• FTSE 100 up 29 points

  • Coca-Cola HBC bubbles up after update

  • Roll-Royce under pressure

9.40am: Upbeat results boost leading shares

Helped by some positive reaction to results from the likes of AstaZeneca, RELX and Coca-Cola HBC (LON.CCH), the FTSE 100 has added to its early gains.

The leading index is up 29.26 points or 0.45% at 6553.62 with bottling group Coca-Cola heading the risers, up 5.27% or 119p at 2379p after it said trading had improved in the second half of the year. In a buy note UBS analysts pointed out that the results had beaten forecasts, the outlook was encouraging and the valuation low.

Just Eat Takeaway.com NV (LON.JET) has delivered a 1.55% or 118p rise to 7738p on a read-across from Uber Technologies, which reported a 128% surge in bookings from its UberEats platform. So we appear not to have got bored with takeaways during lockdown just yet.

But Roll-Royce Holdings PLC (LON.RR) is under the cosh again, down 1.16p or 1.25% to 91.64p. Starting coverage with a hold rating and 97p price target, Christophe Menard at Deutsche Bank said: “Rolls Royce shares (will) continue to be weighed down by the underperformance of wide body aircraft segment during air traffic recovery and its delay in returning back to 2019 level of operations. The lower cash generation in the next few years shall only partly be offset by cost mitigation actions and some potential disposal of noncore businesses. Rolls Royce ability to improve its engine capabilities during this lean time will determine the long-term positioning of the company.”

8.55am: Leading shares make subdued start

The FTSE 100 made a positive but subdued start with UK traders largely impervious to the potential economic upside of America’s mooted stimulus programme and the vaccines roll-out.

AstraZeneca (LON:AZN), which has been at the forefront of the British inoculation push, saw some marginal upside in its numbers from its Covid efforts.

However, the 1.6% rise in the share price seemed scant reward for its participation.

“For a company that has been at the forefront of leading the fight against Covid-19 the performance in the AstraZeneca share price has been very underwhelming, with the shares at ten-month lows,” said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets.

“A lot of this may have to do with the fact that AstraZeneca, along with Oxford University is producing the vaccine at cost, along with tweaks to any possible variant, in a move that hasn’t been replicated to the same extent by its peers in the industry.”

A self-described ‘resilient’ performance propelled bottler Coca-Cola HBC (LON:CCH) 4.8% higher and to the top of the Footsie leader board.

Sticking with the positives, Royal Mail (LON:RMG) was in the unaccustomed position of delivering good shareholder news in the form of a better than expected trading update.

The stock jumped 7.5% after it said its strong showing had been underpinned by surging parcel volumes thanks to the boom in online shopping.

Proactive news headlines

S&U PLC (LON:SUS) said its trading remains “robust and profitable” despite the current lockdown, and that it is planning for a “significant rebound to pre-[coronavirus] motor finance transaction levels as lockdown restrictions ease this year” as well a “substantial increase” in business for its Aspen property bridging arm.

Gaming Realms PLC (LON:GMR) has updated on its 2020 trading performance following what it said was a “record month” in December thanks to its content licensing business.

Location Sciences Group PLC (LON:LSAI) said it expects to deliver much reduced full-year losses as it looks forward to launching a new product on the Bloomberg Enterprise Access point.

Tharisa PLC (LON:THS) said in a statement ahead of its annual general meeting (AGM) that demand for the commodities it produces remains robust. Reviewing the year since the last AGM, executive chairman Loucas Pouroulis said the group has put in a strong operational performance, despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

SigmaRoc PLC (LON:SRC) has launched a pioneering new type of concrete block that does not contain cement. The ultra-low carbon concrete building block is unique in the UK market, the company said.

Alpha Growth PLC (LON:ALGW, OTCQB: ALPGF) said it is acquiring an unnamed Bermuda-based insurance company supported by an oversubscribed £3.75mln share placing.

Kodal Minerals PLC (LON:KOD) has unearthed high grade gold in a surface sampling programme at the Dabakala concession, Côte d’Ivoire.

Landore Resources Limited (LON:LND) said drilling on the BAM gold deposit at its Junior Lake Property in Ontario continues to reveal visible gold in several intersections.

Jersey Oil and Gas PLC (LON:JOG) told investors the company’s September 2020 North Sea licence award has been formalised. It confirms the award of Merged Licence P2498 from last year’s 32nd Offshore Licensing Round.

Eden Research PLC (LON:EDEN) described its performance in 2020 as resilient as it weathered the impact of the global pandemic.

Quadrise Fuels International PLC (LON:QFI) said it has raised £500,000 from the sale of convertible securities to existing investor Bergen, providing funding to the middle of 2021 and allowing it to accelerate testing and development activities. 

Salt Lake Potash Limited (LON:SO4 ASX:SO4 PINK:WHELF) has completed its A$52mln fundraising, placing 130mln new ordinary shares as first announced in December. The second tranche of 5.025mln shares placed with directors has been completed following shareholder approval at the general meeting on January 22, including 3mln subscribed for by the chairman Ian Middlemas and 500,000 by chief executive Tony Swiericzuk. The company  also issued 500,000 Ordinary Shares to an employee in lieu of 500,000 performance rights that had vested, but expired on December 31, 2021.

DiscoverIE Group PLC (LON:DSCV) said the €14.5mln (£12.8mln) acquisition of Limitor GmbH has been completed. The deal, which was announced in early December, was subject to regulatory approvals that have now been received. A contingent payment of up to €3.5mln (£3.1mln) may be payable subject to the business achieving certain profit growth targets over the next three years.  

Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX) announced that it will report its 2020 annual results on Tuesday March 9. The company will host a virtual analyst presentation at noon on the day, followed by a Q&A session accessible via conference call or webcast at https://arixbioscience.com/investor-relations/events-presentations.

Tissue Regenix Group PLC (LON:TRX) said it has written to all registered shareholders regarding its intention to adopt electronic communication methods for shareholder documents. The company said it is seeking to adopt electronic communication in order to improve its environmental sustainability efforts and ensure timely and cost-effective communications with all shareholders.

6.50 am: FTSE 100 set for a steady start

FTSE 100 set to for a steady start to Thursday as global markets largely remain in a holding pattern.

CFD and spreadbetting firm IG Markets sees London’s blue-chip benchmark around 5 points in positive territory, making a price of 6,519 to 6,522.

Stimulus and vaccine progress are the trading catalysts that are awaited by many. Since his election, markets have anticipated President Joe Biden will sign off a US$1.9 trillion stimulus package, and this is presently expected in the coming weeks.

The roll-out of vaccines to wider populations beyond front-line workers and elderly will be a milestone towards economies getting back to some augmented version of normal. To this end, Thursday’s market news may bring some insight.

AstraZeneca, one of the drugs firms behind one of the vaccines, has financial results due today and whilst the company is about much more than that vaccine, its clear that it will dominate the headlines.

Indeed, yesterday, the World Health Organisation announced that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is suitable for all patients over 18 years of age, following a melee of conflicting news flow in recent weeks.

US equity markets, meanwhile, remain fixated on the handful of tech stocks that run the digital world which yesterday saw a rare glitch in share price action.

“It wasn’t a big decline but it was enough to remind traders there can be a bump in the road from time to time,” said David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones closed at 31,437 up just 61 points or 0.2%.

The S&P 500 edged just slightly lower to end Wednesday at 3,909 whilst the Nasdaq was marked 35 points or 0.25% lower at 13,972.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei moved positively – up 57 points or 0.19% to trade at 29,562 – whilst Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 134 points or 0.45% to 30,173, before its early close for the national holidays.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange starts its Chinese New Year holiday and was closed.

Around the markets

The pound: US$1.3848, up 0.1%

Gold: US$1,837 per ounce, down 0.24%

Silver: US$26.91 per ounce, down 0.44%

Brent crude: US$61.10 per barrel, up 0.01%

WTI crude: US$58.33 per barrel, down 0.05%

Bitcoin: US$44,524, up 4.41%

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were muted on Thursday as major markets in the region were closed for holidays.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 0.45% while markets in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were closed for holidays.

Shares in Australia declined, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 0.10% lower.

READ OUR ASX REPORT HERE

Proactive Australia news:

Proactive will host a Gold Webinar next Tuesday, February 16, showcasing three ASX-listed companies – Yandal Resources (ASX:YRL), Alto Metals (ASX:AME) and Horizon Metals (ASX:HRZ).

Australian Strategic Materials Ltd’s (ASX:ASM) high-purity neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) powder from its Ziron Tech pilot plant in Korea has been used by the Korean Institute of Rare Metals (KIRAM) to produce rare earth permanent magnets.

Core Lithium Ltd’s (ASX:CXO) (OTCMKTS:CXOXF) latest drill results from the Grants Deposit are expected to strengthen the current resource at the company’s wholly-owned Finniss Lithium Project in the Northern Territory.

Element 25 Ltd (ASX:E25) has received confirmation from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) that a groundwater abstraction allocation of 1 gigalitre per year has been approved for the Butcherbird Manganese Project.

Predictive Discovery Ltd (ASX:PDI) has received assay results from three additional diamond drill holes at the Bankan Gold Project in Guinea, West Africa, demonstrating that mineralisation extends at least 160 metres north along strike with widths of 50 to 100 metres on three drill sections.

FYI Resources Ltd’s (ASX:FYI) (FRA:SDL) high purity alumina (HPA) pilot plant trial conducted in collaboration with Alcoa of Australia Ltd has delivered results described as “outstanding”, consistently achieving purity levels higher than 99.998% aluminium oxide.

VIP Gloves Ltd (ASX:VIP) has recorded skyrocketing revenue and profit in the half-year to December 2020, all thanks to strong demand for its nitrile gloves.

Miramar Resources Ltd’s (ASX:M2R) assay results from its 1-metre re-splits have returned high-grade gold of up to 2 metres at 7.7 g/t, including 1-metre at 13.58 g/t, at the newly-defined Marylebone target at its 80%-owned Gidji joint venture project north of Kalgoorlie.

Infinity Lithium Corp Ltd’s (ASX:INF) (FRA:3PM) wholly-owned Extremadura Mining SL is participating in the Spanish battery consortium Battchain, which is seeking €1.2 billion in coronavirus funding.

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