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MARKET REPORT: Coronavirus vaccine talk lifts pharma’s big hitters

Progress with a cancer treatment and brimming excitement about the prospect of a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough proved to be just the pill for traders yesterday.

Pharmaceutical heavyweight Glaxosmithkline was on the up after an independent panel in the US encouraged regulators to approve the company’s experimental therapy for a common type of blood cancer.

All the panel members who voted on the treatment for multiple myeloma agreed that the benefits outweigh the risks to patients’ health, after studying results from a six-month clinical trial that were published at the end of last year.

Ruling: Glaxosmithkline was on the up after an independent panel in the US encouraged regulators to approve the company’s experimental therapy for a common type of blood cancer

The US medicines regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, will take the panel’s recommendation on board, though it isn’t obligated to follow it.

But things look promising, as it was given ‘priority review’ status earlier this year. GSK was an early riser, with shares finishing 2.9 per cent higher, up 46.4p, to 1650.4p by the close.

But it was gazumped by fellow drug giant Astrazeneca, which rallied 5.2 per cent, or 447p, to 8996p following reports that it was on the cusp of revealing good news about the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with the University of Oxford.

Stock Watch – AFC Energy

AFC Energy’s hydrogen power technology will be used to provide zero-emissions charging for electric vehicles in the first ever all-electric motorsport rally.

The inaugural Extreme E championship will take place next year, and will see teams racing off-road, all-electric SUVs all around the world. 

AFC Energy’s boss Adam Bond said it was an ‘honour’ to play a part in the race.

Shares in the AIM-listed power minnow rose 7.5 per cent, or 1.75p, to 24.95p.

An update could come as soon as today, according to ITV. 

The vaccine is already being tested in humans in a phase-three trial but it still hasn’t published detailed results from the first phase yet.

The Oxford-Astra vaccination is a leading candidate among more than 100 that are being developed around the world to halt the pandemic. 

Even before the media reports leaked, markets had already been buoyed by news that early-stage studies of another vaccine – this one developed by US firm Moderna Inc – showed it was safe and switched on the right type of immune response.

In a bumper session, the FTSE 100 rose 1.8 per cent, or 112.90 points, to 6292.65, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 index climbed 1.4 per cent, or 245.86 points, to 17,420.55.

Hopes that a vaccine could bring the world back to normal led to a spike in travel and leisure stocks such as Premier Inn-owner Whitbread (up 7.4 per cent, or 166p, to 2412p) and catering juggernaut Compass (7.5 per cent, or 83p, to 1184.5p).

British Airways-owner IAG sped straight to the top of the Footsie leaderboard, rising 10.7 per cent, or 22.2p, to 229.3p, as it was also cheered by comments from Boris Johnson that he was going to support the aviation sector.

Lockdown closures could wipe £21million off home furnishings retailer Dunelm’s annual profit, after sales fell by 78 per cent in April and 48 per cent in May. 

But shares rose 2.5 per cent, or 29p, to 1175p, after it reported in-store sales surged by 20 per cent when stores reopened and online sales jumped 106 per cent between April and June.

Investors sent Severn Trent’s stock lukewarm after the water group said it had not seen any impact yet from the coronavirus on bill collections.

Utilities companies are worried that people on furlough or losing their jobs could struggle to keep up payments.

Severn Trent rose 0.5 per cent, or 12p, to 2396p after it also said it had got cracking with investing up to £510million in the company this year.

Retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone slipped into the red, falling 0.5 per cent, or 0.4p, to 74p, after swinging to a £27million loss between November and April.

During that time it completed rental or sales deals on 471 homes, almost half of the deals in the same period of the year before.

And investors treated Premier Oil with caution, despite its insistence that it could start making cash this year. It closed down 3.2 per cent, or 1.45p, to 43.86p.

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