Boost for AstraZeneca good news for FTSE

Drugs giant AstraZeneca eased the pressure on the FTSE 100 Index today after its anti-cholesterol drug Crestor received a boost from regulators.

Drugs giant AstraZeneca eased the pressure on the FTSE 100 Index today after its anti-cholesterol drug Crestor received a boost from regulators.

The heavyweight stock soared after America’s Food and Drug Administration ruled that Crestor – one of the key products in its portfolio – did not have a greater risk of side-effects than similar drugs.

Both AstraZeneca and rival GlaxoSmithKline made gains on the back of the news, helping lift the FTSE 100 Index back above the 5000 barrier, up by 23 points to 5015.8 at mid-morning.

Astra was the highest Footsie climber, adding 4% or 92p to 2164p, while Glaxo advanced more than 2% or 32p to 1314p.

Oil stocks also contributed to the improvement with higher oil prices helping BP up by 10p at 572p, Shell ahead 6.75p at 501.75p and smaller exploration company Cairn Energy 44p stronger at 1284p.

Among those heading in the opposite direction, Lloyds TSB slipped 7.5p to 483.25p on the eve of its annual results.

Betting firm William Hill was also struggling as it suffered further fallout from yesterday’s results announcement. The stock was the second heaviest faller, slipping 10p to 587p, adding to a 3% fall in the previous session.

Among lower-tier companies reporting today, shares in newspaper publisher Trinity Mirror surged 6% – up 39.5p at 724.5p – after it posted annual results at the top end of market expectations.

But coal producer UK Coal plunged 13% – off 16.75p to 115.75p – after slashing its dividend and reporting losses of £51.6m (€75m).

Furniture retailer MFI was another casualty, diving 6p to 128.5p after it said bargain hunting by shoppers in the January sales was likely to eclipse improvements to its troubled supply chain.

Elsewhere, transport group Arriva advanced 8.25p to 548.25p as a rise in rail profits contributed to a 15% increase in pre-tax profits before goodwill and one-off items.

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