• FTSE 100 index drops 112 points
  • US stocks lower
  • Brexit talks going to the wire – a different wire to the last dozen or so

5pm: Fresh coronavirus fears dampen markets

Traders sent the FTSE 100 112 points lower, 1.7%, to 6,416.3. The FTSE 250 tumbled 424 points, 2%, to 19,692.

“Health woes are back at the forefront of traders’ minds as the new strain of Covid-19 that is doing the rounds in the UK has brought about tougher restrictions,” CMC Markets UK analyst David Madden wrote Monday. “It is bad enough that large portions of Britain will have to deal with harsher restrictions because of the fear surrounding the fast spreading strain of the coronavirus, but now many countries are distancing themselves from the UK… The isolation treatment the UK is receiving has rocked market confidence all over Europe.”

Travel stocks swooned, including easyJet plc (LON:EZJ), which dropped 7.2% to GBP757.20.

In the US, the Dow fell 114 points, 0.4%, to 30,064, the Nasdaq Composite tumbled 110 points, 0.9%, to 12,647 and the S&P 500 lost 37 points, 1%, to 3,672 points.

“Equities are in the red as worries about the health crisis are weighing on sentiment,” Madden said. “Yesterday it was announced that US lawmakers agreed upon a $900 billion relief package – discussions have been going on for weeks. The positive news has been overshadowed by fresh health concerns. At the end of last week, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ 100 posted record highs so profit taking has been doing the rounds.”

3.50pm: Equities feel the strain

Stocks markets felt the strain – a new coronavirus strain, in fact – on Monday, sending shares into a sharp descent.

The week before Christmas is supposed to be one where those traders forced to man the screens can spend much of the day looking at videos of cats doing cute things but today they have been busy hitting the “sell” button.

The FTSE 100 was down 151 points (2.3%) at 6,379, weighed down by the oil giants, which are falling in line with the sliding oil price as the alarming rise in C OVID-19 infections looks set to quell economic activity and thus oil consumption,

“The virus mutation and new lockdown measures can only put further downward pressure on the UK economy near term. A contraction was already looking likely in the fourth quarter and this could now extend into the new year if the lockdown continues,” said Rupert Thompson, the chief investment officer at asset management firm, Kingswood.

“Matt Hancock has said that the latest restrictions could be with us for months. But while this could clearly turn out to be the case, one thing we should have learnt by now is not to trust the government’s forecasts for a few weeks ahead, or even for that matter a few days, let alone a few months,” Thompson said, despite confessing to being sick of writing about Brexit and COVID for most of the year.

“Equities at the time of writing are down 2-2.5% today but still up on the month. The key to whether the current relatively modest correction turns into something more serious will be whether the vaccine roll-out proceeds smoothly and the vaccines prove just as effective against this new more infectious mutation. It is early days but the epidemiologists appear fairly confident that the vaccine will remain effective. As for the roll-out, rather surprisingly, so far at least it seems to be a model of efficiency in the UK.

“If so, markets should continue to take heart from the prospects for a strong economic recovery from the second quarter by when a significant proportion of the population should have been vaccinated. We continue to believe equity markets have further upside over the coming year even if Brexit and the renewed lockdowns cause some further near-term weakness,” Thompson said.

3.30pm: Proactive North America headlines:

NexTech AR Solutions (CSE:NTAR) (OTCQB:NEXCF) (FRA:N29) CEO acquires more company stock and announces new executive hires

Altamira Gold (CVE:ALTA) (FRA:T6UP) (OTCPINK:EQTRF) receives C$500,000 from Mineracao do Para following completion of the Crepori gold project title transfer

Aurania Resources Ltd (CVE:ARU) (OTCQB:AUIAF) (FRA:20Q) welcomes Ecuadorian government’s new legislation on mineral concessions and their costs

Tetra Bio-Pharma Inc (TSE:TBP) (OTCQB:TBPMF) (FRA:JAM1) poised to receive government funding to help develop potential coronavirus treatment ARDS-003

BetterLife Pharma Inc (CSE:BETR) (OTCQB:BETRF) (FRA:NPAU) completes C$10M acquisition of LSD derivative owner Transcend Biodyanmics LLC

Marrone Bio Innovations Inc (NASDAQ: MBII) says New Zealand’s largest seed company, PGG Wrightson Seeds to distribute the group’s line of Pro Farm UBP Technology products in Uruguay

Victory Square Technologies Inc (CSE:VST) (OTCMKTS:VSQTF) (FRA:6F6) wins approval for sale and distribution of rapid 15-minute nasal COVID-19 antigen test for EU

Talon Metals Corp (TSE:TLO) (OTCMKTS:TLOFF) (FRA:TAO) looking ahead to ‘transformational’ 2021 at its Tamarack high-grade nickel project in Minnesota

Mawson Gold Limited (TSE:MAW) (OTCPINK:MWSNF) (FRA:MXR) reports more high-grade gold and cobalt from Joki East prospect in Finland

Progressive Planet Solutions Inc (CVE:PLAN) (FRA:ARB3) to begin applying for drill permit in January for Heffley Creek as it unveils positive summer exploration results

2.51pm: Wall Street opens in the red as new COVID strain triggers selloff

The main indices on Wall Street were a sea of red of Monday morning as panic began to spread over a new strain of COVID-19, overshadowing news of the stimulus package recently agreed by US politicians.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.53% at 30,017 while the S&P 500 fell 0.82% at 3,679 and the Nasdaq dropped 0.58% to 12,681.

News of a faster spreading version of the virus in the UK has hit sentiment across the board as countries begin closing their borders again to prevent the infection reaching their own populations. Nations including Italy, India, Canada as well as the city of Hong Kong have already closed their borders to holders of UK passport holders.

Alongside the new strain in the UK, surging cases of COVID-19 in the rest of Europe and in the US state of California have also caused jitters in the market.

“Risk appetite did not stand a chance as the virus rages on in Europe and across California. Virus cases in the UK are being attributed to a mutation of the virus that allows it to spread faster. The new virus strain will likely force tighter restrictions across Europe”, said OANDA’s Edward Moya.

“The situation in California, the state that has the biggest share of the US economy at over 14%, is out of control. The last several weeks of limited restrictive measures now have the death toll spiralling higher. California’s ICU capacity has fallen to low single digits and hospital staff is stretched thin. The short-term outlook is very bleak, but optimism is still high that by the fall things will closely be back to normal. Some investors are eyeing every dip, but that doesn’t mean Wall Street shouldn’t expect 3-5% weakness before trading is done for the year”, he added.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 was also nursing heavy losses, down 147 points at 6,382 shortly after 2.45pm.

1.50pm: Shortest day of the year proving to be a dark day

The longest night of the year is turning into a long old day as well for investors, as global markets take a tumble.

The FTSE 100 was down 172 points (2.6%) at 6,357 following the introduction of new lockdown restrictions in the UK over the weekend as a result of a rapidly rising rate of infections.

Many parts of the world have responded by closing their borders to travellers from Britain.

Meanwhile, the quest to “take back control of our borders” is entering its final throes with still no Brexit deal in sight.

“Adding to selling pressure was the EU and UK inability to reach a Brexit trade deal over the weekend. Access to British fishing waters and limits on state subsidies for businesses remain the sticking points,” reported OANDA’s Edward Moya.

Giles Coghlan, the chief currency analyst at HYCM – which sounds like one of those social media initialisms we old fogies don’t understand – said that if, as looks likely, no deal will be agreed then “we are set for volatile trading conditions” as we make the transition into 2021.

“If either the EU or the UK walk away from a trade deal, I would expect very heavy GBP [Great British Pound] selling; however, it is important to remember that a weak GBP often helps lift the FTSE – this is because many major UK companies receive their revenues in dollar. A weaker GBP against the USD is effectively a pay rise for some core FTSE100 companies like BP,” he noted.

“For investors, it is important not to be rash. Whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations, there will be a period of volatile trading as the market adjusts to UK’s new economic relationship with the EU; however, the market will also settle down in the coming months. That’s why it is important not to let the events of the coming weeks distract an investor’s long-term perspective on what the future could bring,” he added.

Wise words. In other words, keep calm and have a quick sniff of last year’s Christmas advocaat (it’s almost certainly gone off if it has been opened).

12.35pm: US indices to join global rout

US investors are preparing to get their tin hats on as pandemic panic spreads across the globe.

The Dow Jones industrial average is expected to open around 375 points lower at 29,804 while the S&P 500 is on course to shed 52 points at 3,657.

The Nasdaq Composite can sometimes be relied upon to rise when the other main indices are heading south but not today; the index is tipped to open at around 12,588, down 168 points.

Despite an agreement being reached on a fiscal stimulus bill for the US in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, US investors look set to participate in the global sell-off, which has been sparked by fears that more draconian lockdown measures will be needed to try to curb the disturbing rise in COVID-19 infections.

There were 189,000 new COVID-19 cases reported yesterday, down 2,000 or so (1.1%) from Sunday of the week before.

In the week through Sunday, the total number of confirmed new cases rose by 0.5% week-on-week.

The picture looks less bleak when results from California are stripped out, said Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“Cases in California are now rising faster than anywhere else, with yesterday’s 46K increase up an alarming 53% from the previous Sunday. Only 13 other states reported week-to-week increases yesterday, but California is the most populous state in the country so its numbers are big enough to offset the progress being made elsewhere,” he noted.

There is little of note scheduled for release in the US today according to the macroeconomics diary.

As for equities, Tesla shares were off the pace in pre-market trading, shedding 3.9% at US$667.91 on the first day of their inclusion in the S&P 500.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 is licking its wounds and it seems to have done a bit of good; the index was well off its lows at 6,390, down 140 points (2.1%).

Retailers, travel and energy stocks are under pressure as fresh lockdowns weaken prospects of a swift recovery, according to Susannah Streeter at Hargreaves Lansdown.

”The shock of the tough new restrictions imposed on the UK is reverberating around the stock market with both the FTSE 100 and the domestically focused FTSE 250 falling sharply,” she reported.

“Some losses were pared as trading progressed but volatility is likely to be the name of the game today,” she added.

“Concern about the lack of breakthrough has seen the pound weaken to below 1.09 against the euro and to 1.32 against the dollar. The isolation and short term chaos expected to be sparked if a trade deal isn’t reached is already unfolding as fears over the mutant strain of Covid spreading, shuts down routes out of the country. The strict lockdowns though should stem infection rates and travel bans will only be temporary but it’s another huge headache for companies to deal with, whether exporting or importing,” Streeter concluded.

11.40am: Retail sales recover in the first half of December

Well, at least the shake-out in the equity market this morning means we don’t have to read about Bitcoin constantly hitting hew highs.

Not that it is; the cryptocurrency was down US$840 or 3.6% at US$22,655, which means in percentage terms it is performing worse than the FTSE 100, which is down 184 points (2.9%) at 6,343.

Compared to indices on mainland Europe, the Footsie is actually faring well as most of Europe’s indices are down by more than 3%.

Meanwhile, the threat of more lockdowns across the globe is undermining the share price of oil – the equation being more lockdowns = less travel = lower revenues for oil companies – with Brent crude for February delivery now trading below US$50 (down US$2.49 a barrel, or 4.8%).

It would be a good time to pop out and fill the car except there is little point in having petrol in one’s tank.

In such an uncertain environment it might be expected that risk-investors would seek refuge in gold but not today as the yellow metal is down US$9.30 (0.5%) at US$1,879.60 an ounce.

The price of silver, on the other hand, is up 0.5%.

The weekend’s announcement of the introduction of Tier 4 restrictions – the tiers are getting a bit like Nigel Tuffnel’s amp in the film This is Spinal Tap – has been a body blow for many retailers just as retail volumes were recovering.

The CBI’s Distributive Trades Survey for December reported that retail sales volumes recovered after two months of sharp declines to stand broadly flat for the year to December.

Orders placed also broadly stabilised after 13 consecutive months of decline, the CBI said.

The survey, which was sent out to 143 businesses, including 81 retailers, was conducted between November 23 and December 14, covering the latter part of the second English lockdown and the return to tiered restrictions.

Grocers, furniture vendors and retailers of ‘other normal goods’ (cards, flowers and jewellery, etc) saw strong growth but clothing, footwear and department stores continued to report that volumes were lower than a year earlier.

“It says something about the challenges the retail sector has faced during 2020 that stable sales volumes in the run-up to Christmas were seen as a good result for the time of year,” said Ben Jones, the principal economist at the CBI.

“The new year looks set for an unpromising start, with retailers anticipating a sharp fall in sales in January. An expected deterioration in the labour market will likely weigh on household spending, even assuming the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines paves the way for a gradual lifting of restrictions as the year progresses,” he added.

10.45am: Oil giants add further woe to the Footsie

As the nation wonders how continental Europe will cope with being cut off from Britain, the FTSE 100’s losses have extended substantially.

The index of leading shares was down 189 points (2.9%) at 6,341 despite sterling’s impressive limbo dance on foreign exchange markets; the pound is now more than three cents weaker against the dollar.

“There are concerns at home and aboard in relation to the fast-spreading strain of Covid-19. A few European countries have banned flight from Britain, and France has gone a step further by banning human handled freight. The French ban will last for 48 hours, but the ripple out effect on supply chains is likely to be huge,” reported David Madden at CMC Markets.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB) slumped 7.3% to 1,243p after it revealed it will incur an impairment charge of US$3.5bn-US$4.5bn in its fourth quarter results after difficult weather conditions in the Gulf of Mexico and northern Europe affected production.

BP PLC (LON:BP.) was down 7.0% at 252.45p in sympathy.

Metro Bank PLC (LON:MTRO) defied the trend with an 8.3% rise to 124.3p after it said it will generate a one-off GBP83mln profit from the sale of a book of high-quality UK household mortgages to NatWest Group PLC (LON:NWG).

9.30am: Chickens come home to roost in time for Christmas

To the sound of chickens coming home to roost, UK shares have opened the week lower.

The latest handbrake turn by the government in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic has opened a trap-door beneath sterling on the foreign exchange markets; the pound was down two-and-three-quarters of a cent against the dollar at US$1.3256, which has at least provided some reason for traders to consider export-focused FTSE 100 companies … assuming those exports can get out of the country, of course.

Against the euro, the pound is down by almost one-and-three-quarters of a cent at EUR1.0863.

The FTSE 100 was down 86 points (1.3%) at 6,444 while the mid-cap FTSE 250, generally reckoned to be populated by stocks for whom a weak pound is a bane rather than a boon, is off 375 points (1.9%) at 19,741.

“The new coronavirus strain is weighing heavily on sentiment as the UK’s isolation from Europe becomes increasingly physical as well as conceptual,” said Richard Hunter of interactive investor.

“With some cases also being reported outside of the UK and with several countries suffering fresh spikes in cases and resorting to further lockdowns, the stark reminder is that until the vaccine rollout reaches a sufficient level, little can be done to defeat the virus.

“Against this backdrop, investors are far less likely to commit fresh capital to the market, especially in the last few trading days of the year,” Hunter added.

It’s not all gloom and doom in the stock market, however; miners are in demand, particularly Fresnillo PLC (LON:FRES), Polymetal International PLC (LON:POLY) and Anglo American PLC (LON:AAL), which are sporting gains ranging from 1.4% to 4.7%.

Food delivery firms are also, predictably, back on the menu for many investors with Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO) up 4.1% at 2,300p and Just Eat Takeaway.com NV (LON:JET) 3.2% heavier at 8,226p.

If the rise of the food delivery stocks was predictable so was the punishment meted out to aerospace-related stocks. British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (LON:IAG) was the hardest hit, down 9.1% at 142.1p, but aeroplane engine maker and maintainer Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.) and Melrose Industries PLC (LON:MRO), which owns aerospace engineer GKN, were also under heavy fire; the former was down 7.8% at 105.05p and the latter was 4.9% weaker at 160.9p.

Owners of non-essential stores are also getting it in the neck after the creation of new Tier 4 restrictions over the weekend, with Primark owner Associated British Foods PLC (LON:ABF) 4.8% easier at 2,142p, while Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group PLC (LON:FRAS) was 7.4% weaker at 439.8p after it rescinded full-year guidance.

8.35am: Little festive cheer for Footsie

The FTSE 100 moved sharply lower in early trade on Monday amid worries over the latest lockdown restrictions prompted by the new coronavirus (COVID-19) super-strain.

The index of UK top stocks fell 81 points to 6,448.41 in early exchanges.

London and swathes of the south-east of England have been plunged into tier-4 restrictions to combat the spread of the new COVID-19 variant, while travel to much of mainland Europe has been curtailed.

Cross-channel trade has been temporarily halted, while movement in and out of ports serving Ireland has been severely affected.

“With some cases also being reported outside of the UK and with several countries suffering fresh spikes in cases and resorting to further lockdowns, the stark reminder is that until the vaccine rollout reaches a sufficient level, little can be done to defeat the virus,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

“Against this backdrop, investors are far less likely to commit fresh capital to the market, especially in the last few trading days of the year. For the UK, the introduction of a new tier-4 pandemic level accompanies an ongoing stalemate in Brexit negotiations, with talks set to extend yet again.”

The Footsie’s biggest casualty was British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG), which fell 17.5% in response to curtailment of travel in and out of the UK.

Rolls Royce (LON:RR.), which supplies and services the jet engines to many of the world’s airlines, was off 14% in a bloodbath early session, while Premier Inn hotels chain owner Whitbread (LON:WTB) fell 6.7%.

On the FTSE 250, ailing cinema chain Cineworld (LON:CINE) took a biff to the solar plexus, dropping 22.5%.

The economic impact of the wholesale closure of non-essential retail outlets (on top of the closure of many pubs and bars) is currently incalculable.

Frasers Group (LON:FRAS), the owner of Sports Direct, was the first to rescind earnings and sales guidance amid the unfolding chaos – and it is unlikely to be the last from the sector to suspend forecasts. The shares were off 5.4%.

The gold stocks – including Centamin (LON:CEY) and Polymetal (LON:POLY) – were provided a lift by the rising price of the precious metal, a haven investment in times of turmoil.

Proactive news headlines:

Primary Health Properties PLC (LON:PHP) has acquired a medical centre in Liverpool and has also agreed to fund a new centre in Ireland. The investor in primary healthcare facilities said it has acquired a standing let investment in West Derby, Liverpool for GBP4.6mln and contracted with a developer to fund the development and acquisition of a purpose-built primary care centre in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, Ireland. The West Derby Medical Centre is a modern purpose-built medical centre constructed in 2016 that is leased to a substantial general practitioner (GP) practice, with a patient list of more than 13,000, and a pharmacy. The development funding for the construction of the Enniscorthy Primary Care Centre is EUR12.6mln.

Bahamas Petroleum PLC (LON:BPC) said it has commenced drilling of the Perseverance 1 well, with spudding having taken place on December 20, 2020. The AIM-listed firm said the well is expected to take 45-60 days to complete and is targeting P50 prospective oil resources of 0.77bn barrels with an upside of 1.44bn barrels. In a statement, BPC chief executive Simon Potter said the spudding of the well was a “momentous milestone” and that the company is now “within a couple of months of understanding the scale of potential resource uplift that might be accessed within the licences: a potential uplift that is the traditional domain of the ‘oil majors'”.

Rosslyn Data Technologies PLC (LON:RDT) shares moved higher on Monday after the big data technology group announced the release of its new CustomsCloud software solution. The AIM-listed firm said the cloud-based self-service solution is designed to enable importers to overcome the additional customs procedures resulting from the UK’s departure from the European Union. CustomsCloud enables Rosslyn clients to register with HMRC and to file all import declarations, either individually or in bulk, calculate the VAT and duty owed on any imports and to report this information direct to UK tax authorities for future payments.

Guild Esports PLC (LON:GILD) said it has signed Henrik Mclean, a top-ranked professional esports player, to its Fortnite team. The company said Mclean will join Nikolaj Andreas Froslev, who was recruited to the team on November 19, 2020. The two players have a combined social media following of around 335,000 across several channels including YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Twitch. Mclean has signed a one-year contract with Guild with an option to renew for an additional year. He will compete alongside Froslev under the Guild banner in Fortnite tournaments either jointly or separately depending on fixtures and match opportunities.

BlueRock Diamonds PLC (LON:BRD) has recovered two gem-quality exceptional stones from its Kareevlei mine in the Kimberley region of South Africa. The diamonds measure 14.8 carats and 8.7 carats respectively. “I am very pleased to announce the recovery of two high-value gem-quality diamonds from the Kareevlei diamond mine,” said BlueRock executive chairman Mike Houston in a statement. He also highlighted the sale of a 12.8-carat diamond, the recovery of which was announced on December 4, 2020, for US$76,000, or US$6,000 per carat.

Shanta Gold Ltd (LON:SHG), the East Africa-focused gold producer, developer and explorer, said it has settled all outstanding gold forward sale commitments, leaving the company unhedged. As of early 2020, the company had sold forward 40,000 ounces to January 2021 at an average price of US$1,244 per ounce. The forward sales were a condition of its senior lending facility.

Angling Direct PLC (LON:ANG) said positive sales momentum has continued since updating the market at the start of December, although it has had to close 12 of its stores to shoppers other than click-and-collect customers following the UK government’s weekend announcement on Tier 4 restrictions. The company’s other 26 stores and its web-store remain fully operational for both the UK and European sales, with the group’s distribution centre geared up to fulfil increased demand through this channel.

Symphony Environmental Technologies PLC (LON:SYM) has said it is commencing legal action against the Commission, Parliament, and Council of the European Union (EU) concerning the bloc’s decision to adopt Article 5 of the Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUPD). The AIM-listed plastics specialist said it has been advised by three barristers, all experts in EU law, that Article 5 of the SUPD is “confusing and illegal” and that it is claiming “substantial damages”. Symphony said the directive required EU member states to ban oxo-degradable plastic products that do not properly biodegrade and are not recyclable with ordinary plastics, however, it has not made the distinction between oxo-degradable and oxo-biodegradable plastic.

Mkango Resources Ltd. (LON:MKA) (CVE:MKA) has announced the appointment of Bacchus Capital Advisers Limited as a strategic and financial adviser, encompassing mergers and acquisitions, takeover defence, strategic and other financial advice. A London-based independent investment and merchant banking boutique, Bacchus Capital has been involved in building some of the world’s most successful mining companies from the earliest stages and have played a key role in many of the metals and mining industry’s most significant transactions in recent decades.

Red Rock Resources PLC (LON:RR.) has entered into two deed agreements concerning Australian company VEC Resources Ltd, which is in administration. The purpose of the deeds, taken together, is the commencement of arbitration proceedings in Paris, the continuation of an existing injunction in the British Virgin Islands, and the creation of an ability for Red Rock to engage counter-parties in discussions regarding a mediated outcome, with the support of creditors. VEC acquired a 60% stake in the Adidi-Kanga Gold Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017. But since December 31, 2018, the VEC stock has, except for two brief periods, been suspended from trading on the ASX as a result of issues connected with the acquisition.

Amur Minerals Corporation (LON:AMC) has said Paul McKay, the chief financial officer of the Russia-focused firm, is to leave the company on December 31, 2020. Accordingly, Amur said it has appointed Heytesbury Corporate LLP, an independent financial consulting and corporate management firm which acts in a similar capacity for many AIM-quoted companies within the mining sector, to provide company secretarial and accounting services. McKay has been working with Heytesbury during a hanDover period.

Block Energy PLC (LON:BLOE), the development and production company focused on Georgia, announced that David (Dato) Sandroshvili has been appointed as its independent non-executive director with immediate effect. The group noted that Sandroshvili has spent most of his career in oil and gas corporate finance advisory, but for the last six years has held senior positions in oil companies. He is currently the CFO at New Age (African Global Energy) Limited. Before this appointment, he was Director of Strategy, Commercial and Portfolio at Ophir Energy Plc. Sandroshvili started his corporate finance career at Schroder Salomon Smith Barney (part of Citigroup) in London, before moving to UBS Investment Bank, where he managed the Russia/CIS oil and gas advisory business. Subsequently, he was Managing Director of the Oil and Gas Advisory at Evercore Partners. Philip Dimmock, Block Energy’s chairman commented: “We look forward to benefitting from his wealth of experience in finance, strategy development and M&A transactions. Furthermore, his understanding of the establishment and culture of Georgia will bring extra competitive advantage to the Board.”

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) the AIM-listed metals exploration and development company said Friday it has received notices to exercise warrants over 4,797,200 new ordinary shares of 0.1p each at an exercise price of 1.0p per ordinary share in the company. Subscription monies of GBP47,972 have been received by Power Metal in respect of these exercises.

Pure Gold Mining Inc. (CVE:PGM) (LON:PUR) said it has granted 1,955,000 Incentive Stock Options to directors and certain employees, 975,000 Deferred Share Units (DSUs) to directors and 1,134,930 Restricted Share Units (RSUs) to certain employees under its Incentive Stock Option, DSU and RSU Plans. The Incentive Stock Options have an exercise price of $2.84 and have a range of vesting periods over three years and expire after five years. The RSU’s are payable in common shares of the company on exercise, have a range of vesting periods over three years and must be redeemed by December 31, 2023, or they expire. The DSU’s vest immediately upon grant and are payable in common shares of the company, upon the holder ceasing to be a director of the company.

6.50am: Rough start predicted

The FTSE 100 looks set to open firmly lower amid concerns over a prolonged winter lockdown aimed at protecting the population against a new super-strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The problems look to have been compounded by a ban on travel to at least 10 countries in mainland Europe and a halt to cross-Channel freight transport.

Sentiment on Asia’s main markets, meanwhile, was hit by a surge in COVID-19 cases across the region with only Shanghai bucking the trend.

Softening the blow a little was the agreement by US lawmakers to enact a fresh stimulus package worth around US$900mln.

“Unfortunately, that positive news (although the actual numbers involved leave me somewhat underwhelmed), is being overshadowed by COVID-19 headlines,” said Jeffrey Halley, market analyst at OANDA.

“The return of the virus to Sydney in Australia casts a pall over local markets and the currency today. But it is the emergence of a more contagious version of Covid in the United Kingdom that has spooked markets.”

The corporate news flow here in the UK will be at a premium in the run-up to Christmas.

In the US Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) will make its debut on the S&P 500 index this week – to the delight of its massed retail following no doubt. One wonders how long it will take the short sellers to reload.

Elsewhere, a long-awaited Brexit deal may be delivered – but don’t hold your breath.

Apparently, the two sides pushed through another marathon negotiating session fuelled by mince pies and mulled wine (do we really believe this guff). However, fishing rights remained the main stumbling block to a trade accord.

On the markets:

  • Pound US$1.3350 (-1.28%)
  • Bitcoin US$23,812.82 (-1.14%)
  • Gold US$1,909.70 (+1.10%)
  • Brent crude US$50.85 (-2.70%)

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Stocks in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Monday as the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Japan and South Korea remains severe.

Chinese stocks were higher, with the Shanghai composite up 0.65% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 0.21%.

Hong Kong-listed shares of China’s largest chipmaker SMIC (HKG:0981) fell 3.8% after the firm was recently added to the US Commerce Department’s entity list.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 0.18% and Australia’s ASX200 dipped 0.08% while South Korea’s Kospi was 0.23% higher.

Proactive Australia news:

Caspin Resources Ltd (ASX:CPN) has revealed new soil geochemistry results and a reassessment of existing data supporting several new targets within the Yarawindah Brook Project in Western Australia.

Cobalt Blue Holdings Ltd (ASX:COB) (OTCMKTS:CBBHF) (FRA:COH) is on track to start production from its Broken Hill pilot plant in Far West New South Wales from late February following plant commissioning.

Aspire Mining Ltd (ASX:AKM)(FRA:WKU) is the only ASX-listed company to have coking coal assets in Mongolia and could be well-placed to benefit from recent speculation that China is shifting away from Australian coal.

DomaCom Ltd (ASX:DCL) shares are trading about 7% higher intra-day after providing an update on the implementation agreement for a DomaCom sub-fund to acquire AustAgri Group Ltd (AAGL).

YPB Group Ltd (ASX:YPB) has made substantial technological enhancements to its proprietary CONNECT product authentication and customer engagement SaaS platform which was first launched several years ago around QR code functionality.

Poseidon Nickel Ltd (ASX:POS) (OTCMKTS:PSDNF) (FRA:NYG1) has declared a JORC 2012 resource of 62,300 ounces of gold for the Lancefield Gold Tailings Project in the Goldfields region of Western Australia.

Great Boulder Resources Ltd (ASX:GBR) has received new high-grade assays from reverse circulation (RC) drilling at Mulga Bill prospect within the Side Well Gold Project near Meekatharra in Western Australia’s Mid-West.

Creso Pharma Ltd (ASX:CPH) (FRA:1X8) has secured regulatory approval from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Feed in Uruguay (Ministerio de Ganadaria, Agricultura y Pesca) through its commercial partner Adler Laboratories, Uruguay for its anibidiol(R) line of animal health products.

White Rock Minerals Ltd (ASX:WRM) (OTCMKTS:WRMCF) has discovered a new large, robust gold anomaly measuring five square kilometres along strike to the west of its expanding Last Chance Gold Target in the Tintina Gold Province in Alaska.

Aeris Resources Ltd (ASX:AIS) has received high-grade copper results from the initial two drill holes completed at the Constellation deposit, at the company’s 100%-owned Tritton tenement package in central New South Wales.

Tempus Resources Ltd (ASX:TMR) (CVE:TMRR) (FRA:4W0) has closed its Canadian non-brokered private placement, issuing 4.73 million ordinary shares at an issue price of C$0.265 per share (around A$0.28 per share) for gross proceeds of C$1,253,450.

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