MARKET REPORT: Prostate cancer drug boost for AstraZeneca

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Shares in AstraZeneca surged following good news about the effectiveness of one of its cancer drugs.

The pharma giant bounced 5.8 per cent, or 484p, to 8864p after results from a phase III clinical trial showed its lynparza drug, when used alongside hormone therapy, could delay the progression of prostate cancer more than hormone therapy alone.

The second-most common cancer in men caused around 375,000 deaths worldwide in 2020.

Shares boost: Astrazeneca bounced 5.8%, after results from a phase III trial showed lynparza could delay the progression of prostate cancer more than hormone therapy alone

Shares boost: Astrazeneca bounced 5.8%, after results from a phase III trial showed lynparza could delay the progression of prostate cancer more than hormone therapy alone

According to charity Prostate Cancer UK, around one in eight in Britain are diagnosed with it during their lifetime, and it claims over 11,500 lives here each year.

Susan Galbraith, Astra executive vice-president of oncology research, said the combination would give patients ‘more time without disease progression while maintaining their quality of life’.

The results are also likely to boost investor confidence in the cancer drug division, which is often more profitable than its other treatments. The arm raked in around £10billion in sales last year, just over a third of total revenue.

Analysts at broker Jefferies said the results from the trial justified ‘enthusiasm’ following interim data last September, adding results from similar treatments from competitors such as Glaxosmithkline – up 1.7 per cent, or 26.6p, at 1597.8p – were ‘less impressive’.

The broker previously predicted that the potential market in the US alone could see the drug generate £2.2billion to £3.7billion in sales.

The FTSE 100 was up 1 per cent, or 77.33 points, to 7608.22 while the FTSE 250 gained 1.1 per cent, or 234.62 points, to 21852.51.

Markets received a jolt of optimism following reports Russia had pulled some of its troops back from the Ukrainian border.

Stock Watch –  Honeycomb Investment Trust +

Honeycomb Investment Trust shares wobbled after it snapped up a rival, striking a deal to combine with Pollen Street Capital.

The agreement is expected to boost earnings and may allow it to join the FTSE 250 index due to its larger size.

The all-share tie-up values Pollen Street at £285m based on Honeycomb’s Monday closing price, the day before the merger was announced.

Investors will own 54 per cent of the combined group. Shares fell 2.8 per cent, or 27.5p, to 940p.  

Steel maker Evraz, part-owned by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, rose 4.8 per cent, or 15.1p, to 330.6p amid hopes war, and further sanctions on Russia, could be avoided. And Goldman Sachs analysts upgraded it to ‘neutral’ from ‘sell’ despite cutting the target price to 330p from 453p.

Travel stocks also rose as the threat of flight disruptions reduced.

British Airways owner IAG was up 4.6 per cent, or 7.6p, at 172.4p while Easyjet ascended 3 per cent, or 21p, to 715.2p and Wizz Air added 5.2 per cent, or 223p, to close at 4549p.

Oil prices, meanwhile, pulled back sharply as the reduction in tensions reduced fears of supply disruption from Russia.

Brent crude dropped back below $93 a barrel after surpassing $96 on Monday. Shell was down 1.1 per cent, or 21.5p, to 1984p while BP fell 0.8 per cent, or 3.3p, to 397.35p.

Stock trading platform Plus 500 unveiled plans for a £41million share buyback as it flagged a ‘positive start’ to the year. However, the shares sank 4.1 per cent, or 62p, to 1460.5p after the group’s profits for 2021 tumbled to £286million from £387million the year before while revenues slipped 18  to £532million amid a slowdown in new customers.

Mid-cap defence firm Babcock gained 2.5 per cent, or 7.4p, to 308.4p after inking a deal to take over its joint venture maintaining ships for the Australian Navy. It has agreed to buy out the remaining 50 per cent of the venture from its partner for around £32m.

Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment dipped 0.7 per cent, or 75p, to 11,055p after a target price cut to 17,010p from 17,190p from JP Morgan analysts.

Miner Ferrexpo announced it was making its interim chief executive permanent after he took over the job nearly two years ago.

Jim North stepped up as chief executive in May 2020. The shares added 2.9pc, or 8p, to 284.4p.

But small-cap retailer Mysale fell 34.5 per cent, or 1.13p, to 2.15p as demand was hit by the spread of Omicron and supply chain woes.

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