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LONDON MARKET MIDDAY: Stocks Buoyed; Republican Convention Continues

Tue, 25th Aug 2020 12:04

(Alliance News) - Stocks in London were higher at midday on Tuesday amid optimism surrounding the US-China trading relationship and hopes for a Covid-19 treatment, while the Republican National Convention continues in the US.

Polls show President Donald Trump trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who had his convention last week, as Americans turn on the president's handling of the pandemic and subsequent economic chaos.

Trump on Monday told Republicans to be on alert for what he claimed was a Democratic plan to rig the contest through increased use of mail-in voting - a measure Democrats say is needed to protect people from catching Covid-19 in crowded polling stations.

"President Trump got the Republican convention off to a belligerent start as he warned of a rigged election as he sought to cast doubt over the voting process ahead of the election. I don't think the market really needs to worry about there not being a smooth handover of power, but I would think that a close result could see Trump launch multiple legal challenges which would create the kind of uncertainty markets don't like," commented Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.

Meanwhile, global sentiment was lifted overnight after top Chinese and US negotiators spoke on the phone and agreed to "push forward" their phase one trade deal, despite heightened tensions between the two sides on several fronts.

In London, the blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 11.06 points, or 0.2%, at 6,115.79. The mid-cap FTSE 250 index was up 37.51 points, or 0.3% at 17,722.58. The AIM All-Share index was flat at 961.15.

The Cboe UK 100 index was up 0.1% at 608.89. The Cboe 250 was flat at 15,052.68, and the Cboe Small Companies was down 0.1% at 9,492.65.

In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 index in Paris was up 0.9%, while the DAX 30 in Frankfurt was up 0.8%.

"European equity markets are showing decent gains on the back of optimism surrounding the US-China trading relationship and hopes for a Covid-19 drug. China's ministry of commerce confirmed they held constructive talks with the US with respect to trade, and the US side essentially seconded that. Given the exchanges between the two countries recently have been negative, any small bit of positivity is seen as a big step forward, even when it isn't," said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

In the FTSE 100, Aveva Group was the best performer, up 5.5% after the industrial software maker said it has agreed to acquire SoftBank-backed US software company OSIsoft, in a USD5 billion deal.

Aveva said the acquisition will be funded using a combination of a rights issue, cash on balance sheet and new debt facilities, as well as through issuance of shares to one of its selling shareholders.

The Cambridge-based firm said OSIsoft was key to capitalising on the trends in global manufacturing for the use of digital technology, as companies digitalise their operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

AstraZeneca was up 0.7% after the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said the first patients have now been dosed in its phase one trial of Covid-19 treatment, AZD7442.

The trial, named NCT04507256, will evaluate AZD7442's safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics. Pharmacokinetics describes the movement of a treatment into the body, as well as through and out of the body.

AZD7442 is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies and is being developed for the development and treatment of Covid-19. Astra then optimised the antibodies, extending their half-life so as to "afford at least six months of protection from Covid-19".

In the FTSE 250, Apax Global Alpha was up 4.7% after the investment company said its net asset value per share fell in the first half of the year as a result of Covid-19 disruption in the first quarter.

Apax Global Alpha reported a decline in NAV per share to EUR2.16 as at June 30 from EUR2.24 at the end of 2019. The NAV total return for half a year was negative 0.5%, recovering from a first quarter negative return of 12% on market weakness.

The company declared an interim dividend of 4.87p per share, up 3.8% from 4.69p per share the year before.

At the other end of the midcaps, James Fisher & Sons was the worst performer, down 6.5% after the marine services provider said its performance deteriorated in the first half of 2020 amid lower energy prices and the coronavirus pandemic.

James Fisher said pretax profit dropped by 59% to GBP7.1 million in the six months to the end of June from GBP20.9 million reported a year earlier, as revenue fell by 10% to GBP258.1 million from GBP286.9 million.

The company has declared an interim dividend of 8.0 pence per share, reduced by 29% from 11.3p paid a year earlier.

The dollar was weaker against the pound and euro as investors shunned the greenback's safe-haven appeal in favour of riskier assets.

The pound was quoted at USD1.3112 Tuesday midday, up from USD1.3075 at the London equities close Monday. The euro was priced at USD1.1839, up from USD1.1802.

In economic news from the continent, gross domestic product in Germany fell by 9.7% in the second quarter of 2020 on the first quarter after the coronavirus pandemic led to massive declines in almost all areas.

However, the GDP drop in the second quarter was not as steep as reported in the first release on July 30 of 10%, according to figures published by the Federal Statistical Office.

On a year-on-year basis, GDP was down a price-adjusted 11% in the second quarter.

"Risk appetite has survived overnight as positive US-China trade talks reignite hope of an agreement. US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin both had their scheduled call with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He last night and the statement following the call advised of constructive dialogue with both sides seeing progress," said analysts at OFX.

Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY106.31, higher compared to JPY105.93.

In commodities, Brent oil was quoted at USD45.30 a barrel Tuesday midday, up from USD44.88 a barrel at the London equities close Monday. Gold was trading at USD1,923.64 an ounce, lower against USD1,933.88.

New York is set to continue its positive momentum after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indices once again ended at record highs on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was called up 0.5%, the S&P 500 up 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.1%, based on futures trading.

The world's most closely watched stock index will get a slightly new look at the end of August, as Exxon Mobil Corp is bumped out of the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average, the index's parent company announced Monday.

The oil major will be removed to make room for cloud computing firm Salesforce.com, S&P Dow Jones Indices said in a statement. In addition, biotech company Amgen will replace drugmaker Pfizer, and industrial systems manufacturer Honeywell International takes the spot held by defence contractor Raytheon Technologies Corp.

The change is driven in part by Apple's planned four-to-one stock split, which reduces the Dow's weight globally, S&P Dow Jones said.

Elsewhere, the Republican National Convention continues in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday, featuring speeches from First Lady Melania Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senator Rand Paul. Tuesday will also see a rare public appearance from Trump's youngest daughter Tiffany who has not spoken publicly since the 2016 Republican National Convention.

By Arvind Bhunjun; arvindbhunjun@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2020 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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