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LONDON MARKET MIDDAY: Nowhere for investors to hide amid many threats
Stock market investors were confronted with multiple yellow signals on Tuesday, after a US social media company warned about ad revenue, UK power companies were added to the cross hairs of a windfall profit tax, and surveys suggested economic growth in the UK and eurozone slowed this month.
The FTSE 100 index was down 21.65 points, or 0.3%, at 7,491.79 midday Tuesday, benefiting as sterling lost ground recently recovered from the dollar.
London's large-cap benchmark is stacked with international earners, so a weaker pound is a tailwind for many of its constituents. It had been 1.1% lower earlier in the session.
The mid-cap FTSE 250 index was down 151.81 points, or 0.8%, at 19,994.37. The AIM All-Share index was down 1.38 points, or 0.1%, at 962.47.
The Cboe UK 100 index was down 0.2% at 746.81. The Cboe 250 was down 0.3% at 17,746.62, and the Cboe Small Companies was 0.3% lower at 14,617.62.
In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 in Paris fell 0.9%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt lost 0.8%.
In New York on Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was called down 0.7%, the S&P 500 down 1.1% and the Nasdaq Composite down 1.7%.
Equities were on the back foot on Tuesday, after the owner of Snapchat issued an earnings caution, warning on a weakening economic environment. Snap was down 30% in pre-market trade in New York.
‘Snap, crackle, pop, watch as shares drop in companies reliant on advertising income. A warning by Snapchat's owner has sent ripples across the market for social media companies, triggering fears that advertising spend has peaked for now,’ AJ Bell analyst Russ Mould commented.
‘It's understandable why investors are fearful. Advertising spend typically tracks economic activity. When times are good, companies are confident to spend heavily to promote their products and services. When the outlook is gloomier, advertising spend is pared back. After all, why splash the cash on promotions if fewer people are going to open their wallets?’
Advertising agencies Publicis and WPP were 2.6% and 3.2% lower in Paris and London, respectively. Also in London, S4 Capital was down 1.8%.
The pound was quoted at $1.2514 midday Tuesday in London, up from $1.2575 on Monday. Sterling had traded as high as $1.2597 ahead of a UK PMI release, and fell as low as $1.2474 shortly thereafter.
UK private sector growth slowed markedly in May, estimates on Tuesday showed, succumbing to inflationary pressures and geopolitical worries.
The latest S&P Global/CIPS flash composite purchasing managers' index fell to 51.8 points in May, from April's final tally of 58.2. Should May's final figure land at 51.8, it would represent a 15-month low.
A figure above 50.0 denotes expansion, so the flash number suggests that while the UK private sector remains in positive territory, growth has slowed.
The euro stood at $1.0715, up from $1.0690.
Growth in the eurozone is expected to slow as well, though growth in industrial engine Germany remains stable.
The seasonally adjusted S&P Global eurozone PMI composite output index slipped to 54.9 in May from 55.8 in April. The figure came in behind market expectations, cited by FXStreet, of 55.3. In Germany, the flash composite PMI inched up to 54.6 in May from 54.3 in April.
Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JP¥127.43, down from JP¥127.78.
A US flash PMI is released at 1445 BST.
Back in London, Barclays was up 3.6%, as the bank launched its delayed share buyback programme.
Barclays said it will kick off a £1.00 billion share buyback programme on Tuesday. The programme, initially announced in February, had been delayed in March after the bank admitted it sold more products to investors than it was allowed to.
The company on Monday said it had found ‘one material weakness’ in its internal controls.
‘The material weakness that has been identified relates to a weakness in controls over the identification of external regulatory limits related to securities issuance and monitoring against these limits. As a result of this weakness, BBPLC issued securities in excess of the amount registered under the US shelf,’ it said.
Utility and energy firms were among London's laggards on Tuesday, falling on broker recommendation cuts and also reports of a UK windfall tax which would go above and beyond just hitting oil majors.
SSE tumbled 9.0%. Citigroup cut the electricity utility to 'neutral' from 'buy'. The US bank also cut electricity generator Drax to 'sell' from 'neutral'. Shares in the FTSE 250-listed power generation firm slumped 16%.
Elsewhere, Centrica lost 13%, Frankfurt-listed RWE fell 5.7% and Scottish Power owner Iberdrola fell 2.2% in Madrid.
The Financial Times reported on Monday that UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak is mulling a windfall tax on more than £10 billion of excess profit achieved by electricity generators.
Calls for a windfall tax, particularly on oil majors such as BP and Shell, have intensified as the UK cost of living crisis worsens, and clubbing in electricity generators such as SSE, RWE and Iberdrola's Scottish Power would boost the revenue a potential windfall tax could bring.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing fresh accusations he lied to Parliament after photographs emerged of him raising a glass at a Downing Street leaving party during lockdown.
The images obtained by ITV News were taken at a do for departing communications chief Lee Cain on November 13, 2020, just days after Johnson had ordered a second national lockdown in England.
Asked last December in the Commons whether there had been a party in No 10 on that date, the prime minister said ‘no’ and added he was sure the rules were followed at all times.
Cabinet ministers faced questions about Johnson's behaviour during lockdown before their meeting in Downing Street to discuss the ‘inflationary pressures’ facing the country.
None of the senior ministers, including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, responded while heading for Number 10's the famous black door.
The PM did not address the photo but instead opened the Cabinet meeting by heralding the current low rate of unemployment and discussing the UK government's plan for pushing down inflation, which has soared to 9% in April, its highest level for 40 years.
Back in London, Avon Protection was suffering another hefty share price slump. It was down 14%.
In the six months ended April 2, the personal protection company's revenue was largely flat annually at $121.9 million from $122.0 million. Avon swung to a pretax loss of $13.6 million from a $400,000 profit.
In addition, it said Paul McDonald will step down after five years as chief executive. He will leave at the end of the financial year, but will make himself available to support a new CEO's transition.
The latest share price slide comes after a tough period for the company. Avon dropped out of the FTSE 250 in September last year, following an August guidance cut due to delayed deliveries. It then in October lowered its margin guidance further and in November started a review of its body armour business, deciding the month after to wind down the business.
Waste management company Renewi climbed 10% as it said revenue in the year ended March 31 climbed 10% to €1.87 billion from €1.69 billion. Pretax profit surged to €95.7 million from €10.9 million.
In addition, the Milton Keynes, England-based firm expects its performance for the new financial year to top prior expectations.
Brent oil was quoted at $113.70 a barrel midday Tuesday in London, up from $112.23 late Monday. Gold edged up to $1,856.03 an ounce from $1,854.61.
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