LONDON MARKET MIDDAY: Gold Keeps Climbing As US-Iran Impasse Heightens

(Alliance News) - With tensions between the US and Iran rising on Tuesday, safe haven asset gold ...

Alliance News 25 June, 2019 | 11:54AM
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(Alliance News) - With tensions between the US and Iran rising on Tuesday, safe haven asset gold got a further boost while equities declined amid the cautious mood.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was down 20.30 points, or 0.3%, at 7,396.39 Tuesday midday. The FTSE 250 down 66.40 points, or 0.3%, at 19,233.28, while the AIM All-Share was down 0.5% at 925.08.

The Cboe UK 100 index was down 0.2% at 12,547.33. The Cboe UK 250 was down 0.4% at 17,222.97 while the Cboe UK Small Companies was down 0.2% at 11,471.70.

In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 in Paris and DAX 30 in Frankfurt were down 0.2% and 0.1%, respectively, in afternoon trade.

"The inability of US markets to significantly build on the gains of last week appears to have prompted some profit taking in Asia and European markets in today as tensions between the US and Iran escalate even further," said Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

This was after US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order imposing what he called "hard-hitting" new sanctions, including on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and high-ranking commanders of the Revolutionary Guards.

The White House also said it planned to place sanctions against Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif. Tehran on Tuesday mocked the sanctions and said they were closing off a diplomatic solution to resolving the brewing tensions.

"Sanctions against the country's top leader are outrageous and a sign of mental retardation," Iranian President Hassan Rowhani said.

US stocks are pointed to a downbeat open on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones and S&P 500 both pointed 0.1% lower and the Nasdaq down 0.2%.

As tensions in the Middle East ratcheted up once again, gold hit fresh six-year highs, the safe haven asset trading at USD1,428.31 at midday versus USD1,415.84 late Monday. At the start of last week, the precious metal was trading around USD1,340.

"What's interesting is that the rally doesn't seem to be dropping any momentum so there may be some more room to run. Above here, USD1,470-1,480 was also interesting previously so perhaps we're entering into a crowded area where momentum may start to slip," commented Craig Erlam at Oanda.

London-listed Fresnillo continued to track gold higher, the precious metals miner up 1.0% at midday. Mid-cap peers such as Acacia Mining and Centmin also gained, up 4.1% and 3.8% respectively.

Trump will remain in focus this week as he travels to Japan for the G20 summit in the city of Osaka, where he will hold a much-anticipated meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping

"There is some optimism that further tariffs might be avoided in the hope that talks can restart in earnest," said CMC's Hewson. "While not exactly the trade deal we were promised a few months ago at least there is the prospect that things might not get any worse."

Back in London, and at the bottom of the FTSE 100, were grocers, with Tesco down 2.1% and Wm Morrison also 2.1% lower.

Data from Kantar showed the UK grocery market posted modest growth over the past few months following a bumper period last year, which had been boosted by warm weather and the football world cup.

Among the big four UK retailers, Tesco saw flat sales in the 12 weeks to June 16 and its market share slipped to 27.3% from 27.7%.

Kantar attributed the flat sales performance at Tesco to growth in its value own-label lines like Eastman's and Redmere Farms and due to lower prices offered by its "100 Years of Great Value" campaign.

J Sainsbury recorded a 0.6% drop in sales, though halving the rate of decline it registered in May, and its market share shrunk to 15.3% from 15.6%. Sales for Morrisons decreased by 0.5%, lowering its market share of grocery sales to 10.4% from 10.6%.

Sainsbury's shares were down 0.1% at midday.

At the bottom of the FTSE 250 was Petrofac, down 6.0% as it reported "challenges" in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The company said its year-to-date new order intake is USD1.7 billion, down from USD1.8 billion the year before. New order intake is made up of new contracts and contract extensions, as well as the increment from contracts of more than five years and net variation orders.

This decline is attributed to difficulties in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. In February, the UK Serious Fraud Office announced that Petrofac's former head of global sales, David Lufkin, had plead guilty to 11 counts of bribery relating to oil deals in the two countries.

Net production is forecast at 2.1 million barrels of oil equivalent for the first half of 2019, declining from 3.1 million barrels but meeting expectations. The drop is due to divestments which took place in the second half of 2018.

Elsewhere on the Main Market, retailer Carpetright climbed 9.4% as it reported improved fortunes at the start of its new financial year.

For the financial year ended April 27, revenue fell to GBP386.4 million from GBP446.3 million in 2018, while its pretax loss narrowed to GBP24.8 million from GBP69.8 million.

In the first half like-for-like sales fell by 13%, but the second half saw a significant improvement in like-for-like sales, with a 5.4% decline, the company said.

Carpetright said it saw a significant improvement in trading in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter, with a return to like-for-like sales growth in the new financial year.

In the UK, like for like sales in the first 8 weeks of financial 2020 were up 8.5% and in Europe like-for-like sales in the same period were up 4.3%.

"With the business having seemingly found its feet, thanks to right-sizing the store estate, management now have to focus on reviving sales growth. And thankfully they are off to a good start," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

On London's junior AIM market, online clothing retailer ASOS dipped 4.9% after UBS downgraded the company to Neutral from Buy.

By Lucy Heming; lucyheming@alliancenews.com

London Midday is available to subscribers as an email newsletter. Contact info@alliancenews.com

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Securities Mentioned in Article
Security Name Price Change (%) Morningstar Rating
Centamin PLC 118.35 GBX 0.30 -
Carpetright PLC 16.20 GBX 5.88 -
ASOS PLC 2,170.00 GBX -0.50
Sainsbury (J) PLC 206.90 GBX 0.49
Acacia Mining PLC 224.80 GBX 0.99 -
Fresnillo PLC 792.40 GBX -0.30 -
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets PLC 205.70 GBX -1.77
Petrofac Ltd 410.00 GBX 1.18 -
Tesco PLC 235.20 GBX -1.30
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