Morning Editorial: Astra shoots for stars, but misses

Geopolitics continues to be ignored, for the most part, investors have grown a thicker skin, although US stocks closed slightly lower on Trump’s comments that he doubts that trade talks with China will be successful, while contradictory White House statements on North Korea added to confusion ahead of the US-NK summit.

Morning Editorial: Astra shoots for stars, but misses

Morning Editorial: Astra shoots for stars, but misses.

FTSE 100 Index called to open flat at 7785, back from a re-test of January’s 7800 all-time high but still holding its 7-week up-channel, albeit in the lower half. Bulls need a break above 7800 to open the door for a rally towards intersecting rising resistance (7wk and 4.5yr) at 7885. Bears require a breach of 7770 overnight lows before a fall back to 7-week channel floor at 7740. Watch levels: Bullish 7800, Bearish 7770

Calls for a flat open come from GBP trading overnight highs (the UK to remain in customs union until 2021) versus USD, holding back international names. This offsets gains for Asian bourses overnight driven by Oil, which remains strong (Brent $80/bl) amid supply concerns (Iran sanctions, Venezuela collapse), supporting heavyweight Energy names (e.g. BP, Shell) as well as smaller Oil services-related names.

Geopolitics continues to be ignored, for the most part, investors have grown a thicker skin, although US stocks closed slightly lower on Trump’s comments that he doubts that trade talks with China will be successful, while contradictory White House statements on North Korea added to confusion ahead of the US-NK summit.

In corporate news this morning, AstraZeneca Q1 results in miss expectations; Q1 Revenues -4% (-9% at constant FX) on eroding sales of blockbuster Crestor, Core Operating Profit -46%. FY guidance unchanged. CMA considering an investigation into proposed Sainsbury-Asda merger.

Hikma Pharmaceuticals trading in-line backs FY guidance (stronger H2) Injectables revenues $750-800m, Generics $550-600m. Expects injectables competition to accelerate, but offset by strong demand in Europe and MENA. Petrofac says tendering activity remains high, awarded more than US$1.7bn of new orders year to date.

Rio Tinto gets approval for self-driving trains to transport iron ore to port facilities in Pilbarry, Australia. Paves the way for a first autonomous long-haul industrial rail operation, set to commence by end-2018, shipping estimated 330-340m tons of iron ore in 2018.

Lloyds Banking Group is selling its loss-making (-£40M 2017 pre-tax loss) residential mortgage portfolio in Ireland to Barclays, in a move designed to manage risk and consolidate Lloyds operations in UK. Transaction valued at £4B. Ophir Energy CEO steps down with immediate effect. Permira sells entire shareholding in Just Group for 143p/share.

In focus today will be Eurozone March trade statistics, including Current Account (9am) and Imports/Exports (10am), both of which are expected to show an expansion over previous month. Amid concerns about global oil supply (Iran, Venezuela), Baker Hughes Oil Rig Count (6pm) is expected to contract to add further fuel to the oil rally.

Major speakers today will feature members of US Federal Reserve, including Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester (8am, hawkish), Fed Governor Lael Brainard (2:15pm, centrist) as well Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan (2:15pm, centrist).

A few US companies will be reporting quarterly earnings, including Deere & Co and Campbell Soup

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