inc (CVE:BEER) (OTCMKTS:HSEEF)  gets set to launch its first cannabis-infused beverage in Ontario

Todos Medical Ltd (OTCQB:TOMDF) applauds passage of the American Recovery Act by the US Senate and House

American Battery Metals Corporation (OTCQB:ABML)  fires back at ‘false, manipulative and defamatory’ short-seller report

2.47pm: Wall Street moves higher at the opening bell

The main indices on Wall Street were in the green at the start of Thursday’s session as the latest US stimulus package and a fall in US jobless claims boosted market optimism

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.32% at 32,399 while the S&P 500 climbed 0.76% to 3,928 and the Nasdaq rose 1.69% to 13,290.

The higher start came as US jobless data for the week to March 6 showed 712,000 Americans filed for unemployment, down from 754,000 the previous week and below estimates of 725,000.

Continuing claims, meanwhile, declined by 193,000 to 4.14mln, although the numbers remain highly elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The decline has been attributed to a gradual reopening of some US states following the winter weather, which may have encouraged some firms to refrain from laying off employees for now.

On the market, newly listed firm Roblox Corp (NYSE:RBLX) was once again performing strongly on its second day on the market, rising 9.6% to US$76.81 in early deals.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 was barely moved in late afternoon, down 1 point at 6,724 at around 2.45pm.

1.40pm: AstraZeneca dips after EU countries halt COVID-19 vaccine over blood clots concerns

FTSE 100 continued its lukewarm run on Thursday and flattened at 6,726 in the early afternoon.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca plc (LON:AZN) shed 2% to 7,022p after six EU countries halted the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine over concerns of fatal blood clots.

Denmark, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg all stopped distributing jabs from a 1mln-dose batch sent to a total of 17 countries on the bloc.

Denmark’s health minister Magnus Heunicke said the measure was a precaution as the authorities are starting an investigation to see whether the blood clots are a side effect of the vaccine.

Austria announced on Monday it would suspend the shots after a 49-year-old nurse died of “severe blood coagulation problems”, France24 reported.

On Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency said there was no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine, but it was investigating the case.

Spain said on Thursday it had not registered any of such cases.

12.45pm: Wall Street to see mixed open

The Footsie cut some losses again and was down 9 points to 6,716 at midday.

Meanwhile, sterling added 0.1% to US$1.3952.

On the other side of the pond, the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 are expected to open higher while the Nasdaq is forecast to start the day barely in the red after recovering from the losses taken earlier this month.

The US House of Representatives passed the largest fiscal stimulus package in US history, with US$1.9 trillion allocated in support for Americans.

“Given the sheer size of the bill and the American public’s willingness to spend (retail sales surged after the previous check), it’s highly likely that the US consumer will help the economy on its way to a faster recovery,” said Sophie Griffiths, analyst at OANDA.

“While bond yields and inflation concerns have eased today there is little doubt that they will remain on the market’s radar.”

“US core inflation rose just 0.1% month-on-month in February, below expectations, while core CPI rose 1.3% on an annual basis, also falling short of forecasts. The data put to rest (at least for now) runaway inflation expectations, which had been mounting.”

11.45am: Morrisons books £290mln extra costs related to COVID-19

FTSE 100 kept declining at lunchtime and slipped 25 points to 6,700.

WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC (LON:MRW), which has recently been relegated from the index, saw full-year profits halving after including £290mln of COVID-19 charges for safety measures, staff absences and extra distribution costs.

Profit before tax and exceptionals plunged 51% to £201mln, while the grocer also repaid £230mln of waived government business rates relief.

READ: Morrisons expects profits to rise as trading returns to normal

The supermarket chain expects profits in the new year to rise as trading returns to normal, with fewer direct COVID-19 costs and restrictions such as café closures.

It will also benefit from the rollout on Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) and in McColl’s Retail Group PLC (LON:MCLS) convenience stores.

10.45am: Bond yields weigh on banks

The Footsie turned red in late morning and dropped 17 points to 6,708.

Banks were weighing on the index as bond yields lose ground, with Standard Chartered PLC (LON:STAN) down 3% to 480.25p, Barclays plc (LON:BARC) shedding 2% to 171.19p and Lloyds Banking Group plc (LON:LLOY) and NatWest Group plc (LON:NWG) dipping 1% to 40.42p and 186.2p respectively.

But the largest faller was HSBC PLC (LON:HSBA), declining 5% to 424.7p after Investec downgraded it to ‘sell’.

READ: HSBC to invest up to US$1 trillion to help customers decarbonise

The bank also unveiled a special resolution on climate change that will see it providing between US$750bn and US$1 trillion in financing and investment to help its customers decarbonise.

It will involve phasing out the financing of coal-fired power and thermal coal mining by 2040 while it will also carry out analysis on customers by industry sector, beginning in 2021 with Oil & Gas and Power & Utilities.

9.45am: John Lewis warns of more permanent closures

FTSE 100 trimmed its gains in mid-morning and was up only 5 points to 6,731, while sterling was flat at US$1.3935.

John Lewis Partnership said it does not expect to reopen all its shops at the end of lockdown, with final decisions to be taken at the end of the month following discussions with landlords.

The Waitrose owner said all it stores “need to be exciting places to shop, more reflective of the tastes and interests of local customers”, so it will further invest in the locations deemed more profitable.

READ: John Lewis Partnership slumps to first-ever annual loss

It also reported its first ever annual loss, amounting to £517mln in the year to the end of January compared to a profit of £146mln the year before.

The Partnership booked £648mln of exceptional costs, most of which related to the write-down in the valuation of its retail estates, while revenue rose to £10.8bn from £10.2bn the year before, driven by a strong performance from its Waitrose supermarkets.

8.45am: Rolls Royce well bid after record annual loss (go figure)

The FTSE 100 got off to a positive if unspectacular start with London’s traders greeting America’s sign-off a US$1.9 trillion economic bail-out package with a collective ‘meh’.

Instead, the City’s movers and shakers appeared to be living in the here and now with Britain still in lockdown, and hotspots such as Brazil seeing record levels of Covid-related deaths.

Asia’s main markets advanced as yield worries and inflation fears moderated, while on Wall Street the picture was mixed. The Dow Jones ‘industrials’ ended 460-odd points higher, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ stood pat.

Amid the carnage of its huge annual loss, there appeared to be crumbs of comfort for investors in Rolls-Royce (LON:RR.) – judging from the share price that is, which was up 3.6% early doors.

Perhaps the driver was the outlook statement in which Rolls said it expected large engine flying hours to increase to about 55% of 2019 levels, from 43% in 2020. It’s bad, but not disastrous appeared to be the market’s take (read more on the Rolls results here).

Shares in Wm Morrison Supermarkets (LON:MRW) fell 1.3% after it unveiled full-year results weighed down by additional costs, including £290mln for extra staffing, store-safe preparation and extra distribution. And of course, it repaid £230mln of business rates relief (read more on the Morrisons results here).

“Morrisons may never again face such a year of change, challenge and cost and to have finished the year ahead is some achievement,” said Richard Hunter of Interactive Investor.

“The pandemic has not been a green light for supermarket profits as some originally imagined.”

Proactive news headlines

BATM Advanced Communications (LON:BVC; TASE:BVC) has launched a new self-collected saliva-based coronavirus test that significantly improves the sample collection process and turnaround time while maintaining diagnostic accuracy.

Evgen Pharma PLC (LON:EVG) said there were no safety or data issues around its lead compound, which is being used to treat people in acute respiratory distress, including those with severe coronavirus.

Kanabo Group PLC (LON:KNB) and Cellular Goods PLC (LON:CBX) proved to be fruitful investments for FastForward Innovations Ltd (LON: FFWD) which today confirmed the profitable exit from its shareholding in both companies.

EQTEC PLC (LON:EQT), the gasification technology company, has been called in to look at a waste-to-energy solution for Toyota’s engine manufacturing plant in Deeside. EQTEC is already working on a refuse-derived fuel project to be located next door to Toyota’s Deeside plant in north-east Wales. 

Esken Limited (LON:ESKN), the aviation and energy infrastructure group, saw its shares rise in early deals after reporting an encouragingly low level of cash burn.  Thanks to strict financial division, cash burn – excluding the Stobart Air and Propius parts of the business – was just £9.4mln in the six months to the end of February.

Greatland Gold PLC (LON:GGP) said it has seen high grades of gold and copper from further drilling at the Havieron deposit in Western Australia. Work primarily focused on infill drilling of the South East Crescent and Breccia Zone and all 26 new drill holes intersected mineralisation.

Oriole Resources PLC (LON:ORR) was upbeat on the results of an air core drilling programme at the northernmost Faré prospect of the Senala project in Senegal.

88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E) told investors that drilling has now begun for the Merlin-1 exploration well in the North Slope area of Alaska.

Panthera Resources PLC (LON:PAT) said eight high priority drill targets had been highlighted at the Kalaka gold project in Mali following the completion of an induced polarisation (IP) survey.

Emmerson PLC (LON:EML) said higher potash prices will increase its financing options as its moves to take the Khemisset potash project in Morocco into production. The company plans to start building the potash mine, Africa’s first, by the end of 2021 and to commence production in 2023.

Gfinity PLC (LON:GFIN) said it has signed a commercial agreement with IQONIQ, a fan engagement platform, to become its official esports and gaming partner for the next three years.

Blackbird PLC (LON:BIRD) shares traded higher in Thursday’s early deals as it was selected by Australia headquartered educational technology group Typsy, which will use the AIM-quoted firm’s cloud-based video editing platform via a three year agreement.

Frontier IP Group PLC (LON:FIPP) said inSignals Neurotech, in which it holds a 33% stake, has received a €100,000 investment from Portugal Ventures, a leading Portuguese venture capital firm.

Open Orphan PLC (LON:ORPH) said two scientists from its hVIVO unit have had their article published in the Journal for Clinical Studies. Entitled ‘Hot Topics – Vaccine Solutions for Tropical Diseases’, it was written by Adrian Wildfire, hViVO’s director of scientific and business strategy and Bruno Speder, VP of regulatory affairs and consultancy services.

City Pub Group PLC (LON:CPC) has appointed Emma Fox as an independent non-executive director with immediate effect. Currently CEO of Berry Bros & Rudd, Fox has over 30 years of experience in the retail, leisure, and drinks sectors.

Tavistock Investments PLC (LON:TAVI) has moved its annual shareholder meeting to 11.30am on Wednesday, 7 April 2021. 

Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy (LON:FARN) chief executive Dr Markku Jalkanen will present at the virtual Oppenheimer 31st Annual Healthcare Conference on Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 10:40am ET (3.40pm GMT). An audio webcast of the presentation will be available in the Investors section on Faron’s website: https://www.faron.com/investors.

6.50 am: FTSE 100 set for positive start

The FTSE 100 is seen starting Thursday in positive territory as global equity markets stayed buoyant after America sealed its US$1.9 trillion stimulus plan.

CFD firm IG Markets has the London index up around 24 points, making the price 6,743 to 6,746 with just over an hour before the start of trading.

President Biden now only needs to add his squiggle to the economic rescue package which was yesterday passed by Congress.

It overlapped with easing concerns over inflation in the United States as headline stats met expectations and core readings was below consensus forecasts.

“Now that it seems that inflation won’t be too much of a worry in the near-term that could act as a cap to the US dollar, and as a floor to equities as well as gold,” said David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets.

Stocks in New York rallied, somewhat. The Dow Jones scaled 464 points or 1.46% on Wednesday to reach a new record close at 32,297, meanwhile, the S&P 500 added 0.6% to 3,898 and the Nasdaq dipped a smidgen lower to 13,068.

The positive sentiment carried to Asia, where Japan’s Nikkei moved 0.6% higher to 29,211 and the Hang Seng climbed 1.17% to 29,247 and the Shanghai Composite marked a 1.7% gain to 3,419.

Around the markets

The pound: US$1.3936, up 0.03%

Gold: US$1,733 per ounce, up 0.38%

Silver: US$26.27 per ounce, up 0.39%

Brent crude: US$68.39 per barrel, up 1.28%

WTI crude: US$64.90 per barrel, up 1.39%

Bitcoin: US$55,690, up 3.02%

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were higher on Thursday after US lawmakers passed a US$1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package on Wednesday.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 1.08% while the Shanghai Composite in China surged 1.74%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.6% and South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.96%.

Shares in Australia were flat, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 0.003% lower.


Proactive Australia news:

Alto Metals Ltd (ASX:AME) has received $2.1 million in cash and issued 30 million fully paid new company shares through the conversion of 30 million unlisted options at an issue price of 7 cents per share.

Mako Gold Ltd (ASX:MKG) has intersected further wide high-grade gold during ongoing drilling at Tchaga prospect within the flagship Napié Project in Côte d’Ivoire enhancing the company’s plan to outline a maiden resource at the prospect.

Antipa Minerals Ltd (ASX:AZY) has identified new targets for exploration at the Wilki farm-in Project with Newcrest Mining Ltd (ASX:NCM) in the Paterson Province in Western Australia off the back of new 2020 drill results.

MMJ Group Holdings Ltd’s (ASX:MMJ) publicly listed portfolio companies have taken advantage of continued positive news on the regulatory front for cannabis.

Imugene Ltd (ASX:IMU) (OTCMKTS:IUGNF) will present on two key novel immunotherapies that seek to activate the immune system of cancer patients to treat and eradicate tumours – the CF33 oncolytic virus program and HER-Vaxx cancer immunotherapy program – at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2021 annual meeting in April.

VRX Silica Ltd (ASX:VRX) will begin a 130-hole aircore grade control drilling program later this month aimed at upgrading the 11.3 million tonnes resource at Arrowsmith North Silica Sand Project around 270 kilometres north of Perth in Western Australia.

Nanoveu higher as it gains further international momentum for antiviral protection technologies

Nanoveu Ltd’s (ASX:NVU) suite of NanoshieldTM antiviral protection technologies continue to develop international momentum with further in-bound enquiries leading to a growing list of international distribution partners.

Marvel Gold Ltd (ASX:MVL) (FRA:GR2) has completed and commissioned the first community initiative in Mali since beginning exploration at Tabakorole with the installation of a solar-powered water pump and elevated water tank storage for the village of Tabakorole.

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