Markets boosted by positive Covid-19 drug trial

Reports of a study where 113 patients showed rapid recovery from Covid-19 after taking a drug designed for fighting Ebola was enough to push stock markets up as traders clung onto any good news they could find.

A University of Chicago hospital taking part in a study found that patients on the antiviral medicine remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences, were nearly all discharged within a week.

The details published in healthcare publication Stat News helped push the FTSE 100 higher, closing out the day up 158.53 points, or 2.8%, at 5786.96.

European markets were equally excited by the news – with the French CAC 40 up 3.4% and German Dax 30 up 3.2% – helped by recent announcements of restrictions eased in Italy, Spain and Austria.

Even overnight GDP figures from China, which showed a huge 6.8% fall in the first quarter of the year, failed to dampen moods.

Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at share trading firm IG, said: “Trial results have breathed a new sense of optimism into markets, with many seeing this as the potential beginning of the end for this coronavirus crisis.”

But bosses at drug maker Gilead Sciences would only say it looks forward to receiving data from other studies.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “The bulls have jumped on this story and are using it as an excuse to keep the recovery in equity markets going.

“The pharma industry can be hit and miss, and it seems like this treatment is in its early stages yet, so there is a risk that dealers are getting ahead of themselves.”

In company news, Just Eat Takeaway led the biggest fallers on the leading FTSE 100 index as investors reacted to news that the competition watchdog had approved nearly £400 million of investment from Amazon to its food delivery platform rival Deliveroo.

Shares in Just Eat Takeaway closed down 250p at 7,784p as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was provisionally approving the deal because officials warned Deliveroo would go bust without the cash due to the lockdown.

Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter revealed it has been surprisingly resilient even as coronavirus took a major chunk out of turnover.

Revenues jumped 16% in the first three months of the year, despite a 46% hit to its sports segment since racing was suspended in the UK and Ireland, with shares closing up 1,222p at 9,018p.

Estate agent Foxtons said it hopes to raise £22 million from investors due to the lockdown, after the company was forced to furlough 750 employees.

The business, which also has 350 staff working from home, said that “the vast majority” of furloughed workers are on 80% of their usual pay.

Foxtons said it plans to raise £22 million from shareholders by flogging an early 20% stake in the business. It has already maxed out its revolving loan, bosses said.

But shareholders seemed happy to stump up the cash, with shares closing up 8.6p, or 22.4%, at 47p – however, the shares have more than halved since the start of the year.

Hollywood Bowl also turned to shareholders for cash, raising almost £11 million on Friday, saying it needed the money to improve its balance sheet and ensure it remains liquid. Shares closed up 16.84p at 159.84p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Flutter, up 1,222p at 9,018p, Melrose, up 9.16p at 91.12p, Intercontinental Hotels, up 350p at 3,563p, Meggitt, up 26.6p at 275.7p, and EasyJet, up 50.4p at 638.8p.

The biggest fallers of the day were Just Eat Takeaway, down 250p at 7,784p, Fresnillo, down 21.2p, Pennon, down 27.5p at 1,087p, Ocado, down 31.5p at 1,569p, and Aveva, down 59p at 3,351p.