MARKET REPORT: Astrazeneca’s game-changer jab given rubber stamp

Drugs giant Astrazeneca reached a crucial milestone yesterday after regulators approved its Covid vaccine for use in the UK.

The second-largest company on the FTSE 100 has spent months developing the jab with Oxford University.

Around 530,000 doses will be available from next week, turbocharging the number of vaccines that can be rolled out in the UK.

Around 530,000 doses of the Astrazeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be available from next week, turbocharging the number of vaccines that can be rolled out in the UK

It comes several weeks after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency gave the green light to Pfizer and Biontech’s treatment.

But Astra’s jab could be a game-changer, as it is easier to transport and store, so it can be given much more widely than the Pfizer one.

Astra’s can be kept at normal fridge temperatures, while Pfizer’s must stay at minus-70 degrees.

It has been a rollercoaster year for Astra shareholders, who saw its value crash in February and March when stock markets went haywire. 

Stock Watch – Argo Blockchain 

Cryptocurrency miner Argo Blockchain has invested £740,000 in a smaller peer, Luxor Technologies.

Mining is a way of using computer algorithms to unlock and earn cryptocurrencies without having to buy them.

This is lucrative technology amid the current frenzy for bitcoin and other digital currencies. Luxor intends to use the money to hire more tech boffins so it can expand.

Shares in the AIM-listed firm, which have surged this month, rose 3pc, or 1p, to 34p.

The shares later rallied, hitting a high of more than 9245p in July but have slipped again recently as questions have been raised about data from some of the vaccine’s tests.

Shares fell 0.8 per cent, or 61p, to 7401p, as traders had already priced in that UK authorities would quickly sign off the vaccine.

Other countries are still poring over data, and the US last night said it would probably give it clearance by April.

With a £29billion deal to take over Boston rival Alexion in the pipeline, which investors have so far treated with scepticism, and a slew of potential blockbuster drugs, the group is already geared up for a big 2021. 

Elsewhere, the wider market slid on the last full day of trading in 2020 – it opens at the normal time of 8am today but will shut at 12.30pm, ahead of New Year’s Eve.

The FTSE 100 lost 0.7 per cent, or 46.83 points, to 6555.82, and the FTSE 250 fell by 0.9 per cent, or 182.48 points, to 20,715.11, on the back of spiralling Covid infection rates and around 20m more Britons being plunged into the top tier.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: ‘More lockdowns doesn’t help market sentiment in the short term.

‘There will be an economic knock-on effect upon that.’

On the mid-cap index, Energean was the top riser after it agreed to spend up to £300m on the remaining stake of its oil and gas fields off the coast of Israel.

The Mediterranean-focused energy group already has a 70 per cent stake but is keen to take over the remaining third.

Its shares rallied 3.8 per cent, or 26.7p, to 724.7p.

Canadian miner Pure Gold, however, lost its shine despite pouring the first gold from a site in Ontario. 

Shares in the group, which is aiming to produce it in quantities it can begin to sell by the end of March, fell 1.3 per cent, or 2p, to 155p.

Elsewhere, directors at a clutch of companies used the quiet period between Christmas and New Year to snap up shares.

Usman Nabi, a non-executive director at Domino’s Pizza, spent around £640,000 buying 200,000 shares in the delivery firm, which could see a boom in sales as the tens of millions of Britons in Tier Four are forced order takeaway food instead of dining out. The shares rose 1.7 per cent, or 5.6p, to 331.4p.

Nabi, an activist shareholder who owns almost 10 per centof the company, bought the stock in around a dozen transactions through his Browning West fund.

Manvinder ‘Vindi’ Banga, a senior director at pharma group Glaxosmithkline, also went on a New Year’s spree, snapping up 36,600 shares for 1376p a pop. Glaxo fell 0.6 per cent, or 7.8p to 1358p.

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