MARKET REPORT: Pharma giants boosted as Covid-19 vaccine hopes grow

Markets started the week on the front foot as pharmaceuticals firms large and small made strides in the battle to beat Covid-19.

FTSE 100 rivals Astrazeneca and Glaxosmithkline rose as investors cheered news about their respective coronavirus vaccines.

Astrazeneca struck a deal with Australian group CSL, which will manufacture 3.8m doses of its potential vaccine for the Australian government.

Covid hopes: FTSE 100 rivals Astrazeneca and Glaxosmithkline rose as investors cheered news about their respective coronavirus vaccines

Covid hopes: FTSE 100 rivals Astrazeneca and Glaxosmithkline rose as investors cheered news about their respective coronavirus vaccines

Covid hopes: FTSE 100 rivals Astrazeneca and Glaxosmithkline rose as investors cheered news about their respective coronavirus vaccines

The treatment is being developed with Oxford University and will enter into late-stage trials in January and February.

President Donald Trump is said to be mulling plans to fast-track approval so that the vaccine could be available before the November presidential election.

Astra was also boosted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s remarks. He said the UK’s 30m doses of the vaccine are already being manufactured – so they could be rolled out early next year if the treatment gets regulatory approval.

Astra climbed 3.9 per cent, or 310p, to 8280p and, because it is the largest company on the Footsie, it provided the biggest boost to the index. 

Stock Watch – Chariot Oil & Gas 

Chariot Oil & Gas shares raced ahead after it found there was 148 per cent more gas than previously thought in an area it wants to drill off the coast of Morocco.

There are more than 1 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Anchois project, according to consultants at Netherland Sewell & Associates.

Chariot, which focuses on Atlantic coastlines, also thinks it has found three zones that could be drilled at low cost.

Shares jumped 54.1 per cent, or 0.88p, to 2.5p.

And Glaxosmithkline was in traders’ good books, rising 4.2 per cent, or 60.8p, to 1496p, after Olivier Bogillot, the head of drug maker Sanofi in France, said Glaxo and Sanofi’s vaccine is likely to cost less than £9 per shot if it is approved for use.

But the progress didn’t end there – with junior market minnows bouncing too. Destiny Pharma was up 20.4 per cent, or 10p, to 59p after it clinched £800,000 of Government funding to work with a group called SporeGen on a nasal spray that could prevent Covid-19 infections. 

The spray is not the same as a vaccine but uses bacteria to trigger an immune response that can prevent infections and create an easy-to-use first line of defence against the virus.

And Yorkshire-based Avacta advanced 2.4 per cent, or 4p, to 169p after it said it would release a rapid-response Covid test kit that can be used in laboratories. 

The research tool will use patients’ saliva to detect a particular protein and contains the same technology used in a Covid test it is developing with a firm called Cytiva.

The FTSE 100 rose 2.4 per cent, or 138.32 points, to 5937.40 in its best day in almost three months.

Just three shares were in the red, including British Airways-owner IAG (down 4.7 per cent, or 10.2p, to 209.2p) ahead of its annual meeting today, which will see investors vote on a £2.5billion fundraising.

The FTSE 250 rose 1.7 per cent, or 287.92 points, to 17642.20.US stocks were still in the red after a week that wiped billions off the value of technology titans including Tesla, Apple and Zoom.

But shares in UK-listed trusts that give British investors exposure to the fortunes of the US tech sector managed to rebound.

Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust closed up 5.5 per cent higher, or 46.5p, to 895.5p, while Polar Capital Technology Trust was up 2.5 per cent, or 50p, to 2060p and Allianz Technology Trust climbed 4.4 per cent, or 100p, to 2380p.

Small-cap lender Amigo fell 5.7 per cent, or 0.72p, to 11.98p after founder and former boss James Benamor confirmed he has instructed his brokers to buy shares in the company if and when he is made chief executive again.

He has requisitioned a one-off meeting in which he wants investors to reinstate him as a director and boot out other top dogs – though Amigo pointed out in a statement to the stock market that Benamor returning to the board would not mean he would automatically becomes chief executive.

First Group was the biggest riser on the mid-cap index, up 26.9 per cent, or 10.69p, to 50.45p after reports that private equity heavyweights are sizing up its North American bus businesses.

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