• FTSE 100 closes over 88 points higher
  • FTSE 250 gains too
  • Premier African also in demand on Zulu speculation

5pm: FTSE closes ahead

FTSE 100 closed the first day of the new trading week firmly higher after a choppy start, while education publishing giant Pearson (LON:PSON) was one of the top gainers.

Britain’s blue-chip benchmark added over 88 points at 6,719, while midcap FTSE 250 also did well, adding nearly 245 points at 21,210.

In the USA, the Dow Jones was “closing on a 1200 point gain from Thursday’s lows”, noted trading firm IG Index, supercharged by hopes that Friday’s headline improvement in the jobs numbers marked a turning point for the US economy’s battle with Covid, and on expectations that the stimulus bill will help accelerate the process.

“Pearson’s preliminary full year numbers received an initially lukewarm welcome with the shares falling sharply after the company reported a 10% decline in full year revenues. This decline proved to be somewhat short-lived with the shares rebounding strongly from one-month lows shortly afterwards to rise to the top of the pile,” noted Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets.

“The 10% decline is still an improvement on the 17% fall seen in the first half, however it still points to disappointment as profits came in below expectations. It’s true to say that the company’s revenues experienced a bit of a dent as a result of the pandemic, due to the closure of some schools and its testing centres but you would have expected to see a bigger improvement on the digital side.”

On Footsie, Pearson shares added 6.42% on the day to 808.80p, beaten to the top spot only by Rolls Royce (LON:RR.), which gained 7.32% to 116.50p.

3.55pm: Late spurt by the Footsie

After moping around most of the day like an anguished teenager, the FTSE 100 has put on a late spurt, taking its lead from US markets

London’s index of leading shares was up 57 points (0.8%) at 6,687.

“The main story at the moment for equities is not so much the movement in global markets overall but the moves beneath the surface. Most notably, there has been a significant rotation away from growth stocks, which were the big winners last year and indeed over the last decade, into cheaper unloved value stocks,” said Rupert Thompson, the chief investment officer at asset management firm, Kingswood.

“Since ‘vaccine’ day last November, which provided the initial catalyst for the rotation, value has gained 18% versus 4% for growth. Echoing this trend, the financial and energy sectors have gained as much as 25% over this period vs 8% for the tech sector. Similarly, the UK has gained 14% compared with a 4% increase for China,” he added.

Umuthi Healthcare Solutions PLC (LON:UHS), which only listed last Thursday at 30p a share, was comfortably the top risers, soaring 433% to 160p.

The medicines provider is launching a proprietary app that bypasses traditional distributors and trades directly with healthcare suppliers. Umuthi currently has its main operations in South Africa but is looking to expand organically and by way of acquisition in the regions of Africa and Europe.

The share price movement even put Premier African Minerals Limited (LON:PREM) in the shade.

Premier’s shares surged 69% to 0.2025p prompting the company to put out a stock market statement about the share price movement.

The company noted that the moves came in tandem with on-line speculation regarding the status of its exclusive prospecting order applications in respect of Zulu Lithium Private Limited asset.

There has been a publication in the Zimbabwean National Assembly Hansard Volume 47 Number 28 relating to the general status of all exclusive prospecting order applications and this appears to have sparked interest in the shares among message board lurkers.

3.20pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Altamira Gold Corp (CVE:ALTA) (OTCPINK:EQTRF) (FRA:T6UP) reveals four high-grade gold and silver vein structures at its Apiacas project in Brazil

Orgenesis Inc (NASDAQ:ORGS) (FRA:45O) teams with Dong-a University Hospital in South Korea and Cure Therapeutics to utilize its Mobile Processing Units and Labs, or OMPULs

QC Copper and Gold Inc (CVE:QCCU) (OTCMKTS:QCCUF) updates on Opemiska drill progress and names new independent director

AIM ImmunoTech Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:AIM) doses first healthy subject in intranasal Ampligen coronavirus study

Alpine 4 Technologies Inc (OTCQB:ALPP) says subsidiaries Deluxe Sheet Metal and Morris Sheet Metal merging to become one of the largest Midwest sheet metal contractors

BetterLife Pharma Inc (CSE:BETR) (OTCQB:BETRF) (FRA:NPAU) announces tie-up with Carleton University to study TD-0148A as treatment for depression

Cloud Nine Education Ltd (CSE:CNI) (OTCMKTS:CLGUF) launches new Education Technology Platform

Empower Clinics Inc (CSE:CBDT) (OTCQB:EPWCF) (FRA:8EC) says KAI LAB annual run rate now tops C$10M; plans to order 50,000 additional coronavirus tests

Orogen Royalties Inc (CVE:OGN) (OTCMKTS:EMRRF) (FRA:5EV)  to option Ecru gold project in Nevada to Australia’s first all-female-led resources company, Moneghetti Minerals

Benchmark Metals Inc (CVE:BNCH) (OTCQB:CYRTF) (FRA:87CA)says latest Cliff Creek drill results bode well for upcoming resource estimate

Bam Bam Resources Corp (CSE:BBR) (OTCPINK:NPEZF) (FSE:4NPB) says drill findings show potential to expand known mineralization at Nevada project

KULR Technology Group Inc (OTCQB:KULR) announces new president and COO

CytoDyn Inc (OTCQB:CYDY) says Phase III trial shows safety, mortality reduction, and faster hospital discharge for COVID-19 patients treated with leronlimab

TechX Technologies Inc (CSE:TECX) (OTC:TECXF) (FRA:C0B) touts February growth of cryptocurrency exchange investee CatalX

Great Bear Resources Ltd (CVE:GBR) (OTCMKTS:GTBAF) appoints industry veteran Gilbert Lawson to its board of directors

Cloud Nine Education Group Ltd (CSE:CNI) (OTCMKTS:CLGUF) names entrepreneur and blockchain expert Pavel Bains as a strategic advisor

AgraFlora Organics International Inc (CSE:AGRA) (FRA:PU31) (OTCPINK:AGFAF) names Canadian cannabis industry veteran Elise Coppens as its new CEO and board director

TRACON Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:TCON) appoints pharma executive Dr Lisa Johnson-Pratt to its board of directors

2.46pm: Wall Street opens on a mixed footing

The main indices on Wall Street got off to a mixed start on Monday morning as concerns over bond yields and inflation pressured stocks.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.35% at 31,607, while the S&P 500 was down 0.06% at 3,839 and the Nasdaq dropped 0.75%.

Optimism over the recently passed US stimulus bill has been partially stymied by a rise in yields for US Treasuries, as investors fret over a possible rise in interest rates from central banks as the global economy recovers from the pandemic.

Others, meanwhile, will be eyeing inflation figures as more dollars are pumped into the economy, which could worsen the impact on equities.  

Back in London, the FTSE 100 had managed to extend its gains into late afternoon, rising 51 points to 6,681 at around 2.45pm.

1.50pm: FTSE 100 marks time

The FTSE 100 is just about keeping its chin above water but an expected reversal for the US’s tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 index is having knock-on effects in the UK.

London’s index of leading shares was up 4 points (0.1%) at 6,635 but what passes for UK tech giants on London’s stock market were not participating in the advance.

Investment trust Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC (LON:SMT), seen as a proxy play for many US and Asian tech behemoths such as Amazon, Tesla, AliBaba and TenCent, was down 4.4% at 972p while German cyber-security firm Avast PLC (LON:AVST) was off 4.4% at 426.6p as investors continue to take profits on tech stocks.

Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO), seen more as a technology play than an online grocer these days, was off 3.6% at 2,012p.

Utilities were also out of fashion. Offering a secure yield but little in the way of capital appreciation, the stocks are not proving very appetising in a market worried about the prospect of rising inflation, which undermines income shares.

United Utilities Group PLC (LON:UU.), Pennon Group PLC (LON:PNN) and Severn Trent PLC (LON:SVT) were all at least 3% lower.

12.35pm: US stocks to open mostly lower

After Friday’s euphoria in the US Monday brings the comedown, as it often does.

Although the Dow Jones industrial average is expected to nudge 14 points higher to 31,510 the S&P is expected to give back more than a quarter of Friday’s gains, opening 20 points lower at 3,842 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 is staring at a 170 point slide to 12,499 when trading starts.

Rising bond yields and inflation fears are making US investors nervous.

“The reason why equities respond negatively to interest rates is because it pushes up the cost of capital,” explained Peter Garnry, the head of Equity Strategy at Saxo Group.

“Some of it is offset by rising growth expectations as rising interest rates do have a link to rising growth expectations. The overall impact is negative from rising interest rates and if inflation accelerates and stays above 3% for an extended time, the overall effect on equity returns gets increasingly worse. As a result, investors today do have to think hard about how the equity portfolio stands against inflation and how sensitive the portfolio is to rising interest rates,” Garnry suggested.

There is no news on the macroeconomic front for US traders to get excited about and thus far not much in the way of corporate nerw flow, other than DuPont agreeing to buy Laird Performance Materials from private-equity outfit Advent International for a cool US$2.3bn in cash.

In London, the FTSE 100 has finagled its way back into positive territory, rising 13 points (0.2%) to 6,634.

11.00am: That Monday morning feeling

London’s leading equities are now lower on balance despite indications that consumer confidence is on the rise in the UK.

The FTSE 100 surrendered early gains and was down 6. points (0.1%) at 6,24.

A YouGov/CEBR survey of consumer confidence resulted in the relevant index rising to 105.4, up from 103.4 the month before and the highest level since the pandemic got its teeth into the UK economy.

“The latest rise in the consumer confidence index underlines the resilience of households throughout this third national lockdown,” said Kay Neufeld, the head of forecasting at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

Meanwhile, the service sector’s confidence also rose in February, according to the Business Trends report from accountant and business consultant, BDO.

BDO’s Services Optimism Index rose to 94.13 in February from 86.60 in January; a reading of 100 is considered a “par” score.

As with the YouGov/CEBR survey, that’s the highest reading since March of last year and suggests that the vaccine roll-out is having an impact on the outlook of those still around to receive it.

“The speed of the vaccine rollout across the UK has given businesses a much-needed shot of relief,” said Kaley Crossthwaite, a partner at BDO.

Having said that, BDO’s Manufacturing Optimism Index eased a tad to 83.99 from 84.26 the month before.

Despite the Footsie’s fall, educational publishing company Pearson PLC (LON:PSON) was enjoying a rare day in the sun, rising 4.2% to 792.2p on the back of its full-year results.

Dan Lane, an analyst at Freetrade, gave a textbook example of why it is tricky making a call on share price reaction before the market opens.

“It’s getting harder and harder to make the investment case for Pearson. Even avid backers like Nick Train have admitted to sticking around more due to sentiment than reason. A laboured transition to an online-first education offering has meant Pearson is now very much the albatross around the star manager’s neck,” Lane said.

“This digital transformation has been going on for so long that, even when the fourth bridge’s [sic] paint is dry, investors will have to consider whether they have any confidence in Pearson to be even more innovative. It’s not just about whether they can make it work now, it’s about dominating whatever comes next and there is simply no proof that Pearson is up to the task,” Lane suggested.

“Nimble Chinese online education firms have sprung up and gained traction in the time it has taken Pearson to just about change course. That Pearson still relies on physical textbooks is virtually unthinkable for today’s students and faculty alike,” Lane said.

Mind you, a textbook on the Forth Bridge and dead metaphors might still be handy for some people.

9.45am: Early gains ebb away

UK equities are slow-dancing to an upbeat US tune – probably Money (That’s What I Want) by Barrett Strong.

The FTSE 100 was up 14 points (0.2%) at 6,644, which is a far cry from the near 2% gains racked up on Friday by US markets after the February jobs report.

Were it not for the strength of stocks in the banking sector, it is possible the index would not be in positive territory at all.

Banks are in demand on the back of rising interest rates (which make it easier for them to make money) with Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LON:LLOY) and HSBC Holdings PLC (LON:HSBA) setting the pace, with gains of around 2.3%.

The yield on the ten-year gilt has risen by almost half a percentage point to 0.764%.

Oils were initially wanted after an attack on one of the largest oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, although buying ardour cooled after it was reported little significant damage has occurred.

Nevertheless, Brent crude for May delivery has risen 22 cents to US$69.58, dragging Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB) 1.0% higher with it but BP PLC (LON:BP.), down 0.7%, has surrendered early gains.

8.45am: Passing of Biden’s stimulus bill lifts the mood

The FTSE 100 made a slightly slower start to proceedings than predicted as it was pegged back by the mixed performances of Asia’s main bourses.

Still, the positivity from the weekend sign-off of America’s long-awaited US$1.9 trillion stimulus bill was enough to stave off the inflation worries that have haunted the markets of late.

Here at home, there is a growing sense of optimism. Indicative was this comment from Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

“The UK remains of interest to international investors on valuation grounds, even if the premier index is necessarily driven by global factors given the nature of its constituents,” he said.

“The FTSE100 has risen by 3% so far this year, and the preponderance of mature businesses within the index could yet benefit from any general rotation out of growth towards value stocks.”

Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RSDSA) and BP (LON:BP.), up 1.4% and 1.3% respectively, were buoyed by a resurgent crude oil price with a barrel of the black stuff bid higher by Middle East unrest.

Insurance group Phoenix Holdings (LON:PHNX), up 2.5%, topped the Footsie after reporting a surge in its cash holdings to record levels, which will help fund a hike to the dividend payment.

Covid bounce-back stocks Intercontinental Hotels (LON:IHG) and Rolls Royce (LON:RR.) advanced respectively 2.3% and 2.2% on hopes of a freeing up of overseas travel restrictions.

Topping the losers’ column was Pearson (LON:PSON), down 3.5%, after another lacklustre set of results.

Proactive news headlines

The Middle East drilling group ADES International (LON:ADES) has agreed to be taken private by a consortium including Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in a deal worth US$516mln.

SourceBio International PLC (LON:SBI) said it has signed an agreement with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Premiership Rugby Limited to provide coronavirus (COVID-19) testing services for elite rugby in England.

Technology group Induction Healthcare (LON:INHC) has announced two public sector contracts for its booking system, which will be used to manage COVID-19 lateral flow tests.

Blackbird PLC (LON:BIRD) has unveiled a partnership with EVS, a live video technology and new media group, with launch deployments for international sporting events. 

Woodbois Limited (LON:WBI) shares moved higher on Monday after the firm unveiled a new reforestation and carbon credit division which it said represents “a valuable add-on” to its existing forest management operations. 

Tirupati Graphite PLC (LON:TGR) has reported on progress made in the redevelopment of hydropower facilities at the Sahamamy graphite project in Madagascar and on the initiation of further studies for hydropower across both its Madagascar graphite projects. 

Black Bear Energy Resources Plc (LON:BBER) has announced fundraising plans as it looks to begin work on its oil and gas asset in Michigan and complete a leasing deal in Texas.

Oracle Power PLC (LON:ORCP) has confirmed the presence of a newly identified substantial greenstone belt at its Jundee East gold project, located in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia.

Genel Energy PLC (LON:GENL) told investors that the Sarta-3 well has begun production.

United Oil & Gas PLC (LON:UOG) has spudded the ASD-1X exploration well in the Abu Sennan Licence in Egypt.

Amryt Pharma PLC (NASDAQ:AMYT, LON:AMYT) said it has signed an agreement with Medison Pharma Canada, which will distribute the former’s Myalepta drug in the country.

Argo Blockchain PLC (LON:ARB) (OTCQX:ARBKF) said it has now completed the acquisition of 320 acres of land in West Texas, USA, following a non-binding letter of intent with DPN LLC signed in February. 

AfriTin Mining Ltd (LON:ATM) produced 194.5 tonnes of tin concentrate from its Uis mine in Namibia in the fourth quarter to end February 2021, representing a 28% quarterly increase compared with the previous quarter, and exceeding the 180 tonnes production target. Total production for the 2021 financial year amounted to 473 tonnes of tin concentrate. 

Diversified Gas & Oil PLC (LON:DGOC) chief executive Rusty Hutson said he was exceptionally pleased with the resilience of the company’s business model, as it released full-year results for 2020.

Circle Property PLC (LON:CRC) said rent collection across its porfolio improved in the final quarter of 2020. 

Gore Street Energy Storage Fund PLC (LON:GSF) saw its net asset value per share rise by 2.3% in the final quarter of 2020 to 99.6p.

Bacanora Lithium PLC (LON:BCN) lost US$15.6mln for the year ended 31 December 2020, including a US$4.1mln loss on discontinued assets. During the year ended 31 December 2020, Bacanora incurred US$4.4mln general and administrative costs. Bacanora has not entered into commitments to develop its flagship Sonora project in Mexico yet, and front-end engineering work continues. 

Financial app operator Mode Global Holdings PLC (LON:MODE) has appointed Jonathan Conway, one of the architects of open banking, as its new chief technology officer (CTO).

FastForward Innovations Ltd (LON:FFWD) said investee company Portage Biotech Inc has announced the divestment of three legacy businesses: Portage Pharmaceuticals (PPL), and its subsidiaries Portage Glasgow Limited and EyGen Limited, to Juvenescence Ltd. Portage may be entitled to receive up to US$244mln in future milestone payments based on specified development criteria.

MelodyVR Group PLC (LON:MVR) said its name change to Napster Group PLC (LON:NAPS) will take place tomorrow, 9 March.

Allergy Therapeutics PLC (LON:AGY) chief executive, chief oinancial officer and head of business innovation will present at the online H.C. Wainwright Global Life Sciences Conference taking place from 9-10 March. The presentation will be made available on-demand for participants from 9 March and on Allergy Therapeutics’ website: www.allergytherapeutics.com/investors/results-reports-and-presentations/.

6.50 am: FTSE 100 set for a strong start

The FTSE 100 looks set to get off to a strong start, buoyed by the sign-off of America’s long-awaited fiscal stimulus package.

The bill, which includes a provision for a US$1,400 direct payment for most people in the US, narrowly passed through the Senate on Saturday.

In Asia, trading was mixed with Japan and Australia in the green, while Shanghai and the Hang Seng were in retreat.

This despite a 60.6% surge in Chinese exports, which showed the world’s second-largest economy was emerging from the strictures of the pandemic in rude health.

Elsewhere, a missile and drone attack on a Saudi oil facility sent crude prices 2% higher and Brent over the US$70 a barrel threshold.

Looking ahead, there are scheduled corporate updates from Rolls Royce (LON:RR.), Just Eat (LON:JE.), ITV (LON:ITV) and insurers Legal & General (LON:LGEN) and Direct Line (LON:DL.).

On the macro front, here in the UK, we are expecting GDP, industrial and trade data, plus retail sales and more housing market information.

During a busy week, we also have a European Central Bank meeting and US inflation numbers that will be of interest to the Federal Reserve and those watching bond yields.

Around the markets

  • Pound worth US$1.3827 (-0.1%)
  • Bitcoin US$50,490.84 (+2.54%)
  • Gold US$1,703 (+0.28%)
  • Brent crude US$70.79 (+2.1%)

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mostly lower on Monday as Brent Crude Oil prices jumped more than 2% to US$70 a barrel after Saudi Arabia said its oil facilities were targeted by missiles and drones on Sunday.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong slipped 1.38% while the Shanghai Composite in China dropped 1.91%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 0.42% and South Korea’s Kospi declined 1.00%.

Shares in Australia were an exception, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 0.43% higher.

READ OUR ASX REPORT HERE

Proactive Australia news:

Cellmid Ltd (ASX:CDY) is raising up to $3.8 million via a renounceable rights issue to fund its recently initiated Chinese distribution agreements, as well as explore the additional product and market opportunities for its anti-ageing beauty technologies.

Ora Banda Mining Ltd (ASX:OBM) (FRA:M6N) has delivered further strong Riverina South and Riverina Underground gold assay results from an infill drilling program that recommenced in January 2021 at the deposits near Davyhurst processing plant in Western Australia.

St George Mining Ltd (ASX:SGQ) (FRA:S0G) has received further strong exploration results from Stricklands prospect within its flagship Mt Alexander Project in the north-eastern Goldfields of Western Australia.

Alto Metals Ltd (ASX:AME) has received further strong assay results from ongoing drilling at its 100%-owned, 900 square kilometres Sandstone Gold Project in Western Australia, which have confirmed another lode within a new zone of gold mineralisation 1-kilometre south of the Lord Nelson Pit.

Musgrave Minerals Ltd (ASX:MGV) (OTCMKTS:MGVMF) (FRA:6MU) has identified a new shear corridor at its flagship Cue Gold Project in Western Australia after receiving further strong reverse circulation (RC) assay results from regional drilling of new targets.

Alkane Resources Limited (ASX:ALK) (OTCMKTS:ALKEF) (FRA:AK7) has revealed broad gold-copper porphyry mineralisation in drilling at Kaiser prospect just 1.5 kilometres from the Boda discovery within the Northern Molong Porphyry Project (NMPP) in Central West New South Wales.

Queensland Pacific Metals Ltd (ASX:QPM) (FRA:4EA) has added another feather to its cap after the findings of an interim report into greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of its TECH Project confirmed low carbon dioxide emissions.

K2fly Ltd (ASX:K2F) has signed a five-year resource inventory management software as a service (SaaS) contract with New York Stock Exchange-listed precious metals mining company Coeur Mining Inc (NYSE:CDE) (FRA:CDM1) to roll out to five of its sites.

Kingwest Resources Ltd (ASX:KWR) has updated mineral resources estimates for all deposits at the Menzies Gold Project (MGP) to 446,200 ounces at 1.3 g/t gold (0.5 g/t cut off).

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