FTSE 100: Gas crisis, Evergrande and US travel rules send markets on a rollercoaster

·21-min read
 (ESI)
(ESI)

Latest news

  • FTSE 100 tumbles on China Evergrande crisis

  • Gas crunch threatens 30 suppliers

  • Aldi opens first till-less store

  • AstraZeneca tops risers

  • IAG jumps 11% on US travel hopes

FTSE closes at 6,903 with AstraZeneca among biggest gains

17:25 , Laura Sharman

The FTSE 100 closed at 6,903.91, down 59.73 points (-0.86%).

International Consolidated Airlines Group S.A. was among the biggest risers, up 11.16%, followed by AstraZeneca, up 6.15%, and Rolls-Royce Holdings, up 4.23%.

Vaccine maker AstraZeneca’s share rise today came on reports its next-generation breast cancer drug Enhertu could become a blockbuster medicine.

Meanwhile Rolls-Royce bounced on reports the US is set to ease translatlantic travel restrictions.

Among companies to have the biggest falls were Prudential, which fell by 8.37 per cent, Standard Chartered, down 7.01 per cent, and Schroders, down 6.62 per cent.

The most active stocks were Lloyds Banking Group, International Consolidated Airlines Group S.A., Rolls-Royce Holdings, Glencore and Vodafone Group.

Eurowag heads for London as IPO momentum continues

07:53 , Graeme Evans

A company dubbed the Uber of the trucking world confirmed today its intention to float on the London market, a move that could value the business at £1.7 billion.

Prague-based Eurowag, which provides payments and technology services to European hauliers, said it plans to join the main market of the London Stock Exchange. The price range and number of shares in the offer has still to be determined.

The move, which Eurowag signalled last week alongside the appointment of City grandee Paul Manduca as chairman, provides more encouragement that London can build on what's already been a strong year for initial public offerings.

Gene sequencing firm Oxford Nanopore is pursuing a listing worth about £3 billion, while investment bank Peel Hunt is to go public at the end of this month with an estimated value of £300 million.

08:12 , Graeme Evans

Pressure on London shares is set to continue today after mining stocks fell sharply on Friday to leave the FTSE 100 index below 7,000 for the first time since July.

The latest slide in iron ore prices due to concerns about how much the global economy is slowing contributed to Anglo American finishing 8% lower, with sentiment towards the De Beers owner not helped by a downgrade from analysts at UBS.

There’s unlikely to be much respite for investors today, with CMC Markets predicting the FTSE 100 index will open another 53 points lower at 6,910.

The session sees the return of supermarket Morrisons as a blue-chip stock, having seen its valuation propelled to more than £7 billion by an ongoing takeover battle.

The completion of the latest quarterly FTSE reshuffle also sees promotion for aerospace engineer Meggitt after it received a £6.3 billion takeover offer from US firm Parker-Hannifin.

No plans to break up, SSE tells investors

08:21 , Graeme Evans

FTSE 100-listed energy giant SSE cooled speculation over a potential break-up of the business today by insisting it remains focused on both its renewables and electricity network arms.

Its statement follows recent stake building by activist investor Elliott, a move that has fuelled rumours about whether the New York firm thinks SSE will be worth more than its current £16 billion stock market price tag by splitting itself into two.

In response to the speculation, SSE said: “There has been no decision to break up the SSE group. The board remains fully focused on strategic choices which will drive shareholder value from the wealth of net zero opportunities the company is creating.”

SSE shares opened 11p lower at 1,623.5p following the statement.

Miners hammered as FTSE 100 slides 1%

08:34 , Graeme Evans

Another hammering for mining stocks has left the FTSE 100 index sharply lower today, with Anglo American again the biggest faller in London's top flight.

The De Beers owner followed Friday's 8% slide by shedding another 5% or 127.5p to 2,463.5p, while Rio Tinto and BHP were 2% lower as global economic slowdown fears continue to put pressure on prices of iron ore and other key commodities.

Prudential also fell sharply after unveiling its plan to raise about £2 billion on Hong Kong stock exchange as it shifts its focus toward long-term growth in Asia and Africa.

British Airways owner IAG moved in the other direction after chief executive Luis Gallego told the Sunday Times there were no plans for his company to follow the lead of easyJet's £1.2 billion rights issue. Amid investor relief, shares rallied 3.7p to 153.22p.

AstraZeneca was also 2% higher but the FTSE 100 index overall was down 1% or 70.3 points at 6,893.34 after closing below 7,000 for the first since July on Friday.

“Toxic cocktail” as optimism evaporates

08:54 , Graeme Evans

Richard Hunter, head of markets at interactive investor, highlights a number of reasons for today’s risk-off session.

He said: “The persistence of the Delta variant, elevated inflation, supply chain blockages and raw material price increases are combining to form a toxic cocktail which is seeing optimism evaporate.”

On top of these factors, Hunter also notes the current signs of weaker growth in China and worries about corporate tax hikes in the United States weighing on the prospects for future profitability.

He added: “With the third quarter reporting season edging ever closer, it seems increasingly unlikely that companies will able to match the strength displayed in the previous quarter.”

This week’s busy diary of central bank meetings is adding to the market jitters, with the US Federal Reserve and Thursday’s gathering of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee the primary focus for London investors.

FTSE 100 in reverse as China fears grow

09:39 , Graeme Evans

Heavyweight miners were at the forefront of another big market sell-off today after investors were given more reasons to worry about the strength of the Chinese economy.

Anglo American fell 8% on Friday and was down another 6% today as the ongoing slide in iron ore prices from May's peak was accompanied by more evidence of a slowdown in China's property sector after shares in developer Evergrande skidded in Hong Kong.

The risk-off session left the FTSE 100 index more than 1% lower, down 94.86 points at 6,868.78, having fallen below 7,000 for the first time since July on Friday.

The impact of rising prices has added to the market jitters, particularly with policymakers at the Bank of England and US Federal Reserve meeting later this week.

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter said: “With the recovery stuttering, while prices rise, it’s feared the lethargy of stagflation could emerge upon an unstable economic footing.”

Alongside falls of 4% and more for miners including Rio Tinto and Glencore, Asia-focused stocks dominated the fallers board in London. Standard Chartered dropped 16.9p to 425.1p and luxury goods firm Burberry was 55.5p cheaper at 1,742.5p.

The slide in market sentiment was particularly bad timing for Prudential after it unveiled the latest leg of its restructuring through a plan to raise about £2 billion from Hong Kong investors as it shifts its focus toward long-term growth in Asia and Africa.

Shares fell more than 6% or 95.5p to 1,350p.

British Airways owner IAG moved in the other direction after chief executive Luis Gallego told the Sunday Times there were no plans for his company to follow the lead of easyJet's £1.2 billion rights issue. Amid investor relief, shares rallied 3.7p to 153.22p.

AstraZeneca was also 2% higher after it reported positive results for a prospective breast cancer treatment.

The UK-focused FTSE 250 index was not spared the market sell-off, falling 302.21 points to 23,356.73 and led lower by Wagamama operator Restaurant Group after shares slid 7% or 8.2p to 106.8p.

Energy stocks under pressure

11:16 , Oscar Williams-Grut

Energy stocks are coming under pressure today as soaring gas prices prompt a crisis in the sector.

The UK’s energy industry is pleading with the Government for emergency support to stave off what insiders say could be a “blood bath” caused by rising gas prices.

Gas prices soared to record levels last week. At current levels, all customers covered by the Government’s price cap are loss making for providers. The situation has left many smaller companies fighting for their life. Four companies have gone bust so far this month and another four are expected to fold this week.

When suppliers fail, the government asks remaining companies to take on their customers. However, the price cap makes servicing these client unprofitable and more customers equate to larger losses. The industry fears a domino effect caused by collapsing businesses.

British Gas-owner Centrica dropped 1.7% in London, while the National Grid fell 1.2% and Shell, which operates a retail business alongside its oil business, shed 2%. Eon was down 0.7% in Germany.

Read more: Kwasi Kwarteng holds talks with UK energy industry over state support

Aldi picks London for first checkout-free tech trial

11:25 , Joanna Bourke

Discount retailer Aldi is trialling new checkout-free technology in one of its London branches, joining rivals in looking at new ways to offer customers different payment choices.

The supermarket chain, which has 48 stores within the M25, said the tech will allow customers to scan a smartphone app to enter the store, pick up their shopping, and simply walk out without the need to pay at a till.

It added that shortly after a visit, shoppers would get an email receipt and be charged automatically using their chosen payment method.

Read the full story HERE.

Property investor in £113m supermarket site spree

11:29 , Joanna Bourke

Property investor Supermarket Income Reit has purchased six sites, used by some of the UK’s biggest grocers, for a combined price of £113 million.

The company, which leases properties to businesses in the supermarket sector, said the sites, which comprise stores, car parks and in some cases petrol stations, have been acquired from different vendors.

Read the full story HERE.

AstraZeneca soars on cancer drug hopes

11:34 , Simon Freeman

Vaccine maker AstraZeneca’s shares rose as much as 3.5% today on reports its next-generation breast cancer drug Enhertu could become a blockbuster medicine.

The Anglo-Swedish drug company shot to the top of the FTSE 100 risers board, with shares up 258.0p to 8321.0p, lifting its market cap above £125 billion.

The optimism was driven by results of a late-stage trial suggesting Enhertu is 72% more effective than Swiss rival Roche’s Kadclya drug in slowing tumour growth.

Astra is exploring its use in the treatment of gastric, lung, colorectal and other aggressive cancers.

David Fredrickson, VP of Astra’s oncology unit, said: “Enhertu could be among the most successful medicines in the oncology space”.

Enhertu has been approved by UK regulator the MHRA in women who have exhausted other treatments.

Oncology sales made up more than a third of Astra’s $23.6 billion revenue last year, driven by Tagrisso, Imfinzi and Lynparza.

Citi anticipates global Enhertu revenues of $10 billion by 2030.

Netflix signs long-term lease for more UK production space

12:08 , Joanna Bourke

Fresh from a flurry of wins at the Emmy Awards, Netflix has agreed a deal to expand its production presence in the UK.

The entertainment streaming giant has taken a long-term lease for the northern side of Longcross Studios in Surrey. The move significantly boosts the firm’s property footprint in Britain, and adds to its production hub at Shepperton Studios and long-term partnership with Pinewood Group to lease stages, workshops and office space.

Netflix show The Crown (Des Willie/Netflix)
Netflix show The Crown (Des Willie/Netflix)

Details of the letting with Aviva Investors emerged today, shortly after Netflix achieved 10 wins at the Emmy Awards on Sunday. That included “The Crown” being named the best drama series.

Read the full story HERE.

Cake maker cautions of challenges around inflation

12:14 , Simon Freeman

 (PA)
(PA)

The company behind Mary Berry’s branded line of cakes has joined the list of companies warning over supply chain disruption.

Finsbury Food Group CEO John Duffy said the bakery group had this year seen rising prices for flour and oil. He added that the manufacturer is likely to face “persistent challenges around inflation and skilled labour and driver shortages”.

But he was upbeat as the group recorded 2.3% revenue growth to £313.3 million in the year to June 26 with profits up sixfold to £17 million.

Morrisons bans banana bags

12:33 , Simon Freeman

 (PA)
(PA)

Morrisons has said it will ban plastic packaging from the bananas it sells in its stores saving 180 tonnes of plastic a year.

The Bradford-based retail giant said it will become the first supermarket group to remove plastic bags from all bananas sold in its stores, which is equivalent to removing 45 million single-use plastic carrier bags from circulation.

It will replace plastic packaging on bananas with paper bands to keep bunches together, and it will continue to sell some bananas without packaging.

It follows a successful 12-week trial which has removed more than two million pre-packed plastic bags to date, the supermarket said.

Elio Biondo, banana buyer for Morrisons, said: “Bananas have their own packaging – their skins. In trials the quality of the bananas has remained the same, so this switch out of plastic is a no-brainer.”

The ban is part of Morrisons’ drive to reduce plastic and revert to traditional grocery packaging.

Rival Iceland introduced paper packaging for bananas in 2018 and said it is moving to the next phase of its rollout of the packaging in the next few weeks.

Centrica picks up People’s Energy refugees

12:55 , Simon Freeman

 (Peoples Energy)
(Peoples Energy)

Shares in Centrica shot up by as much as 3.8% today as the British Gas parent said it will take on 350000 domestic and 500 business customers of collapsed energy supplier People’s Energy.

Centrica bucked the mostly downbeat trend across the FTSE350, saying it was in a “robust financial position” and “well hedged for the coming winter.”

It also tossed a little shade in People’s Energy’s direction. The challenger company was launched in 2017 with a £500,000 crowdfunder on a mission to take on the Big Six pledging 100% renewable energy, full transparency over its accounts and 75% of profits return to customers every year.

It ceased trading in September 14, among the first four victims of the price crunch.

Centrica trilled that it was: “A responsible energy supplier built on a sustainable model .”

Customers' energy supply will continue as normal and they will be switched to British Gas from today, energy regulator Ofgem said.

Centrica said it had taken on the customers of four failed companies so far this year.

This switchover will fall under Ofgem’s Supplier of Last Resort (SOLR) process and all costs British Gas can not recover from the new customers - including additional costs of buying energy - will be recoverable through the established industry levy.

Centrica group boss Chris O’Shea said: “We welcome People’s Energy customers to British Gas and we’ll ensure the switchover is as smooth as possible.

“We’re a brand trusted by millions and we’ll be working hard to gain the trust of our new customers too - so that they not only join but choose to stay with us .”

Around 30 smaller energy suppliers are thought to be at risk from the skyrocketing natural gas prices, which have tripled this year and rose another 16% today.

Jefferies said sector consolidation could be a long-term positive for big players like Centrica.

Lunch time latest

13:36 , Oscar Williams-Grut

Here are the main stories in the markets this lunch time:

• The FTSE 100 is down 129 points, or 1.8%, to 6,843. Mining and Asia-focused stocks are leading the index lower amid more evidence of a slowdown in China’s property sector. Shares in debt heavy Chinese developer Evergrande skidded in Hong Kong, spooking the market.

• UK energy stocks are under pressure after a spike in gas prices caused a cash crunch for providers. The government is holding emergency talks with the industry, which wants billions in state support to see it through the crisis.

• British Gas-owner Centrica is bucking the trend after reassuring investors it is in a “robust financial position” and “well hedged for the coming winter.” Shares are 3.6% higher.

• SSE has denied reports it is poised to break-up the company after a story over the weekend suggested activist investor Elliot Management had swayed the board. SSE said: “There has been no decision to break up the SSE group. The board remains fully focused on strategic choices which will drive shareholder value from the wealth of net zero opportunities the company is creating.” Shares are broadly unchanged.

• Bitcoin is slumping. The world’s largest cryptocurrency is down 9% to $43,055 as the Evergrande panic prompts investors to de-risk their portfolios.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Market.com, says: “China risks abound with eyes on the Evergrande contagion. Markets also have one eye on inflation and the Fed meeting this week, plus the German election coming on Sunday. Many people – most investors seemingly – have been eyeing a correction in Sep/Oct after such a solid ramp this year and they’re getting one, it seems.

“If you have the Fed post max-accommodation - that is, on a path to tightening not loosening, inflation sticking around much more than optimists had thought, earnings growth stalling, and the economy past peak growth, you have the kind of perfect powder keg for a pullback and Evergrande may be the spark to set it off.”

London Tech Week 2021: Start-ups to watch and must-attend virtual events

13:47 , Simon Freeman

Russ Shaw is the the founder of Tech London Advocates (tech London advocates)
Russ Shaw is the the founder of Tech London Advocates (tech London advocates)

London Tech Week is back and it is more diverse and internationally-focused than ever, Russ Shaw, one of the event’s founders has said.

Now in its eighth year, LTW is an annual event of celebration and networking for the capital’s tech scene.

Shaw picks a few events to look out for this week. Read the full story HERE.

Bitcoin caught up in Evergrande sell-off

14:36 , Oscar Williams-Grut

Bitcoin has crashed to a 6-week low as the world’s biggest cryptocurrency finds itself caught up in a global market sell-off.

Bitcoin was down 7.8% to $43,685 by mid-afternoon in London. It marked the lowest level since early August.

Analysts said the cryptocurrency was collateral damage in the current market scare sparked by Chinese property developer Evergrande. Shares in Evergrande - one of China’s largest developers - crashed 10% in Hong Kong amid growing fears that the company may struggle to repay its mammoth debt pile. The company, which has liabilities of just over $300 billion, faces several debt repayment deadlines this week.

Jitters about Evergrande’s ability to repay have ignited broader fears about the health of China’s property market, which makes up around 10% of GDP. Miners and Asian-focused companies sold off sharply around the world.

“It looks to me like the crypto market may be getting swept up a bit in the Evergrande drama that is battering global equities today,” Mati Greenspan, the founder of Quantum Economics, told the Standard. “Some are calling this China’s Lehman Moment, so it’s understandable that a lot of risk is coming off the table.”

Read more HERE.

British Airways owner takes flight

14:38 , Simon Freeman

Boris Johnson with UN rep Dame Barbara Janet Woodward at New York's JFK airport (PA)
Boris Johnson with UN rep Dame Barbara Janet Woodward at New York's JFK airport (PA)

British Airways owner IAG’s shares took off 11% this afternoon on reports the US is set to ease transatlantic travel restrictions, potentially opening up its lucrative London-New York corridor.

The company’s stock has taken a hammering in recent weeks as hopes for a summer recovery in air travel gradually faded.

But shares lifted to around 165p today as it emerged that vaccinated passengers will be allowed to make the trip from November.

Lufthanse (+6.8%) and Air France-KLM (+6.6%) also bounced, alongside aerospace stocks Airbus and Rolls-Royce.

IAG’s rise was further fuelled by an interview with a confident-sounding CEO Luis Gallego in the Sunday Times.

He said there were no plans to follow in EasyJet’s footsteps by tapping shareholders for more cash to get through the prolonged crisis.

Boris Johnson was visiting the White House today, on his first visit to Washington since Joe Biden’s election, to - among other things - press for the US to lift restrictions on UK arrivals.

Sources in the airline industry believe the US travel ban first imposed 18 months ago could be lifted in November, paving the way for Christmas breaks in cities such as New York.

The US was the fourth most-popular country for travel by British citizens in 2019, with 4.8 million visits. Only Spain, France and Italy proved more popular.

Markets wrap: retail analysts on Monday’s turbulence

17:13 , Simon Freeman

 (PA)
(PA)

AJ Bell’s Danni Hewson and Susannah Streeter, of Hargreaves Lansdown, catch their breath after a rollercoaster day on the FTSE, which crashed 140 points to a two-month low of 6828.28 in morning trading, before completely changing its mind to rebound back above 6900 - around 60 points lower than the opening price.

Hewson said: “It’s shaping up to be quite a week. If rising gas prices and fears that Evergrand will do more than dent the Chinese property market weren’t enough there’s the little issue of a Fed update to price in.

“The UK’s travel sector has tried to do its bit today but even the anticipation that transatlantic travel might be back on the cards by November wasn’t enough to stop the rout.

“Whilst British Airways owner IAG stormed up the FTSE 100 risers mining and banking shares were pulling in the other direction. The potential default of the Chinese property developer could have far reaching and unexpected consequences.

“The obvious ones are already being weighed up by investors which is why metal prices have plummeted. House building requires materials and any shock to that system will cut back on demand at least in the short term.

“Then there’s the X-factor, the potential that ripples from one collapse could erode other sectors. If the Chinese economy is dented what happens to demand for those nice-to-haves, nice-to-haves like a shiny new Tesla.

“Shares in the car company have tumbled and the Nasdaq with them, in fact the tech heavy index makes for pretty grim viewing today. Wall Street as a whole looks rather battered although the S&P was cushioned a little by a surge in energy stocks and a nice bounce from airlines.

“There are a couple of things that investors now see as inevitable. The first is that prices will keep on rising at least in the short term. The second is that a taper is going to come.

“Global uncertainty is taking a toll on markets that have enjoyed a fairly smooth run this year despite everything that’s been happening, but that uncertainty creates dips, and those dips create opportunity if the price is really right.”

Streeter added: ‘’The lifting of travel restrictions for double jabbed visitors to the US provided the thrust needed to send the recovery in airline stocks full throttle.

“After months riding the stomach wrenching turbulence of rolling restrictions with red lights flashing on transatlantic travel, the industry is now set on a smoother ride to recovery ahead.

“British Airways owner IAG was one of the biggest risers on the FTSE 100, climbing 11% as the prospects look brighter for a surge in bookings by UK and EU travellers.

“There was much needed respite for beleaguered Easyjet which rose 4% and tour operator TUI, up 2.2% with expectations that winter sun holidays to destinations like Florida will see a surge in demand.

“Rolls Royce also caught a ride higher given that its core business of making and servicing engines for long-haul aircraft, is based on the number of hours its engines are in the air.

“The journey back to health has also taken a big step forwards for Ritazza and Upper Crust owner SSP in the FTSE 250 which rose 5.8%.

“The company, which runs concessions across 180 airports, relies on the travelling public to pick up snacks and treats on journeys, and there are high hopes the hustle and bustle will return at its outlets dotted across the transport network now.

“The travel sector may be flying into brighter skies, helping the FTSE 100 claw back some losses, but still nervousness hangs over the financial markets, with inflation worries nagging investors, particularly with gas prices sky high. Concerns are also mounting that problems are piling up in the Chinese economy due to the precariousness of Evergrande, the property conglomerate.

“Shares in the company have sunk yet again, and there are now fears that it defaults on its huge debts, there could be contagion, spreading right across the financial system. There may be pockets of recovery right now, as Covid restrictions ease, but it’s feared the global economy could now be hit by a fresh barrage of problems.’’

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