FTSE 100 closes lower on uneventful Friday; US shares also lag

  • FTSE 100 index closes down 53 points
  • US markets lower on shortened trading day
  • Ocado top Footsie gainer

5pm: FTSE closes down but higher on week

FTSE 100 index closed in the red on Friday as trade worries persist, Black Friday sales started, and US markets saw thin volumes – the day after Thanksgiving.

The UK's premier share benchmark finished down around 53 points at 7,362. On the week as a whole, it rose around 0.5%.

The FTSE 250 fell over 179 points on the day, at 20,844.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed around 99 points, while the S&P 500 lost nearly seven points. The Nasdaq was also lower, giving up over 22 points.

David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets, said London saw a "broad sell-off in financial, mining, energy and consumer stocks".

"The US-China trade story continues to dominate the headlines as the latest twist in the story is the Hong Kong bill – where the US government essentially backs the citizens of Hong Kong. Beijing dont want to see the Trump administration stick their nose in domestic matters, so dealers are worried it might derail the trade talks. Apprehension about what will be Chinas next move is stopping traders from buying into the market."

Ocado (LON:OCDO) shares zoomed up nearly 10% on the day to 1,325p after the online grocer confirmed it had struck a deal with Aeon, Japans largest supermarket group – the first with a firm in Asia. The company has now struck deals with companies in France, the US, Canada, and Australia.

3.00pm: US markets open lower

US indices opened lower on what is a truncated trading day in the US.

The Dow Jones was down 88 points (0.2%) at 28,076 while the broader-based S&P 500 was down 6 points (0.3%) at 3,147.

In the UK, the Footsie continues to gently roll downhill; its currently off 38 points (0.5%) at 7,379.

About the only market benchmark heading higher in the UK is the FTSE Small Cap index, which is up 10 points (0.2%), thanks largely to an 11.7% rise to 93.3p by newspaper publisher Reach PLC (LON:RCH).

Whether the share price rise was because it managed to slow the decline of its print titles or because it opted to back away from acquiring collapsed rival Johnston Press is hard to say.

Publishers of the Daily Mail buy the i newspaper from JPI (Johnston Press, as was) for £49.6m. (Via @pressgazette)

— Jason Evans ???????????????????????????? ???????? (@EvansTheCrime) November 29, 2019

2.00pm: Losses lengthen

The FTSE 100 is drifting lower, with lenders and housebuilders prominent among those on the slide.

After a lunchtime trading session that was every bit as placid as the morning session, the Footsie was down 25 points (0.3%) at 7,391.

“It's been quite the forgettable week and I don't think today is going to be any more memorable,” said Craig Erlam of Oanda, nutshelling it totally.

“Thanksgiving week is, more often than not, rather slow anyway but this week has been particularly so. It naturally doesn't help when the economic calendar is so thin and central banks have their house in order, leaving little hope of any action in the final weeks of the year,” he continued.

“Of course, people in the UK may be jealous that others can enjoy the festivities rather than dragging themselves to the voting booths when they'd rather be sipping on mulled wine or doing their Christmas shopping. Instead we're spending late November/early December watching painful debates and the endless election coverage. Oh joy!”

Amen to that, Craig.

If you are looking for the faintest glimmer of excitement today it is best to look outside the FTSE 350, where a couple of takeovers have got pulses racing.

Northgate PLC (LON:NTG), the vehicle hire group, has agreed a merger with accident management specialist Redde Plc (LON:REDD).

Northgate shares fell 7.3% to 324.5p while Redde shares rose 3.1% to 112p.

Meanwhile, Aggregated Micro Power Holdings PLC (LON:AMPH) shot up 25% to 85p after agreeing to a 90p a share offer from the Asterion Industrial Infra Fund.

12.45pm: More like Bleak Friday

Checking for FTSE 100 index value updates is a bit like watching the spinning wheel of death on Microsoft Windows today.

The first 90 minutes of trading saw some moderate volatility but since then it has been a story of gentle decline, with Londons index of blue-chip shares down 17 points (0.2%) at 7,399.

US markets are open again, albeit only for half a day, following yesterdays Thanksgiving Day, but there seems little chance of London gaining impetus from that source, as spread betting quotes suggest the Dow Jones will open at around 28,105 (down 59 points) and the S&P 500 at around 3,148, down 6 points or so.

For once, US traders are likely to be more focused on Black Friday than on US-China trade relations.

“It is more than the online videos of scrums outside American shopping malls. Black Friday also serves as an interesting data point on health and trends for consumers,” commented Jasper Lawler at LCG.

“In Europe, which has only adopted Black Friday in the past few years, scepticism seems to be rising about the value offered by Black Friday deals. That scepticism potentially adds a downside skew to the sales figures. Nonetheless, if consumers are feeling optimistic and have some disposable funds, spending at retailers should still get a healthy spike. Rising Black Friday sales, all else considered is a good thing for the global growth picture,” Lawler suggested.

On the UK retail scene, Dixons Carphone PLCs (LON:DC.) Carphone Warehouse business is being sued by ThinkSmart Limited (LON:TSL), the digital payments specialist.

The AIM-listed tiddler has got the hump with Carphone Warehouse (CPW) because it says the volumes from a flexible leasing contract it has with CPW are well below the numbers targeted in the contract.

According to ThinkSmart, CPW is under an obligation in respect to the marketing and promotion of ThinkSmarts RentSmart leasing product.

Dixons shares have largely shrugged off the development, shedding 1.3% but ThinkSmart, which is seeking around £20mln in damages, is down 21% at 16p, although it is worth noting that this is still almost double the price the shares were at three months ago.

11.15am: London continues to drift

With the US effectively enjoying a long weekend a sense of ennui continues to pervade the London stock market.

After almost recovering to par, the Footsie is now on the slide again but it cant even be bothered to make a big effort at retreating; the index is just down 13 points (0.2%) at 7,403.

“Stocks are mixed this morning as US-China tensions have ticked up slightly on account of the USs backing of the Hong Kong bill. The mood is cautious as dealers are fearful there could be an unravelling of some of the good work that has been done in relation to the trade discussions. Beijing view the Hong Kong bill as sinister and it has the potential to sour relations,” opined CMCs David Madden.

“That being said, equities havent lost that much ground in the past two sessions so traders are not that concerned for now. Market volatility is tipped to be low as many US traders will remain on holidays seeing as yesterday was Thanksgiving,” he noted.

The Bank of England has reported that the net flow of consumer credit in October was £1.3bn, which was above the £1.1bn monthly average since July 2018 and up from £0.8bn in September.

Lending in the mortgage market continues to be steady, the Bank said. Net mortgage borrowing picked up on the month to £4.3bn from £3.9bn in September, while mortgage approvals for house purchase fell slightly to 65,000.

UK businesses made net repayments of £0.9bn last month, driven by a weakening in borrowing from both banks and financial markets.

“The Bank of England remains accommodative, but it is clear that there has been a levelling out of money indicators. Interest rates are still low but credit is yet to expand as hoped and the expected boost in investment required to up-shift into a post-Brexit environment remains elusive,” said Phil Smeaton, the chief investment officer at Sanlam UK.

“Once the results of the election are revealed, we will receive clarity around future fiscal stimuli and investment spending. If a majority is secured in parliament, we can expect investment, which has been weak, to bounce back as we ride a wave of increased confidence and stability,” he predicted.

10.05am: Back to square one

After a dull start, Londons index of leading shares has pretty much wiped out all of its early losses, helped by the weakness of sterling.

The FTSE 100 was down just 3 points at 7,413. The pound, meanwhile, was off by almost a quarter of a cent at US$1.2889 against the greenback.

Much – possibly all – of the Footsies decline could be accounted for by a 4.2% fall to 1,072p by wealth management firm, St Jamess Place PLC (LON:STJ) after Goldman Sachs got off the fence and recommended selling the shares.

In other broker action, Bernstein downgraded Royal Mail PLC (LON:RMG) to “market perform” from “outperform”, although that was before it knew that the Communications Workers Union had been unsuccessful in its application to the Court of Appeal to overturn an interim injunction against strike action granted by the High Court

Nevertheless, shares in the letters and parcels delivery firm were down 1.7% at 214.02p.

8.40am: Dull end to the week and month

The FTSE 100 looks set for a negative end to the trading month with the index of UK blue-chips down 32 points at 7,384.64 early on.

Wall Streets closure for Thanksgiving invariably led to a lacklustre performance this side of the Atlantic; however, Sino-American trade worries also appeared to be driving sentiment.

“The apparent catalyst is fears that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, signed by Donald Trump this week, will irrevocably damage the relationship between the US and China just as it seemed that the phase one trade talks were pointing in the right direction,” said Connor Campbell, analyst at Spreadex.

Adding to the general air of negativity was some fairly weak factory output data from Asian powerhouse economies Japan and South Korea, raising the spectre of a global recession.

Closer to home, the days big market mover was Ocado (LON:OCDO), the online grocery retailer turned fulfilment and logistics specialist.

Its shares soared 12% – a large movement on the Footsie – after it landed a deal to help streamline the online presence of Japans largest supermarket chain

Proactive news headlines:

Aggregated Micro Power Holdings PLC (LON:AMPH) is being taken private in a deal that values the biomass wood fuels and low carbon heat and power specialist at £63.1mln. The 90p a share offer from the Asterion Industrial Infra Fund, which has board backing, represents a 32% premium to last nights closing stock price.

Kavango Resources PLC (LON:KAV) has hit early-stage signs of mineralisation during drilling on its Kalahari Suture Zone project (KSZ) in Botswana. The exploration intersected disseminated sulphides in two high-level gabbro sills, said the standard-listed junior, which is exploring near the town of Hukuntsi. The sills were intersected at 340 metres and 367 metres respectively and were each about one-third of a metre thick.

Woodbois Limited (LON:WBI) has signed an offtake agreement with a West African timber supplier for all of its production in Liberia. The forestry group said the agreement, which is expected to be formalised in January, will generate “material additional trading revenue” and will have scope for increases.

ADES International Holding PLC (LON:ADES) revealed a 169% year-on-year rise in third-quarter revenue amid improved utilisation and the post-acquisition scale-up of operations. The company reported a utilisation rate of 95% in the first three quarters of the year, versus 83% in the same period of 2018.

Quadrise Fuels International PLC (LON:QFI) made “staged progress” through the past year, expanding the breadth and depth of its market opportunity for its MSAR technology, the company said ahead of todays AGM. The specialist fuel firm, in a statement, noted that it raised £4.5mln of new funds in the third quarter of the year, enabling it to continue business development activities.

Benchmark Holdings PLC (LON:BMK) said full-year adjusted underlying earnings (EBITDA) from continuing operations are expected to be around £11mln-£12mln, in line with expectations. The maintained guidance will come as a relief to shareholders after the aquaculture health, nutrition and genetics company warned in August of “challenging” conditions in the shrimp and sea bass/ bream markets.

Iconic Labs PLC (LON:ICON) has reshuffled its current board with the appointment of a new executive director and the loss of two non-executives Sam Asante, currently chief operating officer of the media group, previously worked at social media site UNILAD helping to establish commercial operations before moving to product and marketing.

Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy (LON:FARN), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, said it has entered into a liquidity providing agreement with Lago Kapital under which it will quote bids and offers for the company's share within the framework for the Nasdaq First North Growth Market Finland rules for liquidity provision. The spread of the bid and offer prices is a maximum of 4% calculated on the bid price and the quotes on bid and offer must be at least Euro 3,000 worth of shares. The intention is to promote liquidity in the share, the group added.

Eurasia Mining PLC (LON:EUZ) said it has received notice to exercise warrants over 15,583,333 ordinary shares of 0.1 pence in the company at an exercise price of 0.6p each, and a further notice regarding warrants over 3,026,806 ordinary shares at an exercise price of 0.826p each. The group said all funds for the exercise of the warrant shares have been received and amount to a cash value of, in aggregate, £118,501. Christian Schaffalitzky, the groups chairman commented: "None of the recently executed warrants or options were executed by directors. The First Equity warrant overhang is now fully removed. The directors also continue to make progress in ongoing talks in the current price environment for palladium and rhodium".

GSTechnologies Ltd (LON:GST), the integrated information and communication technology infrastructure solutions provider, announced that William Knight has decided to stand down as a non-executive director from 2 December 2019 to focus on his other business interests. The company said it has commenced the search for a replacement non-executive Read More – Source