(Alliance News) -Â Stocks in London are set to extend losses on Friday as the end of a mixed month draws to a close.
In early UK company news, boohoo confirmed it is in talks for some of Arcadia's brands just days after snapping up the online operations of collapsed department store chain Debenhams. Evraz reported steel output growth in the fourth quarter. Airtel Africa saw revenue growth in the first nine months of its financial year.
IG says futures indicate the FTSE 100 index of large-caps to open 69.35 points, or 1.1%, down at 6,456.80 on Friday. The FTSE 100 closed down 41.22 points, or 0.6%, at 6,526.15 on Thursday.
"European markets look set to open lower as we look back and reflect on what has been a very choppy start to the first month of trading in 2021, as the initial euphoria at the start of January has given way to concerns about extended lockdowns and tighter restrictions for longer across Europe," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
Economic data out of Europe on Friday morning is expected to show a toll from tighter virus restrictions at the end of 2020.
French gross domestic product, released already, showed the economy contracted 1.3% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of 2020 after growth of 19% in the third quarter. German GDP is due at 0900 GMT.
In the afternoon, there are US personal consumption expenditure numbers at 1330 GMT - the core reading is the US Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation.
The dollar was a touch stronger on Friday.
Sterling was quoted at USD1.3704 early Friday, lower than USD1.3725 at the London equities close on Thursday. The euro traded at USD1.2102 early Friday, down from USD1.2125 late Thursday.
Against the yen, the dollar was quoted at JPY104.53, up from JPY104.30.
In the US on Thursday, Wall Street ended on a bright note, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 1.0%, the S&P 500 up 1.0%, and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.5%.
"Wall Street rebounded overnight after US GDP and initial jobless claims sprung no surprises...Momentum has faded in Asia though, with the futures on all three indexes retreating, notably the Nasdaq futures, which have fallen 0.65%," commented Jeffery Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda.
In Asia on Friday, the Japanese Nikkei 225 index closed down 1.9%. In China, the Shanghai Composite closed down 0.6%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong is down 0.6%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney closed down 0.6%.
Japan's industrial production shrank by 1.6% in December from the previous month amid the Covid-19 pandemic, while the nation's unemployment rate was unchanged at 2.9%, the government said. The reading in industrial production was almost in line with the median forecast of a 1.5% fall by analysts surveyed by the Nikkei Business Daily, and came after a 0.5% drop in November.
Brent oil eased to USD55.53 a barrel early Friday from USD55.80 late Thursday.
Gold was quoted at USD1,845.80 an ounce early Friday, lower than USD1,856.61 on Thursday. Spot silver was trading at USD26.42 an ounce, flat on USD26.44 late Thursday in London, having climbed from USD25.38 on Wednesday.
WallStreetBets investors were targeting the precious metals sector on Thursday. According to posts on Reddit, it is another heavily-shorted area. A WSB post circulating on Twitter called the silver bullion market "one of the most manipulated on earth", saying it should be at USD1,000 an ounce and "a squeeze would destroy banks".
London precious metals miners Fresnillo and Hochschild Mining closed up 6.7% and 8.5% in response on Thursday.
In early UK company news on Friday, boohoo confirmed it is in exclusive talks with Arcadia's administrators to buy the Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton brands.
"These discussions may or may not result in agreement of a transaction. A further announcement will be made when appropriate," the online-only retailer said in a statement.
Sky News had reported the talks on Thursday.
The news comes just days after boohoo announced it had acquired all of the intellectual property assets of department store Debenhams Retail for GBP55 million in cash in order to expand into new categories including beauty, sport and homeware. The Debenhams deal did not include any retail stores.
Boohoo has previously bought a number of well-known high street brands out of administration, turning them into online-only operations, including Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen.
Evraz reported steel production growth in the fourth quarter but a full-year slip.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, Evraz said crude steel output rose by 7.4% quarter-on-quarter to 3.5 million tonnes and total sales of steel products increased 12% to 3.4 million tonnes. For the full-year, crude steel production was down 1.3% at 13.6 million tonnes and sales of steel products fell 3.1% to 13.1 million tonnes.
Airtel Africa reported revenue growth across all regions and services in the first nine months of its financial year.
Revenue increased 14% to USD2.87 billion in the nine months to December, with third quarter growth of 20%. Operating profit rose 22% in the nine-month period to USD800 million, but pretax profit fell 3.8% to USD482 million amid a 41% increase in finance costs.
Constant currency underlying revenue growth was 19%, with third-quarter growth of 23%. Growth for the nine months was recorded across all regions - with Nigeria up 22%, East Africa up 23% and Francophone Africa up 8.0% - as well as across all services, with voice revenue up 10%, data up 31% and mobile money up 34%.
"Our nine-month performance reflects both the resilience of our business model through the Covid-19 pandemic and, for the last six months, a continued improvement in our execution and performance as lockdown restrictions have eased across our countries of operation," said Chief Executive Raghunath Mandava.
"While the Covid-19 pandemic has had little impact on our most recent quarter, we remain vigilant about the recent news flow around new strains of the virus and further actions by governments to minimise contagion in our countries of operation."
Respiratory protection equipment manufacturer Avon Rubber said trading has continued as expected since December.
The firm said it has seen seen positive order momentum in the Military, First Responder and Team Wendy businesses, and has made progress with updated body armor designs for the US Defense Logistics Agency Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts and US Army Vital Torso Protection contracts.
Avon Rubber said it remains confident in achieving its expectations for the current financial year. It said Team Wendy has performed in line with expectations in the first three months of ownership.
Paragon Banking said it made an "encouraging" start to the year.
Specialist buy-to-let volumes have remained "robust" during Paragon's first quarter - which ended December 31 - at GBP298.7 million.
"Although this represents a GBP110.8 million reduction when compared to Q1 2020, it largely reflects the lagged impacts of the first lockdown on our pipeline and market wide challenges facing the execution of housing transactions," explained Paragon.
Total advances during the first quarter stood at GBP521.8 million, down from GBP684.9 million year-on-year, the provider of mortgages and other asset-backed loans said.
Looking ahead, Paragon said: "Whilst the full economic effect of Covid-19 remains uncertain, the group's performance during the first quarter has been encouraging and the board's expectations on volumes and net interest margin remain unchanged."
By Lucy Heming;Â firstname.lastname@example.org
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