September 11, 2017 / 9:15 AM / 10 months ago

AstraZeneca gives UK's FTSE a leg-up

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* FTSE 100, mid caps rise 0.6 pct

* AstraZeneca jumps after positive results for cancer drugs

* Insurers rally after Hurricane Irma downgraded

By Kit Rees

LONDON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index climbed higher on Monday, boosted by gains among insurance stocks and a rise in AstraZeneca’s shares after some positive cancer drug news.

The blue chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.6 percent at 7,419.84 points by 0852 GMT, while mid caps also gained 0.6 percent.

AstraZeneca’s shares were among the biggest gainers on the FTSE, rising 1.8 percent after reassuring results from two of its lung cancer drugs.

The pharma firm’s shares are yet to recover from a 15 percent plunge in July, when initial results from its advanced lung cancer study, known as MYSTIC, failed.

“(AstraZeneca) now has a good chance of growing the opportunity from what was previously expected in Stage III lung cancer,” analysts at Liberum said in a note.

“If the reaction moves much beyond this, the shares would be starting once again to price a chance of success for Mystic,” they added.

British shares rose in line with a broader rally among European equities, which were led by gains in the insurance sector.

“We’re seeing a relief rally through European equities, mainly driven by relief that there haven’t been any further missile tests from North Korea over the weekend,” said Jonathan Roy, advisory investment manager at Charles Hanover Investments.

Roy added that there was also some relief that Hurricane Irma was not as destructive as it could have been.

British insurance stocks joined in the rally after Hurricane Irma weakened to a Category 1 storm and losses were seen to be less than originally expected.

The FTSE 350 non-life insurance index jumped 2.1 percent and stocks were on track for their biggest one-day gain since February, with shares in Lancashire Holdings, Beazley and Hiscox all rising between 2.9 percent to 7.8 percent, while Direct Line rose 1 percent.

Among fallers, precious metals miners Fresnillo and Randgold Resources were on the backfoot as the price of safe-haven gold fell, while shares in Primark-owner Associated British Foods were the biggest FTSE decliners, down 1.7 percent after giving a full-year trading update.

Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Jon Boyle

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