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Vaccine progress lifts stocks as investors look for route out of crisis
The market mood is being lifted both by countries’ emergence from lockdown and from progress towards a vaccine for the coronavirus – offering a potential route out of the crisis.
While historically vaccines have taken years to develop, events are moving fast as healthcare companies throw significant resources at the pandemic.
Shares reported in mid-April that US group Moderna Therapeutics was one of the companies in the hunt to find a vaccine.
On 18 May Moderna’s shares surged 23% after its experimental vaccine showed promise in a small early-stage trial. There was wider strength in stocks as markets reacted to the news with the FTSE 100 rising more than 2% to trade back above 6,000 and the S&P 500 above its level from 12 months ago.
Travel and leisure firms – most badly hit by the virus and the lockdown and quarantine measures imposed to tackle it – were some of the best performers.
Progress is not just being made in the US. On 24 April Oxford University began the first human trials on over 1,100 healthy volunteers, with initial results expected later in the summer.
Once or if a vaccine is found, the thorny issue of manufacture and distribution is not a trivial additional problem to solve. It is therefore welcome news that AstraZeneca (AZN) said on 30 April it would collaborate with Oxford University to help with development and large scale manufacturing.
The UK Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre will be capable of producing 70m vaccine doses at a new facility, a 20-fold increase on previous capacity. In addition the physical building will come online a year earlier than expected in the summer of 2021.