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FTSE 100 closes higher as Chinese data cheers

Britain's blue-chip benchmark made a late dash after a slow start to close up over 108 points at 5,671

Smiths Group -
FTSE 100 closed firmly in positive territor, boosted by resource stocks
  • FTSE 100 index closes 108 points higher
  • Carnival in massive fund-raising
  • US indices down

5.30pm: FTSE closes higher

FTSE 100 index closed higher as stocks in Europe rallied as Chinese data cheered, though naturally worries over the coronavirus pandemic persist.

Britain's blue-chip benchmark made a late dash after a slow start to close up over 108 points at 5,671.

On Wall Street, shares went lower though. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 99 points, while the S&P 500  lost around 15 points.

"The release of Chinese PMI data overnight provided some reason for optimism, with a sharp rebound back into expansion lifting spirits ahead of the European session," noted Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online trader IG.

"However, this reading highlights the somewhat flawed perception that the PMI can offer, with a rise back above 50 likely simply signifying that many businesses opened up after an enforced lockdown.

"Thus, while both services and  manufacturing in China expanded in comparison to a truly awful February, this does little to shed any light on exactly where business activity stands from a historical perspective."

3.00pm: US indices open lower; Carnival to tap the markets big-time

Bullish enthusiasm was waning ahead of the US open and by the time trading started, it had completely evaporated.

The result was that the Dow Jones industrial average was down 188 points (0.8%) at 22,140, leaving it on course for its worst quarterly performance since the index’s inception.

The S&P 500 was down 23 points (0.9%) at 2,604 after more bleak news about the rising number of deaths from coronavirus in the USA.

Dual-listed Carnival PLC (LON:CCL) was sinking on both sides of the Atlantic after it commenced an underwritten public offering of US$1.25bnn of shares of common stock and private offerings of US$3bn of first-priority senior secured notes due 2023 and US$1.75bn of senior convertible notes due 2023.

Its London-listed shares were down 6.1% at 854.2p as the cruise ships operator laid bare the strain put on its balance sheet by the complete cessation of all its cruise activities.

Despite being weighed down by Carnival, the FTSE 100 was up 22 points (0.4%) at 5,586.

2.25pm: Blue-chips find their second wind

On the final day of the month, the Footsie looks set for its second-worst ever quarter; the worst was in 1987.

At least today the index is making a decent fist of things, rousing itself towards the end of the lunchtime trading session to accumulate a 39 point (0.7%) gain at 5,602.

Some biggish names are among the worst performers of the quarter, such as clothes sellers N Brown Group PLC (LON:BWNG) and French Connection Group PLC (LON:FCCN) – both down by a little more than 90% this year – plus shopping centres owner Intu Properties PLC (LON:INTU), freight & shipping specialist John Menzies PLC (LON:MNZS), and oil mid-caps Premier Oil PLC (LON:PMO) and Tullow Oil PLC (LON:TLW), all of which have lost four-fifths or more of their stock market value this year.

Among FTSE 100 stocks, cruise ships operator Carnival PLC (LON:CCL), which is down 78% this year, is the biggest loser in 2020, closely followed by British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (LON:IAG), down 67%.

A handful of stocks have eked out gains; Polymetal International PLC (LON:POLY), up 14%, is the pick of the bunch, ahead of also-rans Pennon Group PLC (LON:PNN), Fresnillo Plc (LON:FRES), Hikma Pharmaceutical PLC (LON:HIK), Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC (LON:RB.) and National Grid PLC (LON:NG.).

Polymetal was defying the trend again today, dipping 1.1% to 1,361p after signing an offtake agreement with the Aussie gold mining company, Blackham Resources.

Polymetal has agreed to take 70% of refractory sulphide gold concentrate from Blackham’s Wiluna Stage 1 expansion project during its first three years of operation or 122.5 thousand tonnes of concentrate containing at least 195,000 oz of gold.

1.20pm: The morning's gains disappear

The morning’s gains have now disappeared in an afternoon swoon.

The FTSE 100 was more or less unchanged at 5,565.

“The enthusiasm that greeted a better than forecast pair of Chinese PMIs faded started to fade on Tuesday, Europe unable to completely shake its own economic concerns (while also, perhaps, expressing a bit of scepticism over the strength of China’s data),” said Connor Campbell at Spreadex.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 is still in credit, however, with a 341 point (2.3%) gain at 14,965, despite Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings PLC (LON:AML) tumbling 8.5% to 207p after it confirmed last night it had received a £536mln cash injection by a consortium headed by Canadian tycoon Lawrence Stroll.

READ Aston Martin confirms £536mln cash injection as it furloughs staff amid coronavirus shutdown

Bargain hunters have been sniffing around bombed-out shares such as Marston’s PLC (LON:MARS), up 14% at 41.875p, and Hammerson PLC (LON:HMSO), up 14% at 75.86p.

 

11.55am: Footsie's gains halved

In the last hour or so the Footsie has surrendered around half of its gains, mirroring US benchmarks on futures markets.

The FTSE 100 was up 43 points (0.8%) at 5,607.

On spread betting exchanges, the Dow Jones is hovering around 22,378, up 51 points but well below the 150 point rise anticipated a couple of hours back.

“It's still early days and I am not at all convinced we've bottomed yet but five positive days in six is definitely encouraging. Investors will no doubt just be relieved that the incredible levels of volatility appear to be behind us. This at least provides the foundations for a sustainable rebound even if we see another test of the lows in the near-term,” said Craig Erlam at Oanda.

The company announcements related to the impact of COVID-19 continue to come thick and fast and most of them relate to the withdrawal of profit & revenue guidance and the cancellation (or not) of a dividend but Smiths Group PLC (LON:SMIN) has found a new angle; it is to delay the demerging of its medical unit.

Oh, and it has opted not to pay an interim dividend.

“The cancellation of the dividend is disappointing for investors but hardly unexpected and seems a prudent move given the high degree of uncertainty around future trading. The delay in separation of the medical unit which is producing ventilators for the government is also a sensible move given the level of market volatility at present,2 said Ian Forrest, an investment research analyst at The Share Centre.

The medical devices maker was up 4.6% at 1,167p.

 

10.45am: Cigarettes makers in favour

Well, it may not be here forever, Trevor, but for now, investors are enjoying a stock market rally inspired by encouraging data from China.

The FTSE 100 was up 105 points (1.9%) at 5,668 and has been trading sideways since about 8.30am. The next big test will be when the US open approaches; currently, the market is pencilling in a 146 points rise to 22,473 for the Dow Jones.

“The wave of optimism continues to wash over markets, after a surprisingly-strong Chinese PMI figure overnight. China was able to put up hospitals for Covid-19 patients in a remarkably short space of time, but if this data is accurate then they have now accomplished something even more miraculous, namely stopping and then restarting a huge economy in the space of two months,” said a slightly sceptical Chris Beauchamp at IG Group.

“Investors should be careful about drawing too many inferences from one PMI figure, since one swallow does not a summer make, but for now markets are continuing to look for the positives, while at the same time equities are still seeing inflows. This might seem odd while US daily cases are continuing to rise, and at an increasing rate, but so long as the world’s largest economy follows Italy’s pattern we should see markets looking past the tragic data in favour of positioning for the expected rebound. Of course, should the US situation get much worse than Italy, then all bets are off, but for now, this is the play-book,” he added.

It has been a good morning for the fags makers, which is slightly perverse at a time when everyone seems concerned about respiratory diseases.

Imperial Brands PLC (LON:IMB) shot up 13% to 1,500.4p after it secured a new revolving credit facility.

The tobacco products group said there has been no material impact on group performance to date from the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and current trading remains in-line with expectations.British American Tobacco PLC (LON:BATS) has also been looking to beef up its financial flexibility. It rose 2.4% to 2,697.5p, partly in sympathy with IMPs but also in the wake of the pricing of an offering of US$2.4bn of loan notes.

10.00am: Supermarket data gives grocers a boost

The latest grocery market share figures show year-on-year supermarket sales grew by the fastest rate in over a decade during the past 12 weeks.

Market research bureau Kantar said sales grew by 7.6% while over the last four week the rate of growth was 20.6%, making March the biggest month of grocery sales ever recorded by the firm.

Growth has been primarily driven by people making additional shopping trips and buying slightly more, rather than a widespread increase in very large trolleys, according to Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

“With growth of 7.4%, Sainsbury’s was the fastest-growing of the traditional big four this period, followed by Tesco at 5.5%, Asda at 4.9% and Morrisons at 4.6%. Iceland benefited from shoppers stocking up on frozen items, with sales up by 11.7%. Its market share rose to 2.2%, up by 0.1 percentage points on last year.

“Despite a temporary halt on deliveries to new customers in March, online specialist Ocado still acquired 133,000 new shoppers during the past 12 weeks, helping it boost sales over the same period by 12.5%,” he added.

J Sainsbury PLC (LON:SBRY) was up 6.7% at 224.3p following the news. Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC (LON:MRW) was up 1.0% at 184.15p; Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO) was 0.7% higher at 1,244.5p and Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO) was bringing up the rear with a 0.3% increase to 233.89p.

There was less encouraging news from the fourth-quarter gross domestic product release, although the fourth quarter of last year now seems like an aeon ago.

The estimate of growth was left unchanged at zero.

“This meant that GDP growth was 1.4% in 2019, which was slightly up from 1.3% in 2018, which had been the weakest performance since 2012,” reported Howard Archer, the chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club.

“Fourth-quarter-stagnation continued the yo-yo performance of the UK economy through 2019 as activity was distorted by a number of factors, most notably the two scheduled Brexit deadlines of 28 March and 31 October. The economy was held back in the fourth quarter by particularly heightened domestic political uncertainties with the General Election taking place on 12 December as well as elevated Brexit uncertainties,” he noted.

“Year-on-year GDP growth slowed to 1.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019 from 1.3% in the third quarter,” he added.

More welcome was the news that the current account deficit shrank significantly in the fourth quarter to £5.6bn from £19.9bn in the third quarter.

The Office for National Statistics said the substantial change was mostly because of exports of non-monetary gold and other precious metals. Also causing the narrowing of the current account deficit, although to a lesser extent, was a narrowing to the deficit on primary income, which was mostly because of a decrease in the UK's payments to foreign investors.

The FTSE 100 was up 119 points (2.1%) at 5,683.

9.40am: Reasons to be cheerful (part 3)

Investors were humming “Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 3)” this morning as blue-chips got off to a flying start.

Part one was the FTSE 100, which was up 105 points (1.9%) at 5,668, with aerospace-related stocks – which were hammered yesterday after easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) grounded its fleet – leading the way.

Melrose Industries PLC (LON:MRO), which owns automotive engineer GKN, was the top blue-chip riser, up 18% at 103.25p.

Meggitt PLC (LON:MGGT), which makes equipment and systems for the aerospace and defence industries, was up 7.7% at 289.7p.

easyJet itself was up 6.2% at 586.4p while British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (LON:IAG) was 7.2% better at 216.8p.

Part two was China’s Purchasing Managers’ Indices (PMIs), which topped expectations.

The headline manufacturing PMI leapt more than 16 points to 52 in March; a level above 50 indicates an expansion in activity.

The equivalent figure for the non-manufacturing sector jumped more than 22 points to 52.3, compared with a consensus expectation of 42.

“Since the survey aims to reflect the month-on-month change in conditions, the marked improvement from February, when the lockdown was widespread, should have come as no surprise,” said economists at Daiwa Capital Markets.

“Within the detail, nevertheless, the PMIs for manufacturing output and new orders rose from below 30 to 54.1 and 52.0 respectively, while the employment index also rose back above 50. The impact of the spread of Covid-19 abroad, left the manufacturing PMIs for both new export orders and imports are still below 50, at 46.4 and 48.4, respectively,” they added.

Part three was some encouraging news from Italy, which is ahead of the curve in Europe in terms of suffering and responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Also giving investors hope was the fact that Italy had the lowest daily virus infections in two weeks. Signs of a slowdown in new COVID-19 cases are important indicators for the market, particularly in Italy which has been one of the worst affected countries,” said Russ Mould, AJ Bell’s investment director.

“A slowdown and then a peak in new cases could give markets more of a chance to work out the duration and depth of damage done to corporate earnings and cash flows,” he added.

9.10am: Death-defying

The FTSE 100 index defied early predictions to move decisively higher in early trade on Tuesday, buoyed by a World Health Organisation (WHO) assessment that the coronavirus outbreak may be reaching its peak in Europe.

The index of UK blue-chips advanced 106 points to 5,669.83  early on.

WATCH: Morning Report: Smiths Group halts planned demerger of medical arm

The WHO report said there appeared to be a stabilisation of cases in Spain and Italy, asserting that lockdowns in the respective countries are now starting to show signs of working.

The mood of optimism was also helped by data showing a marked rebound in economic activity in China, the world’s second-largest economy and the first victim of the pandemic.

Topping the list of risers was Smiths Group (LON:SMIN), ahead 15%, which said in a trading update it is ramping up production of ventilators.

Bargain hunters came out of the woodwork for Melrose (LON:MLRO), up 6.5%. The owner of aerospace components group GKN was heavily sold off on Monday as fleets of airlines were grounded.

Also recovering lost ground was one of those grounded airlines, easyJet (LON:EZJ), which flew 7.5% higher amid bail-out reports.

Proactive news headlines:

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) has signed an exclusive licence agreement for its OptiBiome weight loss ingredient with Australian firm OptiPharm Pty Ltd. The AIM-listed firm said the deal for OptiBiome, an alternative trademark for its SlimBiome product, will grant OptiPharm exclusive use of the brand in over 20 markets including Australia, parts of Asia, New Zealand, the Middle East, the Gulf States and North America, which will be linked to minimum order quantities.

Verona Pharma PLC (LON:VRP) (NASDAQ:VRNA) said it has delivered positive efficacy and safety data from a phase II trial of its drug for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The study 40 moderate to severe COPD patients assessed ensifentrine’s potential when administered using pressurised metered-dose inhalers similar to the ones used by asthmatics. It found the treatment delivered “statistically significant and clinically meaningful” increases in lung function across a range of doses.

88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E) has told investors that the Charlie-1 well has reached target depth and it encountered ‘shows’ and ‘elevated log responses’ over several horizons. The company, in a statement, said that the logging data to date is “largely consistent” with what was recorded at the Malguk-1 well. Malguk-1 was drilled in 1991 by BP and is the discovery well that the Charlie-1 appraisal is designed to follow-up.

Synairgen PLC (LON:SNG) said it has now commenced dosing patients in its trial of SNG001 (inhaled formulation of interferon-beta-1a) in coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. The respiratory drug discovery and development company said the first patient has been dosed at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. Another six trial sites are expected to start dosing in the next few days.

Xpediator PLC (LON:XPD), a provider of freight management services, has told investors that Chinese freight volumes have started to improve over the last couple of weeks. In a trading update that focused on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the company said so far this year activity levels have remained broadly in line with management expectations.

Columbus Energy Resources PLC (LON:CERP) has agreed a short-term extension to its oil field service contract at the Goudron field, to allow more time to finalise a longer-term arrangement. The Trinidad based oiler, in a statement, told investors that the Goudron Incremental Production Service Contract (IPSC) with Heritage Petroleum Company was due to expire at the end of today. But it has now inked a temporary extension, giving the companies until this Friday, April 3, to put the longer-term agreement in place.

Mkango Resources Ltd (LON:MKA)(CVE:MKA) said it remains focused on the completion of the feasibility study for the Songwe rare earths project in Malawi and the development of downstream opportunities through Maginito Ltd, which includes Maginito's 25% interest in Hypromag Ltd, a UK-based company that specialises in rare earth magnet recycling. Mkango added that it is taking the necessary pre-emptive precautions in response to the coronavirus pandemic and providing ongoing advice to its staff in Malawi.

ANGLE PLC (LON:AGL) (OTCQX:ANPCY), in what is now becoming a common theme in medical research, has revealed its activities as a liquid biopsy specialist thave been disrupted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Operations in the UK, Canada and the US have been affected by measures by the respective governments to contain the spread of the virus, the company said in a statement. As a result, it has implemented its business continuity plan.

Savannah Resources PLC (LON:SAV) said it has been able to continue with many key activities on its projects, including finishing the environmental impact assessment at the Mina do Barroso lithium project in Portugal, and continuing with advanced negotiations with potential partners in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The company said it had a cash position of £3.5mln at the 2019 year-end and has no debt. This is sufficient to maintain current work programmes

Europa Oil & Gas Holdings PLC (LON:EOG) told investors it is cutting costs in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) along with the associated stock market volatility and oil price weakness. In a statement, the group added that it aims to conduct a comprehensive review and a phase of cost reductions across the company in order to retain enough cash to fund current and upcoming activity, including the Wressle field development project. Farm-outs will continue to be sought, albeit work programmes in Ireland and Morocco are due to be reduced, it said.

Red Rock Resources PLC (LON:RRR) booked a profit before tax from continuing operations in the six months to 31 December 2019 of £337,000. Losses in the comparable period a year earlier amounted to £283,000. Net finance income was at similar levels to that in the comparable period of the previous financial year, at £524,000, but this was not offset as in the previous period by impairments and project development costs.

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) has said its field operations remain unaffected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, supported by its £725,000 cash balance The group added, however, it is to delay the publication of its financial results for the year ended 30 September 2019.

Nu-Oil & Gas PLC (LON:NUOG), which is now effectively a cash-shell, has used its interim results statement to highlight “good progress” in its evaluation of potential new opportunities. The company aims to pivot into the environmental industries sector following last year’s management changes, debt refinancing and the divestment legacy oil and gas assets.

Midatech Pharma PLC (LON:MTPH) (NASDAQ:MTP) has announced that, in view of prevailing conditions in the capital markets and the prospects for raising additional funds and partnering of assets, its board is in the process of implementing a strategic review of its operations and has shuffled its board, leading to the departure of its CEO.

ECR Minerals PLC (LON:ECR) posted a loss of £762,586 for the year to end September 2019, a small increase compared with the loss of £721,460 booked for the year to 30 September 2018. The largest contributor to the total comprehensive loss was the line item “other administrative expenses”, which represents the costs of operating the company and carrying out exploration at its projects, where these costs are ineligible for capitalisation under applicable accounting standards.

Horizonte Minerals PLC (LON:HZM) (TSX:HZM), the nickel company focused in Brazil, has said that following recent exemptions granted to the market by Canadian securities regulatory authorities, the company will release its full-year financial results to end-December 2019 beyond the three-month deadline usually required under the listing rules on the Toronto Stock Exchange. This has been driven by delays encountered in the audit process and is consistent with the wider audit environment at present throughout the world. As a result, the company expects to publish its Annual Audited Financial Statements, its Management Discussion & Analysis, and its Annual Information Form for the year ended December 31, 2019, on or before the end of the available 45-day extension period.

Westminster Group PLC (LON:WSG), a leading supplier of managed services and technology-based security solutions worldwide, announced that in view of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic it has received the required support and agreement from noteholders to extend the maturity date of its Convertible Secured Loan Notes (CLNs) to 1 May 2021. As previously announced, the company had commenced a staged redemption programme of its CLNs in January 2020, reducing the outstanding amount by £561,250 to £1,683,750, which was then expected to be fully redeemed before the previous maturity date of 30 June 2020. This extension provides the company with the flexibility to make redemptions at any time up to 1 May 2021, thereby prudently conserving cash during the current uncertain times, although the company will still look to make redemptions at the earliest opportunity as and when appropriate. All other terms of the CLNs remain unchanged.

Vast Resources PLC (LON:VAST), the AIM-listed mining company, said it has elected to pay the interest due on March 29, 2020, on the $7,101,947 Atlas Bond, announced on January, 31, 2020, by the issue of 13,703,171 shares at a price of 0.17415p each. Under the terms of the Atlas bond, the company is entitled to elect to make payment of interest on the bond in shares at an issue price of 90% of the Volume Weighted Average Price of its shares on the business day prior to the interest payment date.

Tower Resources PLC (LON:TRP), the AIM-listed oil and gas company with its focus on Africa, said it has issued warrants in lieu of £68,000, in aggregate, to Peter Taylor and David M Thomson, non-executive directors of the company, and Jeremy Asher, its chairman, in settlement of fees due for the period from 1 January 2020 to 30 June 2020, to conserve the company's working capital. The group said the warrants are exercisable at a price of 0.2p each which is the closing share price on March 30, 2020, and are exercisable for a period of 5 years from the date of issue.

Arkle Resources PLC (LON: ARK), the Irish gold and zinc exploration and development company, announced that a circular has been sent to shareholders convening an extraordinary general meeting to be held at 162 Clontarf Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3 on April 22 at 10.30am to consider the share capital reorganisation linked to the conditional placing it announced on March 27.  The group added that, given the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, shareholders are encouraged to vote online or by proxy.

Redx Pharma PLC (LON::REDX), the drug discovery and development company focused on oncology and fibrosis, has provided further guidance regarding attendance at its Annual General Meeting at Alderley Park on April 23. It said the company has already taken steps to ensure that the meeting will be quorate, and therefore in line with the UK government’s measures, further shareholders are not permitted to attend the meeting, and any shareholder seeking to attend will be refused entry to the meeting. The group added that shareholders are strongly encouraged to vote by proxy, using the card distributed with the notice of meeting, and the proxy is also available in the investor resources section of the company's website.

6.30 am: Dip predicted 

The FTSE 100 is tipped to dip on Tuesday’s open, reversing a little of the previous day’s gains as uncertainty about coronavirus leaves the market in limbo.

London’s blue-chip index is seen dropping 11 points, according to spread betters, having closed 53 points higher at 5,563 on Monday.

Overnight, Wall Street’s main indices finished in the green, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average rising 691 points or 3.2% to 22,327.48, and the S&P 500 up 3.4%, while the Nasdaq Composite added 3.6%.

Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday so far, with the Nikkei 225 flat, the Hang Seng up 0.9% and Shanghai’s composite index up 0.2% after the latest China PMI data readings.

The official PMI survey overnight added to indications that activity in China has started to rebound but, said Capital Economics, also “suggest that weak foreign demand and labour market strains remain headwinds”.

However, the survey did provide hope to economies in the west that are currently in lockdown, said David Madden at CMC Markets. 

“The updates from China jolted the oil market higher, but keep in mind it was relatively cheap going into the data,” he added.

Overnight, a UK consumer confidence report from Gfk showed a score of -9, weakening by two points over the month. 

"Importantly, this research was carried out during the first two-weeks of March, when the coronavirus was headline news but not impacting day-to-day lives of people across all UK nations to the degree we see today," Gfk said, with a worse reading expected in a month's time.

Later this morning there will also be a release from the Office of National Statistics about the UK GDP from the end of last year and the size of the national debt. 

“We will be looking at the detailed balance sheet data to see whether firms continued to hoard cash and so have a bigger-than-usual buffer to whether the virus hit,” said economists at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

In company news, Smiths Group PLC (LON:SMIN) is due to break a four-month-long silence on Tuesday.

It had been due to issue interim results but instead will publish a trading statement, following the Financial Conduct Authority's request for fully listed companies to observe a moratorium on the publication of results for two weeks.

Today's update is likely to include information on the demerger of Smiths Medical, which had been expected to be completed by June and has been in the news of late as the designer of a model of ventilator that is being reproduced at a rapid rate to help make up a shortage for the NHS as it deals with an expected coronavirus surge. 

Around the markets:

  • Pound - down 0.6% to US$1.2343 
  • Oil - Brent Crude up 1.1% to US$23.02
  • Gold - flat at US$1621.20

Significant announcements expected on Tuesday:

Trading update: Smiths Group PLC (LON:SMIN)

InterimsJames Halstead PLC (LON:JHD)

FinalsAnimalcare Group PLC (LON:ANCR), Henry Boot PLC (LON:BOOT), Luceco PLC (LON:LUCE), Michelmersh Brick Holdings Plc (ON:MBH), One Media IP Group PLC (LON:OMIP), The Property Franchise Group PLC (LON:TPFG), Proteome Sciences PLC (LON:PRM), Quixant PLC (LON:QXT), TP Group PLC (LON:TPG), Tremor International Ltd (LON:TRMR), Yu Group PLC (LON:YU.)

Economic data: UK consumer confidence, UK GDP, US Chicago PMI, US CPI

City headlines:

FT

  • Dealmaking grinds to a halt on coronavirus impact: M&A activity plummets as executives shift focus to seeing their companies through crisis
  • Quarantined offshore: North Sea energy groups rocked by coronavirus: Companies grapple with protecting staff in critical industry where many cannot work from home
  • UK insurers tighten terms to explicitly exclude coronavirus: Industry moves to close remaining loopholes, with many contracts up for renewal on April 1
  • Big banks left hanging after ‘disaster’ in risky loan market: Wobbles in collateralised loan obligations pose problems for lenders

The Times 

  • A shortage of key chemicals is hampering Britain’s efforts to expand testing for Covid-19 and forcing officials to work on finding alternative components
  • Plunging oil price ‘could go negative’: Oil prices have tumbled to their lowest level in 18 years amid fears that producers could quickly run out of storage space for crude rendered surplus by falling demand in the coronavirus crisis
  • Institutional investors in banks have said that they are prepared to accept dividend payments being halted because of the uncertainty facing the sector.
  • Banks in Britain could face losses of more than £15 billion on loans that backed leveraged buyouts and other highly geared transactions, research suggests.
  • Food retailers are in line for a £3 billion tax break at the same time as sales surge because of the coronavirus lockdown, according to research.

Guardian

  • Asos has been criticised by staff who say they are scared to come to work at its distribution centre because they are not being sufficiently protected during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • There is an early sign that supermarket panic buying may be on the wane, if figures from the online bank Starling are an accurate guide to how shoppers are behaving.
  • The UK could be hit by a national cardboard shortage as more and more local councils suspend their regular recycling collections owing to pressures caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the industry’s trade body has warned.

Telegraph

  • Carmakers in crisis as virus threatens to burst leasing bubble: Coronavirus means the already stalling car industry is one of the first sectors to run out of road
  • The unprecedented mayhem that has gripped world markets over the past month may have finally run its course after global leaders pulled out all the stops to bring back stability, analysts have said.
  • Marks & Spencer has become the latest grocer to sell food boxes online as part of a national effort to protect the vulnerable and keep supplies moving - The chain will deliver £30 packages containing 20 items such as pasta, rice, curry, cooking sauces and Percy Pig sweets

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