MARKET REPORT: Astrazeneca is boosted by vaccine trial optimism

Investors were given another shot of good news from AstraZeneca on the eve of its third-quarter figures.

A definitive result from in-depth trials of its potential Covid-19 vaccine could be available by the end of this year, says the trial’s chief investigator Andrew Pollard.

His comments come days after Britain’s health regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, confirmed that it had kicked off an accelerated review of the possible vaccine.

Astrazeneca shot to the top of the Footsie last night ahead of its much-anticipated – at least by City standards – latest figures. Shares rose 6.9 per cent, or 548p, to 8511p, valuing it at £112bn

Although the company could establish whether or not the vaccine works by the end of 2020, there would still be regulatory hurdles to jump through and difficult political decisions would then be made on who would receive it first.

But with normal life in limbo until a treatment is released, the news was roundly cheered on the stock market.

Investors were also willing to overlook the fact that Astrazeneca, which has risen to become the largest on the Footsie during the pandemic, fell far short of a delivery agreement with the UK.

It will only be able to hand over 4m potential Covid-19 shots by the end of this year instead of the 30m originally planned.

Stock Watch – Bango 

Online payments group Bango has inked a contract with BT. 

Bango’s technology allows phone company customers to pay for access to online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Disney+ via their monthly bills.

BT customers will offered a six-month free trial to Britbox, which includes hit British shows such as Downton Abbey, and can then choose to switch to a paid subscription under the deal with AIM-listed Bango. 

The firm’s stock rose 7.2 per cent, or 11p, to 163.5p.

Astrazeneca shot to the top of the Footsie last night ahead of its much-anticipated – at least by City standards – latest figures. Its shares rose 6.9 per cent, or 548p, to 8511p, valuing it at £112billion.

But it was Royal Mail that stole the crown as the top riser on the FTSE 350, as the mid-cap group shot 8 per cent higher, up by 18.7p, to 252.5p. 

The spreadsheet whizzes at JP Morgan have upgraded their rating on the 504-year- old postal service’s stock, which they have moved from ‘neutral’ to ‘overweight’.

It comes just weeks after their most recent upgrade and they’ve also increased what they believe to be the value of its stock, from 253p to 374p.

They no longer expect the number of parcels Royal Mail will deliver to drop over the winter, and reckon revenue will increase by 1 per cent to 2 per cent in coming years, which will bring in more money, and mean less pressure to make sweeping cost cuts.

But JP Morgan analysts weren’t as generous with Primark owner Associated British Foods.

They trimmed the retailer’s target price from 2740p to 2250p, while Jefferies also made a marginal cut. 

The stock fell 1.2 per cent, or 21p, to 1707p, despite chairman Michael McLintock trying to boost the share price by spending £155,000 buying 9,000 shares.

The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 both finished higher after a volatile day on global markets as results from the US presidential election were far closer than predicted. 

The Footsie advanced by 1.7per cent, rising 96.49 points, to 5883.26, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 climbed by 1.7 per cent, or 304.38 points, to close at 17,796.08.

Packaging group Smurfit Kappa rallied 3.9 per cent, or 120p, to 3214p after it said it too had been boosted by the boom in online shopping. 

It outlined plans to pay a second interim dividend, a year-end bonus to staff and to hand back any Government Covid support after it had a much better than expected quarter.

The extra dividend, worth about 25p per share, means its payouts are in line with previous years.

Investors in construction contractor Morgan Sindall were also cheered with a dividend update.

The stock rose 7.4 per cent, or 8.6p, to 1250p, after it promised to start paying dividends, reassured the market that the new lockdown will have a minimal impact on business and that its profits will be ‘slightly above’ the £60million forecast this summer.

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