• FTSE 100 jumps 135 points
  • Imminent clearance of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine lifts sentiment
  • US futures point to further Wall Street advance

12.45pm: Welcome return after festivities

The FTSE 100 index remained bullish at lunchtime on Tuesday, the first session back since Christmas, amid expectations for further gains today on Wall Street.

The UK blue-chip index was up nearly 140 points, or 2.1%, at 6,642.01.

US stocks are forecast to build on the rise to record highs seen on Monday underpinned by hopes a $2.3 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Trump on Sunday will be approved by the Senate.

The package covers $1.4 trillion in spending to fund government agencies and $892 billion in coronavirus (COVID-19) relief, including $2,000 relief cheques to help cushion the economic impact of the pandemic. The Democratic-controlled House on Monday approved the legislation, but the proposal faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Dow Jones index futures pointed to a 0.5% higher open, having gained over 200 points, or nearly 0.7%, to close at 30,403,97 on Monday. S&P 500 futures were also up 0.5%, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.4%.

But demand for riskier assets weakened the US dollar, often seen as a safe-haven asset, which lost 0.2% against a basket of currencies and eyed the 18-month low hit in November.

The US economic calendar includes advance data on November trade in goods at 8.30am EST, the Chicago purchasing managers index for December at 9.45am EST, and November pending-home sales data at 10.00am EST.

On the US corporate front, Boeing shares were higher in pre-market New York trade as the aircraft maker’s troubled 737 Max plane was slated to carry airline passengers on a flight Tuesday for the first time in around two years, according to news reports.

Britain’s blue-chip shares rose on their first day of trading since the Christmas Eve agreement of a trade deal with the European Union, led by companies in a range of sectors likely to benefit from the deal.

Also among the gainers was drugmaker AstraZeneca buoyed by news its COVID-19 vaccine is set to be granted emergency use approval within a few days by the UK government.

10.00am: Season of goodwill continues

Up, up and away! Fit and refreshed/fat and depressed (delete according to your own assessment) after the Christmas break, investors are piling into UK equities.

The FTSE 100 was up 173 points (2/7%) at 6,675.

‘’The unwrapping of the Brexit deal and a stimulus package for the US economy have propelled shares higher in Europe, with another boost of optimism, now foundations are being laid for a sustained recovery,” suggested Hargreaves Lansdown’s Susannah Streeter.

“The mobilisation of huge vaccination programmes are an extra shot in the arm, helping to offset concerns about spikes in cases,” she added.

The FTSE 100’s advance has been tempered somewhat by sterling’s strength; the pound is currently buying US$1.3473, which is about a quarter of a cent more than it was buying at midnight.

Only five FTSE100 shares down this morning and I hold three of them. Bah, humbug to the Santa rally.

— Rodney Hobson (@RodneyHobson) December 29, 2020

8.35am: Stocks zoom higher after Dow Jones index hits new high

The FTSE 100 flew out of the traps this morning, playing catch-up with US markets, which put in a strong showing yesterday.

London’s index of leading shares was 102 points (1.6%) higher at 6,604, with British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (LON:IAG) leading the way with a 4.1% gain at 170.05p.

There was a positive reaction to AstraZeneca PLC’s (LON:AZN) announcement this morning about approval for its Lynparaza cancer treatment to be used in Japan for the treatment of advanced ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

“The Astra/Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine’s approval, blissfully available in large quantities and at room temperature, is imminent, likely this week. It will be a game-changer for Her Majesty and her subjects. Britain is down, but not out, although I acknowledge that all of the above will act as a cap on gains in UK asset markets this week,” said OANDA’s |Jeffrey Halley, who sounds like he watched a few too many black & white war films over the Christmas break.

Only a handful of blue-chip stocks were in the red, among them banking giants Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) and NatWest Group PLC (LON:NWG), down 1.1% and 0.2% respectively. Pundits are still picking over the bones of the Brexit agreement but there is already a consensus that the deal has not been as good for the UK financial services industry as hoped.

Among the small caps, Powerhouse Energy Group PLC (LON:PHE) rocketed 23% higher to 8.15p after it was revealed Chris Vanezis, the chief financial officer, had sold 4.1mln shares received in lieu of his fees for services rendered. The shares were sold at 6.73p each, leaving Vanezis with a 0.71% stake in the waste-to-energy firm.

7.30am: London to play catch-up

After the long weekend break, London’s blue-chip equities look set to resume on the front foot.

Spread betting quotes indicate the FTSE 100 will open at around 6,598, up 96 points after US markets put in a strong shift on Boxing Day.

The Dow Jones industrial average advanced 204 points to close at 30,404 and the S&P 500 climbed 32 points to 3,735.

In Asia this morning, the Nikkei 225 was up 714 points at 27,568 in Tokyo while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng was 250 points to the good at 26,564.

As one might expect at this time of year, trading volumes have been thin.

Although there continues to be news on which traders can pull their triggers, in terms of stock-specific items involving the big guns, there has been little to react to.

This morning, AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) said Lynparza (olaparib), the drug it has developed with MSD (Merck & Co), has been approved in Japan for the treatment of advanced ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

Car insurance group Admiral Group PLC (LON:ADM) has sold off its Confused.com price comparison business and other bits & bobs to PG Comparison Services Holdings for £508mln, although the proceeds to Admiral, net of minority interests and transaction costs, will be around £450mln.

Around the markets:

  • Sterling: US$1.3500, up half a cent
  • 10-year gilt: 0.256%
  • Gold: US$1,881.80 an ounce, up US$1.40
  • Oil: US$51.28 a barrel, up 38 cents
  • Bitcoin: US$26,235, down US$399

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