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What to watch: AstraZeneca remains in COVID-19 vaccine race, oil steady, Land Securities property value slumps

Kumutha Ramanathan
·Contributor
·4-min read
Gasoline prices are advertised at a gas station near Lindbergh Field as a plane approaches to land in San Diego, California June 1, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake      (UNITED STATES)
Gasoline prices are advertised at a gas station in California. Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and around the world.

Astrazeneca remains in vaccine race

While Pfizer and BioNTech’s preliminary vaccine results were the first to debut and move markets, other pharmaceutical firms will share their findings in the days and week ahead and could prove to be more effective.

One of Britain’s largest drug companies, Astrazeneca (AZN.L), has been working with scientists at Oxford University and their vaccine is currently undergoing late-stage, mass trials.

There are around a dozen vaccines in the final stage of testing - known as a phase 3 trial - around the world. This is the critical point at which vaccines can either succeed and eventually be approved or fail.

On 21 October, it was announced that the Astrazeneca-Oxford vaccine trial will continue despite the death of a volunteer in Brazil. At the time, the country’s health authority gave no details about the death, citing confidentiality protocols.

AstraZeneca said it will analyze data from its vaccine trials in November and December. If the results are promising, the company’s chief executive announced last week that it would quickly ramp up manufacturing and obtain government approval in the US and in other countries.

Oil holds steady

Oil prices held steady about $40 (£30) a barrel on Tuesday as markets continue to rally on the heels of the COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough news.

The benchmark Brent crude (BZ=F) price was about $42 a barrel at 9am in London, up 0.5%. Crude (CL=F) was also up 0.5% at about $40 a barrel.

Oil prices gained the most since May on Monday following news that a vaccine developed by Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech gave coronavirus sufferers a 90% success rate in preventing COVID-19 in a trial of over 43,000 participants. The UK is expected to get 10 million doses by the end of the year, with a further 30 million doses already ordered.

Both the Dow Jones (^DJI) and S&P 500 (^GSPC) surged to record highs following the news, and US futures continue to point upward in early trading in London on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Oil maintains gains as optimism abounds on COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough

Land Securities’ mounting property loss

Land Securities (LAND.L), the FTSE 100 property company behind buildings like the famous Piccadilly advertising hoardings in London, has slumped to a half-year loss as the value of its buildings has dived.

The company said on Tuesday it made a pre-tax loss of £835m ($1bn) in the six months to 30 September. That compared to a loss of £147m in the same period a year earlier.

Mounting losses came as Land Securities slashed the value of its property empire by almost £1bn. The company said its property portfolio — which is mostly focused on London — was now worth £11.8bn, down £945m compared with a year earlier.

Land Securities owns office blocks, hotels, and high-quality retail space. The company said rental income was down 10% on last year.

READ MORE: Piccadilly landlord sees value of property empire plummet by £945m

European markets find calm after frantic rally on COVID-19 vaccine news

The euphoric rise of global stocks on Monday following news of Pfizer (PFE)-BioNTech’s vaccine was met with a more modest rally on Tuesday in early trading.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described news of the vaccine as “that toot of that bugle [which] is louder but still some way off,” but it did succeed in offering markets a renewed sense of hope.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up 0.4% and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) also tilted higher 0.3%. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) rose 0.3%.

Stocks futures in the US were also up, with the S&P 500 (ES=F) gained 0.1%, the Dow (YM=F) higher 0.2%, and the Nasdaq (NQ=F) rose 0.2%.

The optimism surrounding vaccines are also expected to remain as other pharmaceutical firms’ results will be revealed in the days and weeks ahead, including Moderna (MRNA) and J&J (JNJ).

-With additional reporting from Oscar Williams-Grut

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