November 8, 2018 / 10:07 AM / 6 days ago

AstraZeneca lifts FTSE as U.S. midterm rally fades

MILAN (Reuters) - A strong update by heavyweight drugmaker AstraZeneca (AZN.L) lifted Britain’s benchmark index above European peers on Thursday as a global rally that followed the midterm U.S. elections faded.

A man passes a screen showing the activity of the FTSE index at Canary Wharf financial district in London August 5, 2011. Banks and commodity stocks fell sharply on Friday as Britain's top share index extended losses into a sixth straight trading day, roiled by a global debt crisis and unmoved by U.S. jobs data easing fears of another economic recession. London's blue chip index closed down 146.15 points, or 2.7 percent at 5,246.99, as investors continued to pile funds into safer havens such as bonds, gold and the Swiss franc. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS)

The FTSE 100 .FTSE rose 0.2 percent and the Euro Stoxx .STOXXE fell by 0.4 percent while Wall Street opened in slightly negative territory.

AstraZeneca (AZN.L) rose 4 percent after strong demand for its new drugs - especially those for cancer - drove a return to sales growth in the third quarter and the drugmaker said it now anticipated years of sustained improvement.

“This was a decent set of results with the reiteration of guidance largely expected. That said, the continued outperformance from the new product launches and core diabetes portfolio should be well received,” said Liberum analyst Graham Doyle.

In the same sector, which is expected to benefit from the outcome of Tuesday’s U.S. elections, Hikma (HIK.L) rallied 5.6 percent after raising full-year revenue expectations for its key injectables division. Hikma is supplying increased opioid painkillers amid a shortage in the United States.

Analysts say a split U.S. Congress is unlikely to significantly cut government healthcare programmes or reduce drug prices in the world’s biggest and most profitable market.

Coca-Cola HBC (CCH.L) rose 5.1 percent to the top of the FTSE 100 after the soft drink bottler reported slightly higher-than-expected quarterly revenue growth, driven by higher volumes.

Inmarsat (ISA.L), however, fell 7.8 percent after trimming its full-year revenues guidance to the lower end of its previous target.

Among other companies reporting results was Britain’s No. 2 supermarket Sainsbury (SBRY.L), which is seeking regulatory approval to take over rival Asda.

Its shares rose 1.5 percent after cost savings helped it beat forecasts with a 20 percent increase in first-half profit. They later pared gains and were down 0.5 percent.

Jefferies brokerage said the update was largely uneventful and that developments relating to the 7.4-billion-pound Asda takeover were key.

“We believe the market efficiently prices in the possibility of the deal being blocked and that of an approval being granted with fairly extensive store disposal requirements,” Jefferies said in a research note.

Financials provided the biggest boost to the FTSE, with shares in Lloyds (LLOY.L), HSBC (HSBA.L) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) all rising more than 1 percent as the broader European banking sector rose on the back of strong results.

Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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