• FTSE 100 closes 20 points higher
  • Boeing gets clearance for 737 Max aircraft
  • Unilever sets food environmental goals

5.10pm: FTSE closes up

FTSE 100 index closed mid-week in the green as vaccine hopes perked up the market again.

Britain’s blue-chip benchmark closed ahead by nearly 20 points at 6,385, while FTSE 250 added over 183 points at 19,699.

On Wall Street, benchmarks were also heading north, with the Dow Jones up over 78 points and the S&P 500 ahead by over eight.

“Stocks are higher as the vaccine race is heating up now that Pfizer and BioNTech confirmed their potential Covid-19 vaccine is 95% effective,” noted David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets.

“Early last week, the companies announced that it was more than 90% effective so good progress has been made in the short time period. On Monday, Moderna Inc said their hopeful coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective so things are neck and neck in the drug race,” said the analyst.

Meanwhile, sterling firmed 0.36% against the US dollar on potential hopes of a Brexit EU-UK deal coming into view.

“Yesterday it was announced that trade talks would intensify and there has been speculation that the discussions are coming to be head, but nothing concrete has been established,” said Madden.

3.40pm: Ryanair in demand after US clears Boeing 737 Max aircraft

FTSE 100 sat tight before close, adding 24 points to 6,389 although sterling rallied 0.4% to US$1.3298 on hopes for a Brexit deal.

Meanwhile, Ryanair Holdings plc (LON:RYA) rose 3% to EUR15.4 after the US authorities lifted the grounding orders on the Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The US Federal Aviation Administration investigated on the planes’ safety after two deadly crashes in October 2018 and March 2019.

The manufacturer will have to change their design and pilots will need training, so the clearance doesn’t mean there will be an immediate return to the skies.

Ryanair operates a fleet of over 470 Boeing 737-800 series aircraft and had orders for 135 new Boeing 737 MAX 200s before the flight ban, with options for 75 more.

3.30pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Loop Insights Inc (CVE:MTRX) (OTCQB:RACMF) selected to join Impact Radius Marketplace and its global affiliate marketing platform

NexTech AR Solutions Corp (OTCQB:NEXCF) (CSE:NTAR) (FRA:N29) CEO Evan Gappelberg to present at Proactive Livestream on November 19

Gungnir Resources Inc (CVE:GUG) (OTCPINK:ASWRF) (FRA:AMO1) plans to increase spend at Rormyrberget and Lappvattnet nickel assets next year as it hails updated resource estimate

True Leaf Brands Inc (CSE:MJ) (OTCPINK:TRLFF) (FRA:TLA) completes its successful restructuring; reacquires certain assets

BevCanna Enterprises Inc (CSE:BEV) (OTCMKTS:BVNNF) (FRA:7BC) eyeing launch of Keef and Cali-Bloom products in first quarter of 2021

Namaste Inc (CVE:N) (OTCMKTS:NXTTF) (FRA:M5BQ) strikes share purchase agreement to acquire remaining 49% interest in CannMart Labs for full ownership

BetterLife Inc (CSE:BETR) (OTCQB:BETRF) (FRA:NPAU) says its AP-003 coronavirus treatment has similarities with Pfizer‘s vaccine

Revive Therapeutics Ltd (CSE:RVV) (OTCMKTS:RVVTF) (FRA:31R) in research collaboration to develop psilocybin to treat cancer and discover novel uses of undisclosed psychedelic compounds

HighGold Mining Inc (CVE:HIGH) (OTCQX:HGGOF) says latest step-out holes in Alaska extend high-grade mineralization at Johnson Tract Deposit

Karora Resources Inc (TSE:KRR) (OTCMKTS:KRRGF) (FRA:5RN1) announces new, high-grade gold results from its Spargos project in Australia

2.45pm: Wall Street sees sluggish start despite vaccine news

Hopes of a surge on Wall Street following new vaccine news from Pfizer appear to have been overstated, with the main indices making a somewhat subdued start on Wednesday morning.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.14% to 29,825, while the S&P 500 was mostly flat at 3,609 and the Nasdaq was up just 0.08% at 11,909.

The positivity around the vaccine may have been overtaken by continually surging cases of coronavirus in the US, which yesterday passed the 11 million mark as more states brought in stricter lockdown measures.

Investors may also be getting fatigued by the rollercoaster of events in the last few weeks, with the second wave of the pandemic, the US election and vaccine euphoria all rocking markets one after another.

However, one winner in early trading in New York was aircraft maker Boeing Co (NYSE:BA), which rose 3.4% to US$217 after its troubled 737 MAX aircraft was approved to fly again by US regulators.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 was consolidating its gains in late-afternoon, up 25 points at 6,390 at around 2.45pm.

1.55pm: Unilever targets EUR1bn annual sales from plant-based food

The Footsie was steady in the early afternoon, rising 22 points to 6,387 after sterling trimmed its gains and added only 0.1% to US$1.3268.

Unilever PLC (LON:ULVR) announced a new annual global sales target of EUR1bn from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, to reach in the next five to seven years.

The growth will be driven by the roll-out of The Vegetarian Butcher as well as increasing vegan alternatives from brands including Hellmann’s, Magnum and Wall’s.

According to ING Economics, the plant-based alternatives market in the EU and the UK will be worth EUR7.5bn (GBP6.6bn) by 2025, compared to EUR4.4bn (GBP3.9bn) last year.

Unilever’s initiative is part of the ‘Future Foods’ ambition, which aims at helping people transition towards healthier diets and reducing the environmental impact of the global food chain.

Under the new plan, the consumer goods giant will also halve food waste from its operations, double the number of products delivering positive nutrition and continue lowering calorie, salt and sugar levels across its offering.

Shares in the FTSE 100 firm dipped 1% to 4,535 on Wednesday.

12.45pm: Wall Street to open higher after more positive Pfizer news

The Footsie was on the rise at lunchtime, advancing 29 points to 6,394.

Wall Street indices are expected to open higher after Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) announced it will seek emergency use authorisation in the US for the COVID-19 vaccine developed with BioNTech.

The pair were waiting to gather all safety data before submitting to the US Food and Drug Administration.

Following the final analysis of results, the companies decided to stop the phase 3 trial after the inoculation proved effective in 95% of cases.

While such positive developments help lifting the markets, they aren’t enough to erase the current level of infections and the consequent lockdowns.

“In the immediate future, a lot of good news has been priced in very quickly and there may be a small void over the next couple of weeks that allows for a bit of a corrective move,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA Europe.

“With Covid cases surging around the world, this could be the catalyst if lockdowns don’t quickly bring the numbers back under control. This lockdown is very different to the last and that may have a significant impact on the success of it.”

11.45am: UK plans to ban new petrol and diesel vehicles sales from 2030

The Footsie turned green before midday, adding 6 points to 6,371.

Remaining in the green theme, Boris Johnson is planning to ban the sale of new cars and vans powered only by petrol and diesel by 2030, while hybrids will be allowed.

Westminster looks to invest more than GBP2.8bn in electric vehicles charging points and developing long-lasting batteries in UK gigafactories in order to meet this goal.

The rough plans laid out by the Prime Minister are a preview of an expected 10-point policy announcement later in the year or early in 2021 to improve Britain’s environmental impact.

With one of the points being to “turn water into energy with up to GBP500m of investment in hydrogen”, AIM-listed Powerhouse Energy Group PLC (LON:PHE) surged 13%, AFC Energy PLC (LON:AFC) and ITM Power PLC (LON:ITM) were up 8%, while Ceres Power PLC (LON:CWR) rose over 2%.

Meanwhile, Halfords Group PLC (LON:HFD) stressed in its interim results that it seeks to grab market share by boosting recruitment and training.

By April, the retailer aims to have at least one electric car technician in every garage and electric bike and scooter servicers in all stores.

10.40am: UK house prices jump 4.7% in September

FTSE 100 pared its gains, shedding only 7 points to 6,357, but remained stifled by sterling which was still up 0.3% to US$1.3288.

The unadjusted official house price index rose by 1.7% month-to-month in September, representing a 4.7% year-on-year jump.

Sellers benefited from the Chancellor’s decision to raise the threshold for stamp duty in July but we are only starting to register the impact now, since transactions usually lag agreed sales by six-to-eight weeks.

Households looked to upsize, with detached property prices rising 6.2% in 2019, exceeding the 2% increase for flats, though London lagged behind as those who had the chance escaped the city for lockdown.

“Prices likely will rise further over the coming months, given that the Nationwide and Halifax measures were up 5.7% and 7.5%, respectively, in October,” said Samuel Tombs, Chief UK Economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“Nonetheless, signs are emerging that demand is starting to fade. Google Trends data show that visits to property websites were only 20% above their level a year ago in the last four weeks, a deterioration from the 28% increase in the previous eight weeks.”

Prices are expected to fall further next year if the stamp duty holiday ends in March as planned and no other government policies change, although the Prime Minister has previously mentioned plans to establish a new mortgage guarantee scheme in order to drive down borrowing costs for first-time buyers.

If this scheme is introduced by April, house prices could be sustained at their current high level, Tombs concluded.

9.40am: UK inflation comes in higher than expected

The Footsie wallowed in the red in mid-morning, dropping 25 points to 6,339, not helped by sterling rising 0.3% to US$1.329.

The UK inflation rate increased to 0.7% in October from 0.5% in September, though it was expected to remain flat at 0.5%.

The figures were driven by higher prices in clothing, food, furniture, furnishings and carpets, partially offset by lower contributions from the recreation, culture and transport groups.

“Inflation isn’t just a measure of prices in the here and now, but also one year ago. More substantial gains can therefore be expected as we head into spring, as the baseline for comparison moves into the post-pandemic era,” said Laith Khalaf, analyst at AJ Bell.

“The current lockdown may create some short-term volatility in the number, but the overall picture is one of low, gradually rising inflation. The economic damage of the pandemic means that many businesses won’t want to deter valuable customers by raising prices for some time to come.”

“For the foreseeable future though, inflation looks well contained, putting little pressure on the Bank of England to raise rates any time soon. Indeed monetary policy may yet loosen before it tightens again, though the curative economic potential of vaccines may persuade the central bank to stay the course until the science hopefully comes to the rescue.”

8.46am: Back to square one

Profit-taking continued with the blue-chip index now having largely surrendered the triple-digit gains made on the back of Monday’s vaccine euphoria.

Rising infection rates globally are once again driving sentiment. The US, in particular, remains a worry with the number of people hospitalised by coronavirus going above 70,000 for the first time on Monday.

Concerns over the pandemic’s impact on the world’s largest economy were further heightened by weak American retail sales data.

“Continuation of any lockdowns in the festive season would also crimp citizens’ ability to travel, while the latest data has tended to suggest that a fiscal stimulus package is still required to energise a stuttering recovery,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

Here in the UK, the mood music around Brexit negotiations remains guardedly upbeat. However, caution continues to be the watchword among those paid to follow the process.

On the market, RSA (LON:RSA) topped the Footsie charts with a 3.8% gain after the stock nudged closer to the price pledged by two bidders that have been given the green light to buy the insurer.

Compass Group (LON:CGP) was off 1.6% after Goldman Sachs downgraded the caterer to ‘neutral’ from ‘buy’.

The overall star performer could be found among the mid-tier stocks as Micro Focus (LON:MCRO) shot up almost 20% after delivering nine month numbers at the upper end of forecasts.

Proactive news headlines

FinnCap Group PLC (LON:FCAP) has reported a surge in profits and a record performance for its first half which it said has provided it with the confidence to resume dividend payments. In a separate announcement, finnCap said it will appoint Robert Lister as its chairman on January 1, 2021, replacing current chair Jon Moulton who will retire from the role on December 31 after eleven years at the company.

Europa Metals Ltd (LON:EUZ) has released the findings of a preliminary economic study for the Toral lead-zinc-silver mine project, in north west Spain, proposing a significantly larger mining operation. It envisages a 700,000 tonnes per annum operation over a 12-year life.

IronRidge Resources Limited (LON:IRR) has extended the Dorothe, Echbara and Am Ouchar licences in Chad by four-years. Planning is underway for field programmes to resume in 2021, with the intention to focus on drill testing the Dorothe target prior to the onset of the wet season next July.

Red Rock Resources PLC (LON:RRR) has appointed mining consultants to provide an updated mineral resource report for its Kenya gold project following a renewal of its licenses at the site in August. The company has also issued warrants to Riverfort Global Opportunities PCC and YA II PN in consideration of the extension of existing loan facilities.

Emmerson PLC (LON:EML) told investors it has now completed all of the workstreams required for an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the Khemisset potash project in Northern Morocco. It highlighted that the work has been completed in line with International Finance Corporation (IFC) performance standards and the ‘equator principles’, which are global benchmarks for mining projects.

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) said its subsidiary has granted a licence for the US and Canada for its LPLDL next-generation probiotic. Genuine Health Inc will develop a product that it will submit for sign-off from Health Canada for cardiovascular and other claims.

Seneca Global Income & Growth PLC (LON:SIGT) has declared a second interim dividend for the current year to April 30, 2021, which will be paid next month. A payout of 1.68p per ordinary share will be payable on December 18 and it is the board’s current intention to maintain this level in the second half of the year.

InnovaDerma PLC (LON:IDP), the owner of the Skinny Tan and Roots personal care brands, has appointed a new chief executive with a track record of defining strategies for hair and skin products. Blake Hughes brings with him “extensive” marketing and digital analytics experience, the company added.

W Resources PLC (LON:WRES) has appointed an executive director to focus on overseeing the La Parrilla tungsten and tin project in Spain, and appointed a new chief financial officer. Pablo Neira, who was appointed by the AIM-listed company as a non-executive director in 2018, is based in Spain and is already leading the team at La Parrilla as managing director.

6.34 am: Back foot start predicted

The FTSE 100 is expected to open on the back foot on Wednesday morning as the vaccine-inspired positivity earlier in the week shows signs of giving way to anxieties around the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.

Spread-betters at IG are expecting the FTSE 100 to open around 28 points lower after ending Tuesday’s session down 56 points at 6,365.

The slower start in London follows a subdued performance in the US markets overnight as American retail sales data for October showed only 0.3% growth, slightly lower than expected and the slowest pace of expansion since April.

The data has made some investors worried that the winter months are likely to be worse for business than initially predicted, particularly with fresh US government stimulus unlikely to make an appearance before the new year. A continued surge in cases of coronavirus in the US is also unlikely to have helped matters.

Uncertainty over the economy was evident in the main Wall Street indices on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down 0.56% at 29,783 while the S&P 500 dropped 0.48% to 3.609 and the Nasdaq fell 0.21% to 11,899.

It was a more mixed picture in Asia on Wednesday morning, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 down 1.05% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.23%.

On currency markets, the pound is trading around 0.15% higher against the dollar at US$1.326 amid hopes that the UK and EU could arrive at some sort of last-minute Brexit deal before the end of December deadline.

Meanwhile, UK inflation numbers for October due later today may also provide some catalysts for movement, although the figure is not predicted to change much from September’s 0.5% figure.

Around the markets:

Sterling: US$1.326, up 0.15%

Brent crude: US$43.70 a barrel, down 0.11%

Gold: US$1,878 an ounce, down 0.17%

Bitcoin: US$17,803, up 7%

6.45 am: Early Markets: Asia / Australia

Asia-Pacific markets were mixed today as investors remained cautious despite vaccine hopes as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the US and Europe.

China’s Shanghai composite rose 0.11% by evening while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was 0.10% higher.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 dipped 1.10%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.51% to close at 6531 points even as Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data revealed that wage growth in Australia slumped to historic lows.


Proactive Australia news:

Bulletin Resources Ltd (ASX:BNR) is about to start an 8,500-metre aircore drilling program of multiple high-priority targets at its Lake Rebecca Gold Project in Western Australia.

Galena Mining Ltd (ASX:G1A) has received further high-grade lead and silver results from drilling at Abra Base Metals Project which expand on the best-ever hole from last month and provide plenty of strong encouragement from other areas.

Chalice Gold Mines Limited (ASX:CHN) (OTCMKTS:CGMLF) (FRA:C8U) has intersected further extensive wide zones of PGE-copper-gold at the Gonneville Intrusion which continue to grow the Julimar discovery into a globally significant deposit, located 70 kilometres northeast of Perth.

Auroch Minerals Ltd (ASX:AOU) has intersected more than seven metres of nickeliferous massive sulphide mineralisation in the second diamond drill-hole at the Horn prospect within Leinster Nickel Project in Western Australia.

Chalice Gold Mines Limited (ASX:CHN) (OTCMKTS:CGMLF) (FRA:C8U) has intersected further extensive wide zones of PGE-copper-gold at the Gonneville Intrusion which continue to grow the Julimar discovery into a globally significant deposit, located 70 kilometres northeast of Perth.

ioneer Ltd (ASX:INR) (OTCMKTS:GSCCF) (FRA:4G1) has joined a group of 25 companies to launch the Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA), an organization dedicated to achieving 100% electric vehicle (EV) sales in the United States by 2030.

MMJ Group Holdings Ltd (ASX:MMJ) (OTCMKTS:MMJJF) investee Harvest One (CVE:HVT) (OTCMKTS:HRVOF) has been granted a US patent for its proprietary Gellpell(TM) technology through the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Kazia Therapeutics Limited (ASX:KZA) (NASDAQ:KZIA) will present a summary of new paxalisib data at the Society for Neuro-Oncology Annual Meeting, which is being held virtually from November 19-21, 2020.

Theta Gold Mines Ltd (ASX:TGM) is assessing ways to accelerate its planned annual gold production target of at least 160,000 ounces which is primarily focused on bringing priority underground mines into production sooner.

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