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Small Cap Movers: Pfizer’s positive vaccine news prompts stocks sell-off

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The market narrative changed this week after Pfizer and its partner BioNTech went public with a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine candidate that was effective in 90% of cases.

Approval for the drug will be sought next week, which doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, though the knee-jerk reaction of London’s traders seemed to suggest this was the case.

They waded in to buy COVID-19 hit stocks while offloading shares in companies focused on finding coronavirus treatments, or developing diagnostic technologies.

As a result, there were some unusual buying and selling patterns on the healthcare-rich AIM-All Share, which shed 1% on Monday’s announcement, but quickly regained ground and jumped 5% to 994 over the week. The benchmark FTSE 100 recorded a steady 7% advance to 6,331 with a 5% spike on Monday.

“A comprehensive vaccine programme will likely require multiple options to provide access for the wider population, with a phased roll out over months and so therapies as well as a range of effective and accurate tests are still likely to be needed for some time to come,” said Emma Ulker, analyst at Proactive Investors.

So, the early sell-off of certain drug and med-tech stocks may have been premature, though it could arguably be a chance to grab cheap shares with growth potential.

In fact, drugmaker Synairgen (LON:SNG), which tumbled 27% to 130p this week, saw major shareholder Polar Capital upping its stake by 1% on Tuesday.

Synairgen shares also rallied strongly on Friday after revealing that recent hospital trials suggested its inhaled formulation of drugs to treat patients with coronavirus (COVID-19) could be an effective tool for patients who have a combination of respiratory viruses during winter months.

Further positive results of the SG016 trial, where 101 patients hospitalised with COVID-19 were given either the inhaled drug, known as SNG001, or a placebo, have been published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.

Meanwhile, directors of diagnostics superstar Novacyt (LON:NCYT), down 15% to 899p, went on a shopping spree, with boss Graham Mullis acquiring £500,000-worth of cut-price shares.

All told, it was a tough week for the sector. Testing firm genedrive plunged 43% to 60p, Omega Diagnostics (LON:ODX) lost 41% to 45p and Avacta (LON:AVCT) was off 38% to 106p.

In a week of starkly contrasting fortunes the Pfizer/BioNTech news lifted stocks in the industries most battered by the pandemic, namely hospitality, travel and leisure.

Restaurateur Tasty (LON:TAST) doubled to 2p, Revolution Bars (LON:RBG) rocketed 74% higher to 17p, publicans City Pub (LON:CPC) and Young’s (LON:YNGA) surged 54% to 87p and 32% to 1,030p respectively, while café operator Loungers (LON:LGRS) jumped 37% to 183p.

In the travel sector, hostel operator Safestay (LON:SSTY) zoomed up 67% to 18p, airline Jet2 (LON:JET2) advanced 31% to 1,205p and services provider Gama Aviation leapt 36% to 45p.

Looking at the entertainment space, seating provider Arena Events (LON:ARE) soared 71% higher to 8p, posh cinema chain Everyman (LON:EMAN) added 40% to 95p and escape room operator Escape Hunt (LON:ESC) was up 26% to 13p.

In non-vaccine news, Victoria Oil & Gas (LON:VOG) shot up 132% to 5p after its Cameroon subsidiary reached a US$12.5mln legal settlement in a long-running asset dispute.

The agreement lifts a substantial cloud from what has otherwise been a small-cap success story, which saw VOG take the Logbaba field from exploration success into development by creating its own infrastructure and distribution into Cameroon’s economic capital Duala.

Sticking to the risers, Walker Greenbank (LON:WGB) advanced 12% to 68p after the upmarket interior furnishings group signed a licensing agreement with Next PLC (LON:NXT) for an extensive range of clothing, homeware and accessories.

Meanwhile, Powerhouse Energy (LON:PHE) rose 13% to 2p on the back of an initial agreement with Hydrogen Utopia to provide its DMG technology for the production of hydrogen from waste plastics.

Looking at the fallers, recruitment consultancy Nakama (LON:NAK) lost 22% to 0.5p after warning that the pandemic has hit cashflow too hard and will need extra capital to survive, however, its largest shareholder doesn’t support a fundraise.

Electricity provider Inspirit Energy (LON:INSP) slid 19% to 0.08p after shareholder Christopher Heminway cut his stake to 8.66% from 9.04%.

Services provider Enteq Upstream slipped 8% to 13p after admitting it expects the US market, which accounts for over a third of revenues, to remain subdued in the medium term.

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