LONDON MARKET MIDDAY: FTSE 100 At 2-Year Low; Oil Majors Sink Pre-OPEC

LONDON (Alliance News) - A fresh twist in the fraught relations between the US and China caused ...

Alliance News 6 December, 2018 | 12:06PM
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LONDON (Alliance News) - A fresh twist in the fraught relations between the US and China caused stock prices to plunge on Thursday, while oil majors weighed on the FTSE 100 as Brent dropped amid OPEC production cut jitters.

The FTSE 100 dived 180.01 points, or 2.6%, to 6,741.83 at midday. The blue-chip index hit a two-year low of 6,732.71 earlier in the session.

The FTSE 250 was down 528.33 points, or 2.9%, at 17,742.77 by midday and the AIM All-Share was 2.1% lower at 892.28.

The Cboe UK 100 was down 2.7% at 11,439.14, while the Cboe UK 250 was down 2.9% at 15,891.85. The Cboe UK Small Companies was down 0.6% at 11,247.78.

"The post-G20 trade truce is starting to feel like a distant memory, with tariff man Donald Trump, and now the arrest of Huawei's Meng Wanzhou, serving to undermine whatever (naive) hopes of progress had built up on Monday," said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

Meng was detained in Vancouver on Saturday, the same day that presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met in Argentina and announced their 90 day tariff truce. The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa said Meng broke no US or Canadian laws and demanded Canada "immediately correct" the mistake and release her.

Huawei Technologies, the biggest global supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies, has been the target of deepening US security concerns. Washington has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology.

Campbell added: "It is yet another huge blow to what was already looking like a fragile and inchoate ceasefire, and has sent the markets into another value-eroding funk."

In a more constructive tone for US-China relations, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday it has reached a consensus in trade negotiations with the US on agricultural products, energy and autos and will begin implementing the terms of those agreements "immediately".

In mainland Europe at midday, the CAC 40 index in Paris and the DAX 30 in Frankfurt were down 2.1% and 2.2% respectively.

Markets in the US are set to follow Europe's lead as they re-open from Wednesday's day of mourning for former US President George HW Bush. The Dow Jones is pointed down 1.8%, the S&P 500 called to tumble 1.7% and the Nasdaq to plunge 2.3%.

The economic events calendar on Thursday at 1315 GMT has US ADP employment data for November, which previews Friday's closely watched monthly jobs report. After, there is a Markit services PMI at 1445 GMT.

Oil ministers from some of the world's biggest petroleum producers meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss an output cut to bolster prices, as Middle Eastern tensions and US demands for cheap oil add a political dimension to the talks.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is mulling a reduction in the region of 1 million barrels per day, which would take about 1% of global supply off the market.

Together, the 25 so-called OPEC-plus countries have been implementing an output cap since early 2017. However, there has been a dramatic price drop from USD86 per barrel in October to below USD60 last week, triggering a move towards a further reduction.

The meeting comes as Qatar announced its exit from OPEC earlier in the week, while Iran has complained that Riyadh is colluding with Washington to enforce a US embargo on Iranian oil.

"I think today's meeting is not about a production cut but a message which the cartel needs to send out the world. The question which needs to be answered is if the cartel is still strong enough and most importantly if it can prevent the domino effect which is triggered by Qatar leaving the cartel," said ThinkMarkets analyst Naeem Aslam.

Aslam added that a production cut could be as much as one million barrels of oil a day.

Brent oil tumbled to USD59.94 on Thursday ahead of the OPEC meeting, having been quoted at USD63.15 late Wednesday.

London's oil majors tracked the price of Brent lower, with BP down 4.1% at midday and Royal Dutch Shell 'A' and 'B' shares down 3.4% and 3.3% respectively.

Miners also were among the worst performers in the FTSE 100 on Thursday amid worries over trade relations between the US and China, the world's biggest steel producer. Antofagasta was down 6.2%, while Glencore was down 5.0% and BHP Group down 3.9%.

The standout performer in the FTSE 250 was animal genetics firm Genus, up 9.2% after Kepler Cheuvreux upgraded the stock to Buy from Hold.

Ferrexpo shares gained 2.6% after the iron ore miner said it will return USD40 million to shareholders via a special dividend payment due to strong cash generation.

The company said it has continued to trade as expected in the second half of 2018, with iron pellet premiums remaining at the high levels seen in the first half and strong cash generation enabling debt reduction and capital expenditure.

Towards the bottom of the index was Bodycote, down 7.7% after UBS cut the heat treatment services firm to Neutral from Buy.

Thomas Cook was down 12% after the travel agent was booted out of the FTSE 250 in the latest index review, the results of which were announced late Wednesday. The change will be effective from December 24.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled that members of Parliament could be given the power to decide whether the UK goes into a controversial Brexit backstop arrangement regarding the Northern Irish border.

May indicated Parliament would choose between triggering the backstop or extending a transition period after the UK formally quits the EU.

The move is likely to be seen as a bid to bolster flagging support ahead of a crunch Commons vote on her EU withdrawal deal next Tuesday – a showdown the PM made clear she would not postpone.

The backstop, intended to prevent the return of a hard border in Northern Ireland, is highly controversial as Brexiteer MPs claim it traps the UK into obeying rules set by Brussels without a say over them.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2740 as next week's vote looms, flat compared to USD1.2744 late Wednesday.

By Lucy Heming; lucyheming@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2018 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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Securities Mentioned in Article
Security Name Price Change (%) Morningstar
Rating
Ferrexpo PLC 186.99 GBX -0.35 -
Antofagasta PLC 778.20 GBX 0.03
BP PLC 508.60 GBX -0.80
Glencore PLC 289.95 GBX 0.10
Royal Dutch Shell PLC B 2,338.40 GBX -0.83
Bodycote PLC 699.00 GBX -1.20 -
Thomas Cook Group PLC 27.30 GBX -4.68 -
Royal Dutch Shell PLC Class A 25.83 EUR -0.88 -
BHP Group PLC 1,666.62 GBX 3.09
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