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Europe ends flat as vaccine boost fades

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3 min read

Watch: UK economy shrinks as new lockdown shuts down firms

European stocks ended flat on Monday, after an early boost from positive COVID vaccine news faded.

AstraZeneca (AZN.L) on Monday said a vaccine it had developed with Oxford showed a 70% efficacy rate in large-scale trials. When two doses are administered, the efficacy rate rose to 90%.

The news marks the third announcement in three weeks related to a working COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) were the first to announce they had a working vaccine candidate, while Moderna (MRNA) followed with a similar statement a week later.

AstraZeneca’s results show its vaccine appears to be less effective than Pfizer’s and Moderna’s jabs. Shares in AstraZeneca fell 3.8% in London.

“Unfortunately for AstraZeneca, markets have become accustomed to efficacy rates closer to 95% in the wake of the Pfizer and Moderna announcements,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG.

Capped vials are being pictured during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxfords COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images
Capped vials are being pictured during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxfords COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

The vaccine news helped stocks rise in early trade but momentum faded throughout the session. The CAC 40 (^FCHI) and the DAX (^GDAXI) both ended flat on the continent.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was a notable under performer, closing down 0.3% in the UK. The index was held back by a rallying pound, which gained ground against the dollar thanks to Brexit optimism.

Giving testimony to MPs on Monday afternoon, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said there was “a bit of tussle going on in financial markets at the moment day to day” between optimism around a COVID-19 vaccine and the reality of the ongoing pandemic.

READ MORE: Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shows over 70% efficacy

Fresh PMI data, also published on Monday, pointed to double-dip downturns in the UK and Europe due to second lockdowns. Business activity in the eurozone has hit a six month low.

Stocks opened higher in New York but also lost ground. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) was flat by the time Europe closed, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) was up 0.5%, and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) was down 0.3%.

Value stocks were once again in favour across Europe. British Airways-owner IAG (IAG.L) was near the top of the FTSE 100 with a gain of 5.5%, while Deutsche Bank (DBK.DE) was up 3.5% in Frankfurt.

Hopes of an end to the COVID-19 pandemic spurred oil prices higher, which helped the share prices of explorers and producers. BP (BP.L) rose 3.7% and Shell (RDSB.L) rallied 4.7%. Tullow Oil (TLW.L) jumped 17.6% and Premier Oil (PMO.L) improved by 9%.

Shares in Cineworld (CINE.L) rose 20% in London after the cinema chain negotiated breathing space on its debt and secured $450m in new loans to help it weather the remainder of the pandemic.

WATCH: Oxford vaccine ‘prevents average of 70% of cases’

Asian stocks rose overnight, with strong gains for mainland Chinese markets. The Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) rose 1% and the Shenzen Component (399001.SZ) rallied 0.7%. Elsewhere, the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) was up 0.1%, South Korea’s KOSPI (^KS11) surged 1.9%, and the ASX 200 (^AXJO) added 0.3% in Australia. Markets were shut in Japan for a national holiday.