Thought leadership

Stock markets have rocketed on hopes of a potential breakthrough in the search for a vaccine against Covid-19. Drugs firm Pfizer’s own shares leapt 14% after it said that preliminary analysis indicated that its coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective.

Markets, already buoyed in response to a clear end to the US election, piled on gains and the FTSE 100 jumped 5%.

But as airlines, hotels and others hit hardest by the pandemic rose by up to 53%, firms benefitting from it dived. Other markets in Europe made similar gains to those seen in London. And in the US, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 opened 5.6% and 3.6% higher respectively.

It is very rare for markets to jump by such large margins, and in the case of the UK saw the FTSE 100 adding £82bn to the value of its shares in the market’s best day since March.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, called it “very very unusual”, but said that a vaccine was “one of the things that markets have been waiting for”. However, he told the BBC there were “still lots and lots of questions around the vaccine” and it was still too early to say when economies would bounce back or whether the market surge would be sustained.

Shares in UK travel firms – which have been hit hard by the pandemic – saw the biggest rises, with British Airways owner IAG soaring 35%. Elsewhere in the sector, EasyJet shares rose 31% while aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce surged 45%.

Another sector of the economy that has been hit hard by coronavirus is hospitality, and catering firm Compass Group saw its shares rise more than 20%. US-listed Royal Caribbean cruises meanwhile were up 30%, while travel booking firm Expedia jumped 22% and Disney climbed 12%.

However, shares in those companies that have benefitted in the crisis fell sharply given the hopes of a successful vaccine.

  • Shares in grocery delivery firm Ocado – which has seen sales soar amid the shift towards online shopping – dropped more than 9%
  • Takeaway ordering firm Just Eat fell more than 7%.
  • And in the US, Zoom fell 16% and exercise bike firm Peloton was down 20%

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