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FTSE 100 closes convincingly ahead as traders enjoy lockdown easing optimism

  • FTSE 100 closes ahead
  • FTSE 250 hits intraday record
  • Deliveroo and Just Eat ahead
  • US stocks lower

5pm: FTSE finishes ahead

FTSE 100 closed the mid-week session not far off a  percentage point ahead as traders continue to bask in lockdown easing optimism.

Britain’s blue-chip index of leading shares finished up nearly 62 points, or 0.91% higher at 6,885, while midcap FTSE 250 was nearing a record high, closing 166 points ahead at 22,160.

The UK’s vaccine rollout continues apace, while the UK medicines regulator the MHRA said on Wednesday that the risk of a rare blood clots following an Oxford-AstraZeneca jab remains “extremely small” and those who have received their first dose should continue to be offered a second dose of the same jab.

Among notable risers amid the midcap FTSE 250, Carnival PLC (LON:CCL) shares were buoyed 5.39% higher to 1,799p as the cruise ship operator said advance bookings remained strong, while its cash burn had also decreased.

On Wall Street, stocks were moving in the other direction as the Feed meeting minutes were awaited. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 62 points, while the S&P 500 slipped 1.73 and the Nasdaq lost nearly 14 points.

4.11pm: Vaccine hopes drive UK market higher

Leading UK shares are still firmly in positive territory, buoyed by the prospect of lockdown starting to ease next week and the continuing success overall of the vaccine programme, with the Moderna jab beginning its rollout.

The FTSE 100 is up 68.53 points or 1% at 6892.08, despite a sluggish start on Wall Street as investors hold fire ahead of the minutes from the last Federal Reserve policy meeting. All three main US indices are now in positive territory however.

The blue chip index is set for its highest close since February last year.  Meanwhile the FTSE 250 hit a new record high of 22,182 and despite slipping back a little is still up 159.3 points or 0.72% at 22,153.78.

Michael Hewson at CMC Markets said: “The rebound in the FTSE250 from the lows last year at 12,373.5 has been particularly impressive despite the devastation wrought on big parts of the UK economy.

“Some of the best performers over the past 12 months have been the likes of AO World, Royal Mail, Watches of Switzerland, who have seen gains in excess of 200%. We’ve also seen solid rebounds in the likes of Frasers Group, Signature Aviation and Virgin Money whose share prices have more than doubled.

“In terms of underperformers there are just under 20 stocks..that haven’t posted a gain in the last 12 months, including the likes of Hiscox, Babcocks, and”

Back with the FTSE 100 and with signs of the economy recovering, commodity companies are gaining ground, with Rio Tinto PLC (LON:RIO) up 162p or 2.88% at 5789p.

Food delivery firms are also in demand, with Just Eat NV (LON:JET) the biggest riser in the leading index, up 356p or 5.22% at 7176p. Beleaguered rival Deliveroo (LON:ROO) – despite facing a strike by drivers demanding better pay and conditions – is up 2.04% or 5.7p at 295.7p. Still nowhere near the 390p flotation price of course.

3.40pm: Proactive North America headlines:

BioHarvest Sciences Inc (CSE:BHSC) (OTCMKTS:CNVCF) (FRA:8MV) delivers record 1Q sales for its flagship functional food product VINIA in Israel

AIM ImmunoTech Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:AIM) reports no serious adverse events in dosing of Cohort 1 in Phase 1 study of Ampligen drug’s safety as an intranasal therapy

Great Panther Mining Limited (TSE:GPR) (NYSEAMERICAN:GPL) reveals promising new open pit drill results from its Tucano gold operation in Brazil

DGTL Holdings Inc (CVE:DGTL) (OTCQB:DGTHF) (FRA:A2QB0L) subsidiary Hashoff wins PGA Masters social media content campaign for Nasdaq company

Organic Garage Ltd (CVE:OG) (OTCQX:OGGFF) (FRA:9CW1) expands its Hand-Picked Partner program to include baked goods and sushi

GGX Gold Corp (CVE:GGX) (OTCQB:GGXXF) (FRA:3SR2) posts “significant results” from drilling at Perky vein, Gold Drop property

Exro Technologies Inc (CVE:EXRO) (OTCQB:EXROF) (FRA:1O2)  touts C$48M war chest to advance Coil Driver commercialization in 2020 results

Renforth Resources’ Inc (CSE:RFR) (OTCPINK:RFHRF) (FRA:9RR) latest drill results from 2020 program at Parbec expected to positively impact resource estimate

Else Nutrition Holdings Inc (CVE:BABY) (OTCQX:BABYF) (FRA:0YL) set to launch its plant-based products in the US northeast

Bragg Gaming Group Inc (TSX:BRAG) (OTCMKTS:BRGGF) (FRA:SL4A) strengthens Spanish presence with launch of ORYX Gaming on Casumo

Empower Clinics Inc (CSE:CBDT) (FRA:8EC) (OTCQB:EPWCF) sees patient numbers soar year-over-year in Q1 treatment data

Versus Systems Inc (NASDAQ:VS) (CSE:VS) (FRA:BMVB) adds new functionality to prizing platform for the UK market

Loop Insights Inc (CVE:MTRX) (OTCQB:RACMF) completes its integration with Vend’s Billing API

Talon Metals  Corp (TSE:TLO) (OTCMKTS:TLOFF) (FRA:TAO) seeing promising nickel mineralization at previously undrilled target on the Tamarack nickel project

OTC Markets Group Inc (OTCQX:OTCM) says Tiger Broker, a leading online stock brokerage in Asia has become a new distributor of its Real-Time Level 2+ Quotes

CytoDyn Inc (OTCQB:CYDY) inks exclusive supply and distribution agreement for leronlimab in Brazil with Biomm SA

Ximen Mining Corp (CVE:XIM) (OTCQB:XXMMF) (FRA:1XMA) further expands footprint in Greenwood camp as it acquires royalty on Sidley gold-Dayton copper properties

3.04pm: Carnival cruises higher

Saga is not the only cruise company to be in demand.

Carnival PLC (LON:CCL) has sailed ahead 4.3% or 73.4p to 1780.4p despite reporting a $2bn loss for the first quarter, as the pandemic devasted the travel sector.

But it said six of its nine brands were expected to resume limited guest cruise operations by this summer.

Chief executive Arnold Donald said, “Booking volumes are accelerating. During the first quarter of 2021 they were approximately 90% higher than volumes during the fourth quarter of 2020 reflecting both the significant pent up demand and long-term potential for cruising.”

Meanwhile the FTSE 100 is becalmed but at least it is doing so in positive territory, up 62.77 points or 0.92% at 6886.32.

2.38pm: Wall Street gets off to a mixed start

Wall Street opened on a softer note on Wednesday, with the main indices trading mixed in the first minutes of the session.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.16% at 33,482 while the S&P 500 rose 0.07% to 4,076 and the Nasdaq fell 0.13% to 13,680.

Investors appear to be awaiting for the latest batch of Fed minutes before making a decision on which direction to take, particularly with yields in US Treasuries having caused some headaches for equities markets in previous weeks.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 was continuing to ascend into late afternoon, rising 66 points to 6,889 shortly before 2.40pm.

2.14pm: Saga shines despite losses

Despite signs the US market might now edge lower rather higher, the UK blue chip index remains positive, up 51.28 points or 0.75% at 6874.83.

The FTSE 250 is also holding on to most of its gains, up 0.5% or 109.43 at 22,103.91.

One of the day’s best performers is over-50s specialist Saga PLC (LON:SAGA) despite the company recording a £61.2mln loss last year as the pandemic effectively shut down its cruise business.

But its insurance business did well, and with cruise bookings now running higher than last year, it believes there is pent up demand from its newly vaccinated clientele.

So its shares are up 36.4p or 10.44% at 385p.

12.53pm: US markets likely to see muted open

US markets are expected to open fairly flat, as investors await the minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting on March 17. The statement from the Fed’s open market committee at the time included a revised growth forecast but suggested no interest rate rises until 2023.

Sophie Griffiths, market analyst at OANDA, said: “Looking ahead to the US open, futures are pointing to a muted open ahead of the minutes from the latest FOMC meeting… Whilst US treasury yields are trending lower today, any sense of a more hawkish Fed could reignite the bond market rout which dominated in the first three months of the year.”

Neil Wilson at said: “The minutes could help explain how the Fed plans to communicate future policy decisions and shed light on how some policymakers could change their view on monetary policy if inflation and growth does accelerate as expected this summer.

“Whilst [Fed chair] Jay Powell has kept market speculation at bay, the minutes could allow participants to focus on when the Fed will tighten. As detailed after the meeting statement, it looks as though the Fed is happy to let the economy run hot and won’t intervene to cool it down. Even with growth in excess of 6.5% this year, 3% in 2022 and 2% in 2023; it still sees no need to tighten policy within the next almost three yeras…

“It also doesn’t really think the sharp bounce back this year is sustainable, meaning now is not the time to remove the punchbowl. US 10-year yields have retreated to under 1.64% – given the pullback from the recent highs there is a risk the market sees something in the minutes which signals it could tighten policy sooner than it is currently guiding.” 

So the Dow Jones Industrial Average is forecast to open up around 17 points or 0.04% while the S&P 500 is expected to edge up 0.02% and the Nasdaq Composite make a flat start.

Back in the UK, the FTSE 100 has drifted back marginally but is still up 43.52 points or 0.64% at 6867.07.

Also in London, footage emerged of Deliveroo workers marching – or pedalling actually – through the capital, though shares in the company are strolling higher.

12.12pm: Takeaway shares on order

Restaurants and pubs may soon be reopening, to a limited extent at first, but investors seem to have got over their concerns that we won’t still be ordering takeaways in large amounts even after lockdown is eased.

After a dip this week, Just Eat NV (LON:JET) is up 5.06% or 345p at 7165p and even beleagured Deliveroo (LON:ROO) – facing strikes and the end of conditional trading – has moved higher, up 2.55% or 7.13p to 287.13p. As a reminder it floated last week at 390p.

Meanwhile the FTSE 100 continues to put in a solid  performance, up 53.98 points or 0.79% at 6877.53.

10.59am: Builders in demand

Housebuilders are among the day’s risers as optimism about the domestic economy continues to grow.

Taylor Wimpey PLC (LON:TW.) is up 2.93% or 5.35p at 188.2p while Persimmon PLC (LON:PSN) is 81p or 2.62% better at 3173p.

The buoyant mood surrounding the vaccine rollout and the gradual move out of lockdown continues to support the market, with the FTSE 100 up 45.37 points or 0.66% at 6868.92 albeit edging lower from its best levels. The more domestically focused FTSE 250 is up a similar amount, 143.69 points or 0.65% better at 22,138.17.

Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG, said: “The prospect of an impending loosening of Covid restrictions has helped boost high-street and services sectors stocks such as Hammerson, Mitchells & Butlers and Restaurant Group, with optimism over the impending economic boost helping to drive stocks higher.

“Questions remain over whether such loosening will ultimately drive up Covid cases, but until we see a change of the current trajectory, markets are increasingly confident that the UK vaccination effort will help enable a substantial economic recovery in the coming months.”


10.03am: Blockbuster bid helps positive mood

Another factor supporting the markets at the moment is our old friend, takeover speculation.

News that British private equity group CVC has made a bid for Japanese conglomerate Toshiba which could be worth £14.5bn has set tongues wagging.

AJ Bell financial analyst Danni Hewson said: “Among the catalysts for this latest leg higher for equities is news of a blockbuster private equity bid for Japanese conglomerate Toshiba which is likely to prompt speculation about which companies could be next to fall prey to the wall of cash private equity firms have built up in recent years.

“The UK market, which has seen its fair share of takeover action of late, is an obvious candidate for M&A speculation as the relative weakness of the pound and the wider underperformance of UK stocks against their global counterparts has made it an attractive pond for potential acquirers to fish in.”

So stick in a pin in the list of the UK’s top 100 companies and see what it comes up with.

Meanwhile the FTSE 100 is holding firm at 6878.34, up 54.79 points or 0.8%.

9.43am: Positive UK survey supports market

The UK service sector performed strongly in March, according to the final update on the month, albeit marginally worse than the initial estimates.

The IHS/Markit purchasing managers index came in at 56.3 compared to estimates of 56.8, but sharply higher than the 49.5 recorded in February and just 39.5 in January. Anything over 50 marks expansion rather than contraction, and March has seen the first growth for four months.

The composite index – which includes both the service and manufacturing sectors – was 56.4, up from 49.6 in February and above the 50 threshold for the first time in 2021 so far.

Tim Moore, Economics Director at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey, said: “UK service providers were back in expansion mode in March as confidence in the roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions provided a strong uplift to new orders. Total business activity increased at the fastest rate since August 2020 and this return to growth ended a four-month sequence of decline.

“Forward bookings for consumer services and rising optimism about recovery prospects resulted in extra staff hiring across the service economy for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Business optimism improved for the fifth month running in March and was the highest since December 2006.”

The FTSE 100 is holding onto its gains following the survey, up 55.61 points or 0.81% at 6879.16.

9.17am: Food delivery firm regains a little lost ground

Deliveroo (LON:ROO) has shrugged off a proposed strike by its riders over pay and conditions, as restrictions on trading its shares came to an end.

Following its flop flotation last week which saw its shares slump in conditional trading from the 390p offer price, it has picked up 10p or 3% to 290p despite general investors being able to sell for the first time.

Neil Wilson at said: “Deliveroo shares edged higher at the start of unrestricted trading as investors shrugged off the stock’s dreadful start to life as a public company. There were fears the 70,000 retail customers who had participated in the float would take the opportunity to offload, but investors are holding the line for the time being.

“Having tumbled 26% on day one, the first day of unrestricted trading saw the stock climb 3%… I’m not sure if this is a vote of confidence or a case of averaging in, but it’s no doubt a big relief to management and the bankers involved that the retail army has not routed at the first sound of gunfire. Given the wipe-out that has already taken place, I think a lot of investors will simply think that it cannot go any lower and it’s worth holding on for a better price. Cutting losers is harder than letting winners run. It comes as hundreds of Deliveroo riders prepare to strike over pay and conditions. The walkout underlines the regulatory risk attached to the stock and the implied impact any Uber-like ruling could have on margins.”

Overall the market’s buoyant mood continues, with the FTSE 100 up 57.26 points or 0.84% at 6880.81, helped by the success of the vaccine programme as the Moderna rollout begins and ahead of the first stage of reopening next week.

Neil Wilson again: ” The FTSE 100 rose 0.9% in the early part of the session to trade at its highest since the start of the year – 6,900 looks to be on. I’d still be confident that the discount in UK equities combined with a solid domestic and global outlook supports the investment thesis and the blue chips could be eyeing a pre-pandemic 7,700 by the end of the year.”

8.52am: UK benefits from international investors

Rotation appears to be the word of the week with international investors ploughing some of the profits made on America’s tech stocks into the more cyclical, lower growth European markets.

London was among the beneficiaries of this trend as it opened up almost 50 points to the good.

Later we’ll get a read on the state of the service sector with monthly purchasing managers’ data expected, while in the US the tea leaves will be forked over after the latest meeting of the Federal Reserve.

Of interest from the latter will be any minor nod or snort in the direction of American interest rates against a backdrop of growing anxiety over inflation.

On the market, retail landlord Land Securities (LON:LAND) flourished as Britons prepared to return to the shopping malls. Its shares led the Footsie with a 2.7% advance.

BP (LON:BP.) was not far behind with a 2.3% gain after its latest results revealed it was cutting its debt pile at a faster than forecast rate.

Legal wrangling with Fox Corp over a disputed stake in FanDuel put pressure on gaming group Flutter Entertainment (LON:FLTR), which fell 2.5%.

Proactive news headlines

Argo Blockchain PLC (LON:ARB) said it has generated record profits and revenues from its cryptocurrency mining operations for the third month in a row as it capped off what it said was the best quarter in its history. 

Woodbois Limited (LON:WBI) has hailed record output from its facilities in Gabon in the first quarter of 2021 as demand for its products increased amid a global economic rebound from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

FinnCap Group PLC (LON:FCAP), the small-cap broker and finance group, said the strong market for IPOs and secondary funding continues to filter through into its results.

Guild Esports PLC (LON:GILD) said the total viewership of its network is set to double as a result of signing German content creator Nikita Sembowski.

Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX) said its portfolio company Artios Pharma Limited, in which it owns a 12.4% stake, has agreed a global research collaboration with Swiss pharma giant Novartis to create a new generation of DNA Damage Response (DDR) cancer therapies.

IronRidge Resources Ltd (LON:IRR) said it started drilling at the Kineta North gold licence in north-eastern Ivory Coast and has already observed visible gold in the first hole completed.

Construction materials specialist SigmaRoc PLC (LON:SRC) has unveiled the €13mln acquisition of Belgian concrete assets alongside the formation of a second construction materials platform. The company also announced that it expects to publish its full year 2020 results on 13 April 2021.

Block Energy PLC (LON:BLOE) is seeking to drill two wells, each targeting initial production of 600 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), and spud a third well by the end of 2021, the company said as it set out its objectives for the year.

AdEPT Technology Group PLC (LON:ADT) said it expects to meet current market forecasts for revenue and EBITDA for the financial year to end March 2021.

SIMEC Atlantis Energy PLC (LON:SAE) surged on Wednesday after giving investors an update on its recent operations.

Lab work carried out researchers at the world famous Johns Hopkins in the US appears to underline the potential of Evgen Pharma PLC’s (LON:EVG) lead drug in COVID-19.

Curtis Banks PLC (LON:CBP) said it weathered the coronavirus storm and made good progress on a number of strategic initiatives in 2020.

Jersey Oil and Gas PLC (LON:JOG) said it has completed the £150,000 deal to take full ownership of Licence P2170, which hosts most of the Verbier discovery and is one part of the Greater Buchan Area (GBA) development project.

Xpediator (LON:XPD) confirmed that it will announce final results for calendar year 2020 on Monday 12 April 2021. Chief executive Robert Ross and chief financial officer Mike Williamson will provide a live investor presentatio on the Investor Meet Company platform at 10.30am UK time on the day.

Personal Group Holdings PLC (LON:PGH) announced the grant of share awards under its  2021 long-term incentive plan (LTIP) to reward and incentivise senior executives, after its 2012 plan expired. The awards are subject to attainment of targets over three areas, including total shareholder return, EBITDA and ESG measures.

Silence Therapeutics PLC (LON:SLN, NASDAQ:SLN) chief executive Mark Rothera will present a company overview followed by Q&A at the Needham Virtual Healthcare Conference on Wednesday, April 14 at 8:45am EDT/1:45pm BST. A live webcast of the presentation will be available via the company’s website ( and an archived replay of the webcast will be available there afterwards.

Sirius Real Estate PLC (LON:SRE) announced that it will issue a trading update on Monday 12 April 2021, following its financial year end on 31 March.

6.50 am: Front foot start predicted 

The FTSE 100 is expected to start higher on Wednesday as traders await clarity on the UK’s services sector.

Spread-betters IG expect the blue-chip index to open up around 11 points after ending Tuesday’s session 86 points higher at 6,823.

With the UK’s lockdown set for another round of easing next Monday, businesses are gearing up for a resumption of trading that saw a flash PMI reading surge last month.

“This rebound in activity suggests that businesses are building up inventory as well as preparing for a coiled spring rebound in [the second quarter]”, said Michael Hewson at CMC Markets, with non-essential retailers, hairdressers and pub beer gardens due to reopen for business from next week.

Aside from the UK services PMI, investors will also be eyeing the latest set of minutes from the Federal Reserve to discern any more detail about the US central bank’s approach to possible interest rate rises and economic forecasts for the coming years.

Predictions of a higher start in London followed a sluggish session for Wall Street overnight, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing 0.29% lower at 33,430 while the S&P 500 dropped 0.1% to 4,073 and the Nasdaq fell 0.05% to 13,698.

The picture was more mixed in Asia this morning, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 rising 0.13% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.8%.

On currency markets, the pound was up 0.01% against the dollar at US$1.382, although the services data and Fed minutes later today could provide some movement catalysts.

Around the markets:

Sterling: US$1.382, up 0.01%

Brent crude: US$63.03 a barrel, up 0.46%

Gold: US$1,738.57 an ounce, up 0.59%

Bitcoin: US$57,743, down 1.87%

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed on Wednesday following overnight losses on Wall Street, where U.S. stocks fell from record levels.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong slipped 0.74% while the Shanghai Composite in China dropped 0.51%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.14% and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.22%.

Shares in Australia traded higher, with the S&P/ASX 200 advancing 0.52%.


Proactive Australia news:

Alta Zinc Ltd (ASX:AZI) (FRA:8EE) has received thick, high-grade zinc and lead results from the first drill pad of its maiden drilling program at Ponente area of the Gorno Project in Italy with added silver.

Auteco Minerals Ltd’s (ASX:AUT) (OTCMKTS:MNXMF) strategy to upgrade and grow the 1-million-ounce inferred resource at its Pickle Crow Gold Project in Canada continues to deliver strong results with the discovery of more high-grade mineralisation.

Perseus Mining Ltd (ASX:PRU) (TSE:PRU) (OTCMKTS:PMNXF) (FRA:P4Q) has demonstrated potential for organic growth of gold inventories across its multi-mine asset portfolio in Côte d’Ivoire with further broad high-grade results from regional drilling at Sissingué and Yaouré.

K2fly Ltd (ASX:K2F) experienced a record invoicing quarter, with A$2.06 million in invoices raised in the March quarter, a 28% increase on the A$1.61 million of the corresponding quarter of FY20.

Miramar Resources Ltd (ASX:DRM) has kicked off drilling at its highly prospective gold projects in world-class locations and is progressing various other projects through permitting and or tenement grant.

CV Check Ltd (ASX:CV1) has completed the acquisition of CI6 Pty Ltd an entity that owns Bright People Technologies Pty Ltd (BPT), a SaaS cloud-based provider of workforce credentials and compliance software through the Enable and Cited brands.

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