London open: Tobacco stocks pace losses on threat of US regulations
Stocks were being weighed down by heavy losses in tobacco makers' shares following a Wall Street Journal report that the US administration was mulling capping the level of nicotine in cigarettes.
Also dampening investor sentiment ahead of those was data showing an unexpected 56,000 drop in UK payrolls for March - the first decline in four months.
As of 0830 GMT, the FTSE 100 was down by 0.19% or 12.29 points at 6,987.63, while cable was edging up by 0.06% to 1.3995, having earlier briefly hit 1.4237.
In the background, investors were waiting on the release of key corporate results in the States which were due out after the market close in New York, including from media giant and stock market darling Netflix.
Shares finished modestly lower overnight on Wall Street, driven by weakness in technology stocks including Tesla and chip-maker Nvidia.
The latter fell after the UK government said it would look into the national security implications of its acquisition of ARM Holdings.
Swissquote analyst, Ipek Ozkardeskaya, sounded a bearish note on the outlook for stocks.
Ozkardeskaya told clients: "Stocks are poised to extend gains through uncharted territories, even with the valuations that do no longer make sense as stock prices trade on average near 40 times this year’s earnings and some 23 times the next year’s earnings according to Bloomberg.
"Suppressing shorts is now adding a perilous asymmetry to the market valuation and increases the risk of seeing a bigger bubble built as we inevitably move toward tighter financial conditions on the back of improved economic data."
Across the Channel meanwhile, the spotlight was expected to be on the European Central Bank's Bank Lending Survey for the first quarter of 2021.
The European Union's General Affairs Council was also due to meet, via video conference, to analyse the state of relations with the UK, among other matters.
No major economic releases were scheduled in the US.
Journal report hits Tobacco stocks
Stock in British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands was pummeled after the Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration is mulling whether to set a legal limit on the nicotine content of cigarettes. A deadline for declaring a ban on menthol cigarettes was also reportedly looming close on the horizon.
Associated British Foods saw its bottom line more than halve over the half-year ended on 27 February. However, citing its "success" in a number of new markets, ranging from Poland to Florida, the board announced that the food ingredients maker would repay the monies received from the government's job retention scheme during the present financial year and declared an interim dividend of 6.2p.
Rio Tinto reported a 7% improvement in Pilbara iron ore shipments year-on-year to 77.8 million tonnes for the first quarter on Tuesday, with production down 2% to 76.4 million tonnes. The FTSE 100 mining giant said bauxite production slipped 2% to 13.6 million tonnes, while aluminium production grew 3% to 0.8 million tonnes. Mined copper production of 120,500 tonnes was 9% lower than in 2020, while titanium dioxide slag production was 5% lower year-on-year at 279,000 tonnes and production of pellets and concentrate at the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) was 8% lower than in 2020.
Cybersecurity software company Avast said first quarter revenue rose 10.4% to $237.1m on an organic basis, with its Consumer Direct business continuing to deliver good growth, while the SMB business also sustained positive momentum. The FTSE 100 company said adjusted EBITDA was 10.3% for the period at $133.7m, resulting in an adjusted EBITDA margin of 56.4%.
Shopping centre owner Hammerson on Tuesday appointed a new finance director and reported an encouraging rebound in footfall at its English malls after a partial easing of Covid-19 curbs this month. “Initial footfall recovery in England is encouraging, and around 90% of operators are currently able to trade,” Hammerson said in a trading update.
First quarter revenue at price comparison platform Moneysupermarket fell by a fifth as consumers reined in their spending during the latest Covid lockdown. Revenue for the three months to March 31 fell to £85.5m, down from £107.3m a year ago. Nevertheless, the online service-switching service said it expected its full-year results to be in line with market expectations.
Jupiter Fund Management posted a 0.1% increase in its assets under management for the three months ending on 31 March to reach £58.79bn. However, positive market returns of £837m accounted for all of the increase versus the year earlier period, offset by £776m of net outflows due to continued lower client demand for UK and European equity strategies.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Avast (AVST) 490.20p 3.94%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,894.00p 1.42%
Pershing Square Holdings Ltd NPV (PSH) 2,745.00p 1.29%
Kingfisher (KGF) 365.20p 1.25%
Fresnillo (FRES) 930.60p 1.20%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,573.00p 1.16%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,657.50p 1.07%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,964.50p 1.00%
BAE Systems (BA.) 528.00p 0.96%
BHP Group (BHP) 2,236.50p 0.86%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,731.00p -6.28%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 1,486.50p -5.98%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 166.30p -2.52%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,423.00p -1.50%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 207.25p -1.38%
Next (NXT) 8,016.00p -1.18%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 2,201.00p -1.12%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 252.30p -0.94%
Aviva (AV.) 404.80p -0.93%
Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 1,985.50p -0.92%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Elementis (ELM) 159.80p 17.76%
IntegraFin Holding (IHP) 571.50p 4.77%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 402.80p 3.02%
Dixons Carphone (DC.) 146.60p 2.16%
IMI (IMI) 1,410.00p 1.73%
LondonMetric Property (LMP) 226.40p 1.71%
Royal Mail (RMG) 516.00p 1.61%
BlackRock Smaller Companies Trust (BRSC) 1,920.00p 1.59%
Impax Environmental Markets (IEM) 482.00p 1.37%
AO World (AO.) 301.40p 1.34%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Babcock International Group (BAB) 305.10p -2.05%
Baillie Gifford Japan Trust (BGFD) 1,080.00p -2.00%
Spectris (SXS) 3,330.00p -1.74%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 1,954.00p -1.73%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 266.00p -1.70%
Sabre Insurance Group (SBRE) 260.50p -1.70%
C&C Group (CDI) (CCR) 275.00p -1.65%
FirstGroup (FGP) 87.75p -1.46%
XP Power Ltd. (DI) (XPP) 5,080.00p -1.17%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 305.00p -1.17%