Covid-19 vaccine hopes pull markets into positive territory

Iseq all-share index closes 0.3% up, with best performers coming from the transport sector

Hopes of a Covid-19 vaccine pulled European stocks from losses earlier on Wednesday after fears of a no-deal Brexit and anxieties relating to the European Union’s recovery fund had weighed on sentiment.

Markets on both sides of the Atlantic received a boost as a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech showed promise.


The Iseq All-Share index closed 0.3 per cent higher on the day with the best performers coming from the transport sector.

Ryanair closed marginally higher on its Dublin-listing after saying it was planning about 3,000 additional job losses pay cuts cannot be agreed with pilots and cabin crew. The company's shares closed 0.09 per cent higher at €10.66.


Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group rose 1.84 per cent to €3.60 after it scrapped plans to pay a final dividend of almost €17 million on last year's earnings. The company is seeking to save cash amid a slump in passenger numbers as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Forecourt retailer Applegreen soared 5.65 per cent to €3.74 after it released a trading update noting that it has continued to trade ahead of its Covid-19 projections for May and June. The company made comments as it confirmed the completion of a deal to repurpose £25 million of a dedicated capital expenditure facility into a revolving credit facility for its subsidiary, Welcome Break.

It was a mixed day for property names with Hibernia Reit, Glenveagh Properties and I-Res Reit all gaining between 2.08 per cent and 2.26 per cent. Housebuilder Cairn Homes fell 2.41 per cent to €0.849.


The domestically focused FTSE 250 was up 0.4 per cent after closing Tuesday with its best quarter in eight years, partly on the back of historic global monetary and fiscal stimulus.

The export-heavy FTSE 100, however, edged 0.1 per cent lower at the end of a choppy session.

Upper Crust owner SSP dropped 2.6 per cent after saying it could cut about 5,000 jobs in a proposed restructuring of its UK business.

Dundrum Town Centre part-owner Hammerson jumped 6.5 per cent as it said it had received approval for the issuance of up to £300 million under the UK government's Covid Corporate Financing Facility.


The pan-European Stoxx 600 index rose 0.2 per cent, with blue-chip indexes in Paris and Milan down about 0.2 per cent. Morning trading in some European markets, including Germany’s DAX and Austria, was hit by a “technical issue” with Frankfurt-based cash market system Xetra, said exchange operator Deutsche Börse. After a nearly three-hour outage, the DAX was down 0.4 per cent and the Austrian index rose 0.3 per cent.

Among individual stocks, Swiss speciality chemicals maker Clariant jumped 7 per cent as it completed the $1.6 billion sale of its masterbatches unit to PolyOne, allowing the payment of a special dividend amounting to $3 per share.

Energy companies such as Royal Dutch Shell rebounded from losses in the previous session as oil prices rose after a report showed US crude stockpiles posted a bigger drop than expected. Travel and leisure stocks were the top gainers.


A Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech showed promise and was found to be well tolerated in early-stage human trial, said the companies. Pfizer’s shares rose 4.8 per cent on the news, one of the biggest boost to the S&P 500 index, while BioNTech gained 3 per cent.

Battered cruise line operators Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Carnival rose between 3.6 per cent and 6 per cent.

Drugmaker Amgen rose 5 per cent after a federal appeals court upheld two patents for the drugmaker's multibillion-dollar rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel.

FedEx jumped 14.3 per cent after posting better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue, helped by a surge in pandemic-fuelled home deliveries. – Additional reporting: Reuters

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business