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FTSE 100 thunders higher as vaccine roll-outs lift spirits

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  • FTSE 100 shoots up 173 points
  • Imminent clearance of AstraZeneca‘s COVID-19 vaccine lifts sentiment
  • Stocks follow US markets higher

Up, up and away! Fit and refreshed/fat and depressed (delete according to your own assessment) after the Christmas break, investors are piling into UK equities.

The FTSE 100 was up 173 points (2/7%) at 6,675.

‘’The unwrapping of the Brexit deal and a stimulus package for the US economy have propelled shares higher in Europe, with another boost of optimism, now foundations are being laid for a sustained recovery,” suggested Hargreaves Lansdown’s Susannah Streeter.

“The mobilisation of huge vaccination programmes are an extra shot in the arm, helping to offset concerns about spikes in cases,” she added.

The FTSE 100’s advance has been tempered somewhat by sterling’s strength; the pound is currently buying US$1.3473, which is about a quarter of a cent more than it was buying at midnight.

8.35am: Stocks zoom higher after Dow Jones index hits new high

The FTSE 100 flew out of the traps this morning, playing catch-up with US markets, which put in a strong showing yesterday.

London’s index of leading shares was 102 points (1.6%) higher at 6,604, with British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines (LON:IAG) leading the way with a 4.1% gain at 170.05p.

There was a positive reaction to AstraZeneca PLC’s (LON:AZN) announcement this morning about approval for its Lynparaza cancer treatment to be used in Japan for the treatment of advanced ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

“The Astra/Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine’s approval, blissfully available in large quantities and at room temperature, is imminent, likely this week. It will be a game-changer for Her Majesty and her subjects. Britain is down, but not out, although I acknowledge that all of the above will act as a cap on gains in UK asset markets this week,” said OANDA’s |Jeffrey Halley, who sounds like he watched a few too many black & white war films over the Christmas break.

Only a handful of blue-chip stocks were in the red, among them banking giants Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) and NatWest Group PLC (LON:NWG), down 1.1% and 0.2% respectively. Pundits are still picking over the bones of the Brexit agreement but there is already a consensus that the deal has not been as good for the UK financial services industry as hoped.

Among the small caps, Powerhouse Energy Group PLC (LON:PHE) rocketed 23% higher to 8.15p after it was revealed Chris Vanezis, the chief financial officer, had sold 4.1mln shares received in lieu of his fees for services rendered. The shares were sold at 6.73p each, leaving Vanezis with a 0.71% stake in the waste-to-energy firm.

7.30: London to play catch-up

After the long weekend break, London’s blue-chip equities look set to resume on the front foot.

Spread betting quotes indicate the FTSE 100 will open at around 6,598, up 96 points after US markets put in a strong shift on Boxing Day.

The Dow Jones industrial average advanced 204 points to close at 30,404 and the S&P 500 climbed 32 points to 3,735.

In Asia this morning, the Nikkei 225 was up 714 points at 27,568 in Tokyo while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng was 250 points to the good at 26,564.

As one might expect at this time of year, trading volumes have been thin.

Although there continues to be news on which traders can pull their triggers, in terms of stock-specific items involving the big guns, there has been little to react to.

This morning, AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) said Lynparza (olaparib), the drug it has developed with MSD (Merck & Co), has been approved in Japan for the treatment of advanced ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

Car insurance group Admiral Group PLC (LON:ADM) has sold off its Confused.com price comparison business and other bits & bobs to PG Comparison Services Holdings for £508mln, although the proceeds to Admiral, net of minority interests and transaction costs, will be around £450mln.

Around the markets

  • Sterling: US$1.3500, up half a cent
  • 10-year gilt: 0.256%
  • Gold: US$1,881.80 an ounce, up US$1.40
  • Oil: US$51.28 a barrel, up 38 cents
  • Bitcoin: US$26,235, down US$399

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