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Pharma giants and weak pound lead FTSE 100 higher

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PA City Staff
·3-min read
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After a set of results that show it is much more than the company behind one of the world’s most important vaccines at the moment, AstraZeneca joined fellow pharmaceutical giant Hikma as the best performer among London’s biggest firms.

On Friday the FTSE 100 was pulled higher, reaching 6,969.81 points, an 8.33 point rise, up 0.1%.

Top of the pack was AstraZeneca. The company showed that a series of controversies around its Covid-19 vaccine was not going to hold the business back.

Its sales comfortably beat expectations, and as AstraZeneca has pleaded not to profit from the vaccine, potential problems on that front are unlikely to affect its financials. Its shares rose 4.3%.

Fellow pharma giant Hikma was close behind AstraZeneca has pleaded not to profit, after announcing it had won approval for an opioid overdose treatment in the US. Shares rose 3.2%.

It marks the end of an up-and-down week for the FTSE 100, which is still languishing just below the 7,000 point mark, which it breached for the first time in 15 months earlier in April.

“After a decent start to the month, the last two weeks have seen the FTSE 100 take a bit of a pause, and though we’ve struggled to maintain a foothold above 7,000, the index is still up for the third successive month in a row,” said CMC Markets chief market analyst Michael Hewson.

The index has gained around 40 points since the start of this week.

But potentially more important than the pull of AstraZeneca and Hikma on Friday, was the effect of a sharp drop in the value of sterling when measured against the dollar.

Just before markets closed, one pound would buy 1.3821 dollars, 0.9% less than a day earlier or 1.1491 euros, down 0.1%.

Rather than a weak pound, the reason for the fall was a strong dollar – the euro also lost 0.7% against the US currency.

“The US dollar appears to be benefitting from a little bit of month-end and week-end profit-taking in an April that has seen it slide around 2%, reversing all of its March gains against a basket of currencies,” Mr Hewson said.

In the US, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 were both trading down around 0.6% when markets closed in Europe. In Germany, the Dax dropped 0.1%, while in France the Cac index fell 0.5%.

The price of Brent crude oil dipped 2% to 67.21 dollars per barrel.

Alongside AstraZeneca, Friday morning’s big news was Barclays. The bank recorded £2.4 billion in pre-tax profit in the first three months of the year, levels not seen in more than a decade.

It benefited from a good performance in the banking services it provides to businesses as well as strong mortgage lending. Yet shares collapsed, making the bank the FTSE’s worst performer on Friday, down 7%, likely because of investors deciding to cash out and some disappointment over one of the bank’s revenue streams, Mr Hewson suggested.

Rubbing shoulders with AstraZeneca and Hikma on the other side of the FTSE 100 was Smurfit Kappa. The packaging giant said it had been boosted in the first three months of the year by demand for boxes to ship online shopping orders. Shares rose 4.2%.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were AstraZeneca, up 317p to 7715p, Smurfit Kappa, up 150p to 3714p, Hikma, up 75p to 2440p, Hargreaves Lansdown, up 52p to 1719.5p, and Intermediate Capital Group, up 61p to 2186p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Barclays, down 13.22p to 175.5p, Ocado, down 88p to 2097p, Flutter, down 495p to 14840p, Anglo American, down 71.5p to 3070p, and Weir, down 42.5p to 1917p.