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Stocks rise on AstraZeneca trial restart and big M&As

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
A volunteer in AstraZeneca trials in South Africa is injected with the vaccine. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko TPX/Reuters
A volunteer in AstraZeneca trials in South Africa is injected with the vaccine. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko TPX/Reuters

Stocks rose worldwide on Monday as AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Oxford University confirmed plans to resume a leading coronavirus vaccine trial.

Investors welcomed the restart of the late-stage study, which had been paused last week after a patient on the trial reported a side effect.

Oxford University announced over the weekend that clinical trials would resume in the UK with the approval of regulators.

“Globally some 18,000 individuals have received study vaccines as part of the trial. In large trials such as this, it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety,” said the university in a statement.

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European stocks pared back some early gains however. In Britain the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) and the Europe-wide Stoxx 50 index (^STOXX50E) were trading 0.3% higher in mid-afternoon trading. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.1%, and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) rose 0.6%.

“European stocks have got off to a positive start to the week helped by a decent performance in Asia, as well as renewed optimism over progress on a possible vaccine after AstraZeneca resumed its UK trials after last week’s suspension over safety concerns, and possible side effects," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

"The CEO of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer was also upbeat about the prospect that US citizens could well see the beginnings of a Covid vaccine by year end," he added.

Several high-profile corporate deals also boosted sentiment. “Mergers and acquisitions activity showed there was still a bit of life in the market,” said Russ Mould, investment director of AJ Bell.

“Along with US pharma giant Gilead buying a cancer specialist for north of $20 billion, Japanese investor Softbank announced it would sell UK microchip designer ARM to US-based Nvidia for $40 billion.

“The biggest deal in terms of market sentiment was Oracle’s reported partnership with Chinese social media platform TikTok which helped ease concerns over the on-off trade war between the US and China.”

Wall Street opened higher in the US on Monday. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) was up 1.2%, Dow Jones (^DJI) were up 0.8%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq (^IXIC) powered ahead 1.5%.

Asian markets had also rallied overnight. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) and the Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (^HSI) rose 0.7%, while in China the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) and the Shenzen Component (399001.SZ) both rose 0.6%.