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  • FTSE 100 closes ahead
  • Wall Street stocks lose ground
  • Scottish Mortgage leads the Footsie lower as NAV falls after tech shake-out

5pm: FTSE closes in the green

FTSE 100 closed Tuesday with its nose above water having been lower most of the day as traders mull over comments from the Federal Reserve chairman during his appearance before the Senate.

Britain’s blue-chip benchmark finished the day ahead by around 13 points, or 0.21%, at 6,625.

The midcap FTSE 250 was also higher, up over 76 points at 21,057.

Jerome Powell made few noises that suggested the US central bank’s support of the economy would be slackened off any time soon.

“….it comes as little surprise to see a dovish stance from Powell, who believes the Fed will need to remain accommodative for “some time” yet,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online trading group IG Index, in a note.

“Ongoing monthly $120 billion government bond purchases look likely to continue as we move through the year, yet Powell noted that this could change once their inflation and employment targets are reached.”

On Wall Street stocks were lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed around 134 points at 31,386. The S&P 500 lost 20 points and the Nasdaq tumbled over 273 points at 13,259.

3.30pm: Investment trusts taking a bath as tech falls out of fashion

The London stock market does not have the heavyweight technology stocks that US exchanges do but they are big enough to drag the market lower.

The FTSE 100 was down 41 points (0.6%) at 6,571, with the decline led by Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC (LON:SMT), which is off 8.0% at 1,165p.

The investment trust is a big holder of some of tech’s biggest names, including Tencent, Alibaba and Delivery Hero while it is probably best known for being an early mover into Tesla Motor.

With technology stocks running into a bit of profit-taking recently, the investment trust’s shares are down from 1,395.82p a week ago, so they have lost 17% or roughly one-sixth of their value.

The current net asset value per share of the trust stands at 1,276.65p.

Other investment trusts taking a bath today include Jpmorgan China Growth & Income PLC (LON:JCGI), down 9.2%; Baillie Gifford US Growth Trust PLC (LON:USA), down 8.2%; Allianz Technology Trust PLC (LON:ATT), down 7.9%; and Edinburgh Worldwide Investment Trust PLC (LON:EQI), down 6.9%.

Tesla passengers getting car sick $ARKK $TSLA $SMT $LIT pic.twitter.com/EOeBBLGJ5M

— Neil Wilson (@marketsneil) February 23, 2021

3.20pm: Proactive North America headlines:

HighGold Mining Inc (CVE:HIGH) (OTCQX:HGGOF) further consolidates ground at Munro-Croesus project with three more acquisitions

Mirasol Resources Ltd (CVE:MRZ) (OTCPINK:MRZLF) says new drill results indicate potential for mineralization outside of resource area at Virginia silver project

Codebase Ventures Inc (CSE:CODE) (OTCQB:BKLLF) (FRA:C5B) says Arcology launches overhauled CryptoKitties blockchain game that outperforms the original ‘1,000 to 1’

AgraFlora Organics International Inc (CSE:AGRA) (FRA:PU31) (OTCPINK:AGFAF) anticipates first PSC sales and revenue in summer of 2021

GlobeX Data Ltd (OTCQB:SWISF) (CSE:SWIS) (FRA:GDT) nearing distribution deal in South Asia with large telecom for its Swiss-hosted Sekur secure communications solution

First Cobalt Corp (CVE:FCC) (OTCQX:FTSSF) (FRA:18P) identifies new drill targets at at its Iron Creek cobalt-copper deposit in Idaho

Namaste Technologies Inc (CVE:N) (OTCMKTS:NXTTF) (FRA:M5BQ) subsidiary CannMart inks Canadian supply deal with HEXO

Mandalay Resources Corporation (TSE:MND) (OTCQB:MNDJF) (FRA:R7X2) extends mine life at Costerfield and increases gold underground reserves at Björkdal as it provides year-end updates

Mawson Gold Limited (TSE:MAW) (OTCPINK:MWSNF) (FRA:MXR) kicks off two key planning processes for Rajapalot project, Finland

Ceylon Graphite Corp (CVE:CYL) (OTCMKTS:CYLYF) (FRA:CCY) inks global license Memorandum of Understanding for specialized graphite and graphene technologies

Telson Mining Corporation (CVE:TSN) (OTCMKTS:SOHFF) (FRA:TSGN) secures US$25M funding to complete construction at Tahuehueto mine in Mexico

ImagineAR Inc (CSE:IP) (OTCQB:IPNFF) selected as one of 40 global sports finalists for the Hype Global Virtual Accelerator 2.0 Fan Vertical Bootcamp

Victory Square Technologies Inc (CSE:VST) (OTCMKTS:VSQTF) (FRA:6F6) subsidiary GameOn brings on former Australian soccer star Tim Cahill, two sports media executives as advisors

Japan Gold Corp (CVE:JG) (OTCQB:JGLDF) (FRA:2LD) says Barrick Alliance partner has approved regional exploration budget of US$4M for 2021

Milestone Scientific Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:MLSS) begins sales of CompuFlo epidural instruments and disposables to University Hospital of Wurzburg

2.45pm: Wall Street opens in the red

The main indices on Wall Street opened in the negative on Tuesday, with the Nasdaq leading the charge into bear territory.

In the first minutes of trading, the Nasdaq slumped 1.89% to 13,277, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.28% at 31,434 and the S&P 500 fell 0.77% to 3,846.

Aside from the ongoing shake-out of tech stocks leading markets lower, investors may also be sitting on their hands ahead of testimony from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell later today, which they hope will provide some additional insight into the outlook for the US and global economies.

Meanwhile, one of the early fallers in New York was DIY retailer Home Depot Inc (NYSE:HD), which slumped 5.7% to US$263.80 despite its recent earnings beating expectations.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 had sunk lower following the lower start in New York, falling 25 points to 6,587 at around 2.45pm.

2.15pm: Bitcoin pares losses

The FTSE 100 is going through another one of its drifting phases.

Oh well, there’s always Bitcoin if it is hair-raising excitement you are after.

The price of the cryptocurrency has recovered in the last hour or so and holders are facing a mere 11% loss on the day so far.

As for the Footsie, it is off 4 points (0.1%) at 6,608.

Earlier, the CBI’s quaintly-named Distributive Trades survey told us little we did not even know about the parlous state of the retail sector.

The reported sales balance (percentage of retailers reporting a rise in sales, minus the percentage reporting a decline) improved to -45 in February from -50 in January, but not as much as economists had expected; the consensus forecast had been for a balance of -40.

“The CBI’s survey suggests that trading conditions improved almost imperceptibly for retailers in February, though other indicators have pointed to a bigger improvement. For instance, footfall at retail locations rose to 39% of its level a year ago in the week ending February 14, up from 35% in the prior six weeks, according to data from Springboard. In addition, the BoE’s CHAPS figures indicate that, in the first 11 days of February, households’ spending on debit and credit cards was 74% of its February 2020 level, up from 66% in January,” quibbled Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Samuel Tombs.

“The BoE’s data are not seasonally adjusted, but the step-up between January and February last year was just 4pp [percentage points], so probably about half of the pick-up this month reflects an improvement in the underlying trend. The muted recovery in the reported sales balance probably reflects the fact that retailers are asked to compare sales to their level a year ago, and do not provide any sense of the magnitude of changes in demand,” Pantheon suggested.

“Meanwhile, the survey’s quarterly balances paint a bleak picture, with the net balance of retailers planning to increase employment dropping to -44 in Q1, from -31 in Q4. The likelihood that the pandemic has triggered a lasting shift in spending online suggests that retailers will continue to cut employment when the furlough scheme, which they have used extensively, eventually ends in the summer,” it added.

Internet sales grew at an historic pace (question first asked in Aug 2009), with the pace of growth expected to be broadly similar next month #DTS pic.twitter.com/xWBluKQzdF

— CBI Economics (@CBI_Economics) February 23, 2021

12.40pm: Nasdaq to take another tumble

After yesterday’s Nasdaq shake-out, the tech-heavy index is expected to open sharply lower again this morning.

Spread betting quotes indicate that the Nasdaq 100, which shed 357 points yesterday, will give up around half of that points total – 175 points – to open at 13,049.

The S&P 500, less weighted towards technology stocks, is expected to shed 15 points to open at around 3,862 while coincidentally the old warhorse, the Dow Jones industrial average, is tipped to also move 15 points but in an upward direction, to 31,537.

The focus today will be on Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and his appearance before a Congressional committee to give his views on the economy.

“Fed Chair Jerome Powell will either make or break the day for investors at his semiannual testimony before the Senate today and tomorrow,” according to Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior analyst at Swissquote.

“There is a good chance that he reiterates the Fed’s full support to the financial markets and the economy until substantial progress is made in jobs market but he will sure[ly] be questioned on the rising inflation expectations, and saying that there is no inflation just yet won’t get him out of the woods given the record jump in producer prices printed last month,” the analyst said.

“So the investor mood will essentially depend on Powell’s conviction to maintain his ultra-lose monetary policy stance and the feasibility of carrying on with such a soft hand under the actual market circumstances,” Ozkardeskaya,

Bitcoin prices continue to fall faster than a centre-forward brushed lightly while in the opposition penalty area, with the cryptocurrency down 16% at US$46,218.

The fall was sparked by some offhand comments by Tesla Motor boss Elon Musk, who mused that cryptocurrency prices “do seem high”.

He added a “lol” (laugh out loud) at the end of his Tweet, presumably in amusement at the speculators who were about to take a bath on their investments as a result of his comment.

Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chairman and current Treasury Secretary, is apparently not a fan. She said in an interview published last night that using Bitcoin is “an extremely inefficient way of conducting transactions, and the amount of energy that’s consumed in processing those transactions is staggering”.

In London, the FTSE 100 is staggering back towards parity, down 12 points (0.2%) at 6,600, thanks to support for property companies.

Land Securities Group PLC (LON:LAND) is the top blue-chip riser with a 4.8% rise at 658p but sector peer British Land Company PLC (LON:BLND) is hot on its heels with a 4.7% gain at 497.5p.

Sentiment towards the property sector has improved since the prime minister, Boris Johnson, offered light at the end of the tunnel for commercial activity in Britain with his lockdown roadmap unveiled yesterday.

10.50am: Mild tech wobble

London’s leading equities have turned south after a moderately solid start as pundits wonder whether the great tech sell-off has finally begun.

The FTSE 100 index if down 29 points (0.4%) at 6,583, with Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC (LON:SMT), which is heavily exposed to US technology stocks, leading the retreat with a 5.8% fall to 1,194p.

Cybersecurity outfit Avast PLC (LON:AVST), down 4.6% at 453p, is also in the doghouse.

“The Nasdaq fell nearly 2.5% as investors dumped names like Apple and Amazon amid growing concerns about rising inflation expectations, the direction of interest rates and how that would put tech stock valuations into question,” reported Russ Mould at AJ Bell.

“Tech-heavy investment trust Scottish Mortgage has fallen by more than 12% in just over a week and was among the FTSE 100’s worst performers on Tuesday along with other tech names Ocado and Avast,” he noted.

There has been little reaction to this morning’s slew of economic data releases from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In January 2021, 83,000 more people were in payrolled employment when compared with December 2020; this is the second consecutive monthly increase, the ONS reported.

The UK employment rate in the three months to December 2020 was estimated at 75.0, 1.5 percentage points lower than a year earlier and 0.3 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

The unemployment rate was estimated at 5.1%, down 1.3 percentage points year-on-year but 0.4 percentage points higher quarter-on-quarter.

Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) among employees for the three months October to December 2020 increased to 4.7%, and growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) also increased, to 4.1%.

“The Prime Minister has described his plan to ease England’s lockdown restrictions as a ‘one-way road to freedom’ but the weakness of the labour market reveals just how long and hard that road will be,” declared Jack Kennedy (not that one), a UK economist at the job site, Indeed.

“Nearly three-quarters of a million fewer people are in work compared to this time last year, and the unemployment rate continues to creep up,” he noted.

“Yet there are signs of progress, albeit slow. The most recent quarter saw the number of available jobs pick up by 64,000 compared to the previous three months,” Kennedy reported.

The rise in the unemployment rate in Dec is a step towards the 6.5% peak we expect by the end 2021. But if the govt follows the roadmap that it laid out on Monday, then the jobless rate may be back at its pre-pandemic level of 4.0% in 2023.https://t.co/fUbE158ZWE pic.twitter.com/ae2ttEmtuO

Capital Economics UK (@CapEconUK) February 23, 2021

James Smith, the economist who covers developed markets at ING, said the jobs market has stabilised but wonders whether this is the calm before the storm.

“With wage support set to be unwound over coming months, it is inevitable that the unemployment rate will increase again over coming months, but by how much?

“We’ll find out more about the plan for the furlough scheme in the budget next week, but an extension beyond the end of April seems inevitable. We may also see extended or more generous support provided to the hardest-hit sectors, to give them time to get back on their feet. A policy that incentivises businesses to bring workers back from furlough also feels likely, akin to the ‘Jobs Support Scheme’ that was originally planned for the winter, and would have provided subsidies for firms that were able to bring staff back part-time,” Smith said.

Whichever way an extension is structured, Smith thinks there will inevitably be some jobs that are no longer viable as a result of the pandemic.

“The latest weekly jobs data indicates there are just shy of a million workers who have been ’temporarily away from their job’ for at least three months, a rough proxy for those who either work in sectors that have never reopened, or whose jobs aren’t likely to come back,” Smith added.

9.30am: Productivity falls

Labour productivity for the fourth quarter of 2020, as measured by output per hour, fell by 1.1% year-on-year.

Output per worker fell by 6.3% year-on-year while output per hour decreased by 4.5% quarter-on-quarter.

“UK productivity – measured in terms of output per hour worked – weakened in the fourth quarter of 2020 as it fell 4.5% quarter-on-quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It had previously risen 5.6% quarter-on-quarter in the third quarter after falling 0.7% in the second and 1.1% the first,” said Howard Archer, the chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club.

“The ONS has reported that the difference between the two usually closely aligned measures – output per hour worked and output per worker – is because of the government’s furlough schemes. Overall, output per worker fell 9.6% in 2020,” Archer reported.

“The concern is that COVID-19’s impact on the UK economy over 2020 has had a significant negative impact on productivity and UK growth potential.

“In particular, business investment fell significantly over 2020 and has been weak for an extended period. Indeed, business investment in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 11.4% below the peak level seen in the fourth quarter of 2017.

“Productivity may also have been affected by businesses having to invest to make their premises compilable with social distancing requirements rather than using the resources to invest in new equipment and productive practices.

“Increased working at home may well be having mixed implications for productivity. On the positive side, the time saved commuting may be lifting output for many workers. On the negative side, productivity may be affected by the absence of social interaction and the building up of experience people gain from being in the office.

“The hope is that the ongoing successful rolling out of the COVID-19 vaccines over the coming months fuels a significant boost to business confidence and willingness to invest, with favourable implications for productivity,” Archer said.

8.40am: Investors shrug off inflation worries

The FTSE 100 defied inflation worries and rising bond yields to claw back some of the ground lost on Monday.

Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, while largely trailed in the weekend media, appeared to put a pep in the step of the price-setters of the Square Mile.

That optimism seemed to spill over into travel-reliant stocks, led by the airline IAG (LON:IAG), up 8.5%, with the BBC reporting a surge in holiday bookings in the immediate aftermath of the PM’s announcement.

Following in its vapour trails were jet engine maker Rolls Royce (LON:RR.), which will benefit from an upturn in fortunes for the carriers, and InterContinental Hotels Group (LON:IHG), which were up 6.4% and 4.2% respectively.

On the FTSE 250, easyJet (LON:EZJ) and Cineworld (LON:CINE), up 8.5% and 7.2%, led the resurgence. Boris’ pub re-opening schedule, meanwhile, didn’t curry favour with investors of Mitchells & Butlers (LON:MAB), down 3%.

HSBC (LON:HSBA) was static after its Asian pivot had been widely leaked to the ‘Sundays’; however, the restoration of the dividend did provide a tonic for Natwest (LON:NWG) and Lloyds (LON:LLOY), up 2.7% and 2% respectively.

Proactive news headlines

Feedback PLC (LON:FDBK) said it is seeing an improvement in the pace of negotiations with the National Health Service over the use of its Bleepa product.

World High Life PLC (LON:LIFE) (OTCQB:WRHLF) said its subsidiary cannabidiol (CBD) brand Love Hemp Limited has submitted its novel food dossier to the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

OKYO Pharma Limited (LON:OKYO) has been issued a patent for a potential new class of non-opioid analgesics being developed to treat symptoms of neuropathic pain, ocular pain, ocular inflammation and/or dry eye disease.

Crossword Cybersecurity PLC (LON:CCS) said it has signed an agreement with the University of Glasgow (UOG) to support its privacy risk and compliance (PRC) project by creating a new software product aimed at privacy governance. The AIM-listed firm said it will help to design, market test and build the software, which will ultimately be owned by a newly formed separate UOG spin-off business.

Sunrise Resources PLC (LON:SRES) said a 500 tonne sample of pozzolan that was shipped to a large cement and ready-mix company is due to be ground by the end of March and then used in a number of commercial concrete pours. Meanwhile, at the Bakers Gold Project in Australia, Sunrise is moving ahead with plans to drill, with a rig booked for a drill start at the end of March.

Strategic Minerals PLC (LON:SML)(USOTC:SMCDY) is beginning a trenching and auger exploration program to investigate the possible presence of extensions of mineralisation up to 1,000 metres to the west of the presently established resource at the Redmoor project in Cornwall. Multiple prospective targets for tin and copper have been identified as a result of a review of historic exploration data to the west of the Redmoor deposit. 

88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E) has highlighted that the Merlin-1 exploration well, in the Peregrine project area in Alaska, is due to spud in early March. The well is targeting a prospect that’s estimated to host some 645mln barrels of oil.

i3 Energy PLC (LON:I3E, TSE:ITE) told investors that production remains predictably stable, averaging 9,150 barrels oil equivalent per day in the period from November 2020 to January 2021.

NQ Minerals PLC (LON:NQMI)(OTCQB:NQMLF) announced that it is expected to qualify for London Stock Exchange’s Green Economy Mark at admission.

MaxCyte Inc’s (LON:MXCT) chief executive, Doug Doerfler, is presenting to two virtual events next month. On March 1, from 1.20 pm ET, he will address the online audience of Cowen’s 41st Annual Health Care Conference. Then it is on the H.C. Wainwright & Co Global Life Sciences Conference on March 9-10.

finnCap Group PLC (LON:FCAP) said it has appointed Oberon Capital, part of the Oberon Investments Group PLC, as a joint broker with immediate effect.

6.50 am: Positivity in the air

The FTSE 100 is expected to recover its small losses from the start of the week after the Prime Minister’s speech about emerging from the current coronavirus lockdown.

London’s blue-chip share index is being predicted to rise around 16 points by spread-betters on the IG platform, a day after slipping just under 12 points or 0.2% to 6,612.24.

Overnight, US stock market indices mostly fell, though the Dow Jones battled over the line to add 27 points or 0.1% to close at 31,521.69.

The S&P 500, however, slid 0.8% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite tumbled 2.5%, with all but one of the top 20 largest companies all moving lower, with the biggest being an 8% decline for Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA).

“European markets got the week off to a disappointing start on increasing concern about rising bond yields, and what they are telling us about the economic outlook, and the prospects for inflation,” said market analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

“Today’s European open is likely to see a little bit of a rebound after the declines from yesterday, helped by a positive Asia session, and while optimism abounds about an economic recovery, there still seems to be an abundance of caution about when to look at becoming strongly positive about the prospects for UK and European stocks.”

Analyst Jeffrey Halley at Oanda was more dramatic: “Financial markets have an every-man-for-himself look about them today, as various asset classes diverge in their own directions. A combination of tightening yields and the impending two-day testimony by Fed Chairman Powell starting today in Washington DC seems to have provoked differing reactions across different markets.”

Around the markets

Pound: flat at US$1.4067

Gold: up 0.2% at US$1,813.76

Oil: Brent crude up 0.7% at US$66.28

Bitcoin: down 10% to US$50,167.60

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed on Tuesday as HSBC reported a profit before tax of $8.8 billion for 2020, a fall of 34% from a year ago.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 0.95% while the Shanghai Composite in China dipped 0.49%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.46% while South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.31%.

Shares in Australia gained, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 0.86% higher.

READ OUR ASX REPORT HERE

Proactive Australia news:

Horizon Minerals Ltd (ASX:HRZ) has generated $1.2 million in net cash after completing the fourth and final milling campaign from trial mining at the Boorara Gold Mine, 10 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder in the Goldfields of Western Australia.

Tempest Minerals Ltd (ASX:TEM) has increased its landholding at the Messenger Project in Western Australia with a new extension that covers the historic high-grade Messengers Patch gold production area.

Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals Ltd (ASX:PAR) has received more than $3.38 million as a Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive refund for the 2020 financial year.

Astro Resources NL (ASX:ARO) has busy work programs planned to advance the Needles Gold Project in the USA as well as the Governor Broome Minerals Sands Project and the Lower Smoke Creek Diamond Project, both in Western Australia.

White Rock Minerals Ltd (ASX:WRM) (OTCQX:WRMCF) has entered into a binding and exclusive term sheet with Thomson Resources Ltd (ASX:TMZ) for a three-stage earn-in and option to a joint venture agreement to progress the Mt Carrington Gold and Silver Project in northeast NSW.

PolarX Ltd (ASX:PXX) (FRA:PX0) is focused on advancing its North American projects at Humboldt Range and Alaska Range this year, aiming to complete due diligence as well as start exploration at both projects.

Maximus Resources Limited (ASX:MXR) (FRA:M5F) has begun drilling at the highly prospective Wattle Dam East nickel target within its Spargoville tenements, 25 kilometres from BHP Group Ltd’s (ASX:BHP) (NYSE:BHP) Kambalda Nickel Concentrator.

Euro Manganese Inc (ASX:EMN) (CVE:EMN) (OTCMKTS:EROMF) (FRA:E06) has secured the support of European Union-backed knowledge and innovation organisation EIT InnoEnergy to accelerate integration of the Chvaletice Manganese Project in the Czech Republic into Europe’s battery supply chain.

Rumble Resources Ltd’s (ASX:RTR) (FRA:20Z) latest reconnaissance reverse circulation (RC) drilling and mapping program has expanded the large-scale gold-copper-silver system at Amaryllis Prospect within the Munarra Gully Project, Cue in WA’s Mid-West.

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