AstraZeneca shrugs off drug disappointment to lift FTSE

by Jonathan Adams

Top shares are holding firm despite Brussels terrorist attacks, although in quiet trading before Easter weekend.

AstraZeneca has added 2p to 3917p, shrugging off disappointing results from a clinical trial. Its Brilinta heart drug failed for stroke patients, as its blood thinning treatment did not fare significantly better than aspirin.

Further trial data is expected in the second half of the year, but this latest outcome dents hopes the treatment would hit £2.47 bn by 2023. AstraZeneca’s Ludovic Helfgott told Reuters, “It’s a setback but at this stage we are not providing any new guidance on the overall [sales] number.

The FTSE 100 performed overall and added 7.05 points to 6199.79, as Kingfisher showed the way by adding 11.4p to 362p in better-than-expected full year profits.

Sky climbed by 27p to £10.40 whereas Exane BNP Paribas came out of neutral to outperform.

But bookmakers were on a losing streak after a profit warning from William Hill, down 49.8p at 321p. The company blamed poor results at Cheltenham races and problems with its online business. Newly promoted FTSE 100 constituent Paddy Power Betfair fell by 150p to £90.90 while Ladbrokes came down 5.4p to finish at 115.1p.

Outsourcing Capita fell another 7p to £10.16 following a sell note on Tuesday from Stifel amid some restructuring of its businesses.

Mining shares are also under pressure, with Randgold Resources down 110p to £64.25 and Fresnillo falling 14.5p to 979.5p as gold and silver slipped back after climbing on Tuesday as investors sought havens after the Belgium bombs.

Travel shares recovered some ground after slipping back in the wake of the attacks on fears that tourists could abandon their trips. British Airways owner International Airlines Group is up 1.5p at 551p and cruise company Carnival has climbed 80p to £35.36.

Rebecca O’Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive Investor, said, “European markets continue to show remarkable resilience in the face of yesterday’s terrorist attacks, moving higher in early trade and continuing their defiant stance from yesterday which saw markets shrug off their early flight to safety and finish in positive territory.

After sinking into the depths of despair in January and February, are markets now starting to become complacent? Perhaps the best measure of fear versus greed is the US VIX index, which effectively measures the cost of downside protection for equity portfolios.

After rising to a high of over 30 in early February, the VIX has since dropped to its lowest levels since last summer’s sharp market decline, slipping to just 13.8 in trading yesterday. The last six weeks have seen commodity markets stage a remarkable recovery and central banks have stepped up their support – but investors need to start asking difficult questions about whether the global macro outlook has changed so much in such a short space of time to support further upside?

This article is for information purposes only.
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